Review: Bokeh – Shallow Depth of Field in Landscape Photography

Today starts a new series inspired by an article I recently came across entitled, “If I had $1000-ish To Spend on Improving My Landscape Photography, I’d Get…” Then,  I found a list of photography equipment items that you can purchase for $1000.

I am not sure if “inspired” is the right word here because the article, in fact, made me sad and, my idea was actually born in spite of it. It made me sad because it goes against my approach to photography where I believe that equipment is secondary and the photographer, his vision and skills come first. Not to mention, there are much better ways to improve your photography than buying a new piece of hardware.

The slogan for new series is “Invest in yourself not in the equipment.”

In order to prove my point, I am challenging myself to learn something new, something incredible, each month. My goal is to find extremely useful educational resources (eBooks, tutorials, e-courses) and review it on my blog.

Here is an alternate title for today’s post: “If I had less than $20 to spend to drastically improve my landscape photography without buying any equipment, I’d Get…”

 

Bokeh: Creating with Shallow Depths

My first review is an eBook by Christopher O’Donnell entitled, Bokeh: Creating with Shallow Depths. O’Donnell is a landscape photographer from New England and his 120+ page eBook is part of his “The Art of Landscape Photography” series.

I have followed Chris’ photography for a while but it was not until last summer that I had the chance to connect with him after featuring his work on my blog in the post, “Top Travel Photographers Reveal Their Favorite Photo Locations Around The World – Part 2.”

In total, I featured 24 photographers, in 2 part series ( Part 1, Part 2 ), from all over the world and every one of them, without exception, is an amazing artist. However, Chris has the most unique and distinguished style as it is impossible to mistake his photography for another artist’s work.

Before I read his book, I assumed that his unique style and his approach to landscape photography were simply part of his natural talent. This, in fact, is far from reality. I discovered that his style took a long time to develop through the extensive process of studying the work of others and experimenting on his own.

The take-away point here is that you can find a happy balance between following the instructions of other photographers and developing your own style – it’s part of the learning process. Often, the road taken by those you idolize paves the way for you to a certain point. Which direction you take your work once that road ends is up to you. Christopher O’Donnell

I thought the fact that he worked diligently to develop his personal style was inspiring.  It offers us a blueprint on how to develop our own unique styles using the art of others as inspiration.

 

What I like most about this book is how Chris managed to strike the perfect balance between the theory behind his technique and practical, actionable teachings.

The Theory

In the first part of the book, Chris explains the foundation of bokeh.

Bokeh is not just having a shallow depth of field – or a blurred background/foreground – it is the quality of the blur… an image with good bokeh is one that has a lot of variations in shapes, color, and texture. Christopher O’Donnell

We learn:

  • How space between elements of the composition affect depth of files and, as result, the quality of bokeh.
  • How direct and overcast light changes the effect of bokeh.
  • How changes in the focal length  manipulate bokeh
The Theory

 

The Practice

The second part of the book is purely practical.

When I first approach a scene that catches my eye, I start to look for interesting focal points: a rock with texture, an isolated flower, a stray autumn leaf – anything that I can potentially build my image around. Christopher O’Donnell

We learn:

  • How to approach a landscape scene and create bokeh-rich composition
  • How to choose the right lens
  • How to find the best light
  • The best way to use a tripod
  • Tips on how to achieve the proper focus
  • How to incorporate long exposure with extremely shallow depths of field
The Practice

 

Case Studies

The last part of the book contains the case studies of Chris’s most popular portfolio items. He provides detailed explanations of his creative process as well the technical aspects of each image.

The portfolio section can help bridge the gap between your vision and your creation by explaining how I approached each of my bokeh images. By reading about my camera workflow, you can learn how to critically analyze a scene and see the in-the-field application of the methods described in this eBook. Christopher O’Donnell

Case Studies

 

Conclusion

This book is an amazing opportunity for us to learn something very unique. By reading and learning from Chris, we can incorporate his techniques into our own style, making it more distinctive and original.

 

How to Get a Copy

The eBook comes in PDF format that can be read on computers, phones and tablets. If you are not satisfied with Bokeh: Creating with Shallow Depths, Christopher will gladly refund your money within 30 days – no questions asked.

You can download it directly from Christopher O’Donnell’s website.

 

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