Bokeh photography is a tilt-shifting photo style where intensely unfocused light dominates the frame, drawing surreal beauty from technically “imperfect” compositions.
“Bokeh” itself is also a way to discuss the way a camera interprets out-of-focus light, which appears in many traditional photos (as well as the familiar Focus Features logo). There’s a dedicated subset of photographers that use optical aberrations and certain aperture shapes to create photos dominated by beautiful blurs.
To capture these images requires a lens with a shallow depth of field — such as a macro or telephoto lens — and perfectly arranging the shot so only the right colors shine through. Certain variables in the camera’s structure affect how the light will blur — for example, a lens that improperly corrects spherical aberration will make wider, softer balls of unfocused light than a normal lens.
Kitajima uses these quirks or camera “flaws” to his advantage when creating the images for Extra Bokeh. He uses a custom-made tripod, for example, quipping on his Flickr page that he uses, “Ai Nikkor 35mm f2.8 + 0.7% wide converter + Rubber glove (sky blue).” To get a dreamy picture of the highest tower in Tokyo, he tried to extend exposure for as long as the image could handle while still being crisp and discernable. The result is Highest Tower of Tokyo:
Bokeh photography is something that’s easy to start, but difficult to perfect. Avoiding “bad bokeh” — e.g., those selfies you took in the club where not even Facebook face recognition could pick you out — is the hardest part of mastering this medium. Even Kitajima is still fiddling around with his capture and development techniques, and his work often feels like a process of trial and error (though nearly all his photos blow us away).
While the images seem like happy accidents, making a good bokeh photo is like making a good omelette: anyone can make one, but mastering the craft is a totally different story. To see Kitajima’s growth as a bokeh photographer — and his witty photo comments — check out his Flickr photo stream and his portfolio.
h/t Faith Is Torment