I get the feeling the only buzz word people seem to care about this year is “bokeh”. Whether it’s in reference to the “cream machine,” the 85mm F1.4, or the coveted 50mm F1.2, “bokeh” is all the rage. I had tea the other day with my good friend Alfie and the topic came up. What exactly is bokeh? Do you really know? It’s quite simple, the out of focus area of a photo. It’s not the shape of the circles of color it produces behind your subject, that’s just one element of bokeh. Quality bokeh is really how smooth the out of focus area is, and how smooth any foreground element spanning into the background transitions from sharp to out of focus.
The Nikkor 50mm F1.2 ais, being the “fastest” lens Nikon produces creates exceptional bokeh. However, shooting at F1.2 may sound like loads fun, but unless you’re on full frame it can be a headache getting anything sharp at that aperture. On full frame, it’s not quite as hard, and nailing the focus is much easier, but still, F1.2 is not going to work in just any situation. Through much trial and error, and in developing my own style of photography, I found that shooting in broad daylight creates a glow around subjects. Shooting at night, this glow actually enhances the subject and plays well with surrounding light sources. It produces a nice smooth out of focus area that doesn’t vibrate too much with the subject. Thus I avoid shooting F1.2 during the day if I can, sticking to F2, and reserve F1.2 for evening and night shots. Of course it depends on your style, and if you’re shooting black and white, daytime photos at F1.2 can be quite dream-like.