Friday, September 25, 2009

My Own Beautiful Bokeh

blurred city lights at nightA memory stands out in my mind, riding in a rocking, swaying Greyhound bus late at night. I was on a college band trip and the day had been a long blur of travel and diesel fumes and doing a show on an unknown field in a drippy, rainy stadium. The grass had been soaked, our wool uniforms clung like soggy sponges and I remember the hours of stress walking around a new place fearful of tripping over a half-seen curb I didn't know was there. Still, I loved marching band and I loved travel, but after such a day my eyes felt like they were falling out of my head and at last in the darkness of the bus I took my glasses off and leaned my head back in my seat with a tired sigh.

When I opened my eyes again, I sucked in a quick breath because out of the rain-splattered windows, a scene of heart-stopping beauty confronted me. The city lights blossomed into colored flowers, expanding in ever-widening circles, overlapping, meshing color and running into one another like a ruined watercolor painting. The spattering rain only made the scene more interesting, adding another layer of color-trapping depth.

cityscape in bokehSince then, I have often sneaked a quick view of the world with my unaided sight, enjoying the relaxation of detail blending into form; with the absence of sharp edges color becomes everything while depth and shape no longer really matter. Every light becomes a wide circle, shooting rays and stars into the colors around; every object flows into the one next to it with a fluid softness. The scene becomes a wash of blending, fading, contrasting colors.

While poking around the internet today I discovered I'm in good company, enjoying my own personal bokeh. This Blind Photographer uses his unique sight, much like mine to frame and find his photographs, often fascinating studies of focus and depth.

shoulder with tuxedo and flower with background of bokeh treesI'd never even heard of Bokeh until a year of so ago when friends who are amateur photographers began posting pictures with strings of blurred, colored shapes, the result of Christmas lights or cityscapes or the sun filtered through the leaves of trees. I remember the emotional familiarity I felt the first time I saw one of these fairyland images, so much a part of my own secret watercolor world. How often have I left my glasses at home, like yesterday, wandering the familiar paths of the park, letting the green of the trees filter dizzying beauty into my soul? To me, the backgrounds of these photos look the most familiar, not the crisp, sharp foreground subject.

Somehow the acceptance of bokeh as art gives me immense satisfaction. The exploration of color, of texture and composition without the hindrance of sharp detail somehow resonates with me in a very personal way, that the way I see naturally becomes something beautiful, something thought-provoking rather than something shameful or wrong. It's not "out-of-focus", an accident, a mistake or lack of skill. It's "bokeh", artistic, observant, thoughtful, beautiful.

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