Sunday, May 25, 2008


Boke is a Japanese word meaning fuzzy. The spelling has been changed to bokeh since 2000, maybe to suggest the correct pronunciation to English speakers, in photography. It is now a photographic term referring to out-of-focus areas (generally background) in photos. Bokeh techniques are mostly used in the portraiture and flower categories of photography. A blurred background makes the subject stand out and making the image look like three dimensional.

A well blurred background can be achieved with:

1. Wide opening the camera’s pupil (aperture)… the wider the opening, the more blur or, in photographic terms, the shallower depth of field.

2. Keeping the subject as close as possible to the camera with a long space between the subject and the background.

3. Using large focal length which simply means, in non-slr cameras, zooming in, and in slr’s, changing the lens to a longer one.

A combination of all three techniques above would definitely yield to much better results.

Method number one needs more clarification. The aperture (camera’s pupil) can be wider using small f numbers. By definition, f number is:

f# = Lf / D . . . . . (1)

Where f# is the scale used to control the aperture size, Lf is the focal length in millimetre, and D is the diameter of the opening in millimetre. Note that Lf in equation (1) is the real focal length and not the 35mm equivalent. As an example, let’s see how wide would an f/2.8 in an slr camera with 36mm focal length open the aperture:

f# = Lf / D . . . . . eq. (1)
2.8 = 36 / D
thus D = 12.86 mm.

This diameter is a very good size for a nice bokeh, assuming other factors are appropriate. Next, let’s calculate what f# could open the pupil of a point-and-shoot camera with 6mm real focal length that much:

f# = Lf / D . . . . . eq. (1)
f# = 6 / 12.86 = 0.47 say f/0.5.

Further, it would be of interest to know how effective (wide) could an f# of 2.8 in a point-and-shoot camera be compared to an slr:

f# = Lf / D . . . . . eq. (1)
thus D1 = Lf1 / f#1 and D2 = Lf2 / f#2.

Index 1 shows the p&s while index 2 shows the slr. We want to find the f# in an slr to open the aperture as much as that of f/2.8 in an point-and-shoot, so

D1 = D2
Lf1 / f#1 = Lf2 / f#2
6 / 2.8 = 36 / f#2
f#2 = 16.8 say f/16.

What does this calculation say? It clearly shows that f/2.8 in a simple point-and-shoot camera is equivalent to f/16 in an slr! Have you ever tried to get a bokeh with f/2.8 setting on your camera and not succeeded much? Well, this is the reason! With point-and-shoot cameras the best you can do for a nice bokeh is zooming as mch as you can or your camera lets. Zooming in zoom lenses dramatically raises the focal length. Assuming your regular (no zoom) focal length to be 6 mm, at 6x zoom you get a focal length of 36 mm similar to an slr, and this is the ground you can stand on with a real f/2.8 for instance.

Watch an interesting short video discussing depth of field:

Video taken from YouTube

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Grammy Winner Vancouver Symphony

It was tenth evening of February 2008 when Maestro Bramwell Tovey and James Ehnes received the 2007 Grammy Award in the category of “Best Instrumental Soloist Performance with Orchestra” for the CBC recording of the violin concerti by Barber, Korngold, and Walton with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. Later, in May, this award was completed with a Juno for Best Classical Album of the Year for the same compact disc.

Maestro Bramwell Tovey was born on July 11, 1953 in England. He was educated at the Royal Academy of Music and the University of London as a pianist and composer. His second instrument was tuba.

Tovey was the music director of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra between 1989 and 2001. He was appointed the music director and conductor of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra in September 2000. Meanwhile, in Europe, he was music director of the Luxembourg Philharmonic Orchestra from 2002 to 2006.

Tovey has conducted the “Summertime Classics” series with the legendary New York Philharmonic since the inception of the series in 2004.

James Ehnes was born on January 27, 1976 in Brandon, Manitoba. He started his music lessons at 5 with his father who was a trumpeter and music teacher.

Ehnes won the Juno Award for Best Classical Album of the Year in 2001 and was named Young Artist of the Year at the Cannes Classical Awards in 2002. He graduated from the Juilliard School in 1997. He mostly plays on a 1715 Marsick Stradivarius which belongs to the Fulton Collection. His recording of Paganini’s 24 caprices in 1995 was acclaimed as a fine recording of these difficult pieces. Ehnes also won the 2007 Juno for the recording of Mozart’s violin concerti.

Vancouver Symphony Orchestra (VSO), founded in 1919, is a Canadian orchestra performing in Vancouver. Each year, over 240,000 people attend the VSO concerts. The orchestra’s home is the beautiful Orpheum Theatre. VSO is the third largest symphony orchestra in Canada with 140 concerts per season and annual operating budget of $10 million.

Watch a short video of Maestro Tovey conducting the orchestra at Orpheum:

Video taken from YouTube
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