The Practical Radical

Bokeh/暈け or ボケ – Finding Patterns in the Blur | May 13, 2010

In my description of myself on this blog I describe liking “patterns not lines”. What this means to me is that it is not the obvious – the straight lines – that one looks for to move forward – you have to look deeper and discover that which isn’t so obvious – the patterns.

Bokeh Photography reminds me of that. Bokeh photography refers to the area in the photo which is out of focus yet increases the beauty or mystic of an image. The origin of the word bokeh comes from the Japanese word 暈け or ボケ which translates as blur or haze.

Bokeh strikes me as a great analogy for patterns – looking for that which isn’t in focus – but encloses or emanates from or around a subject. So for example we can take a look two shots of a chainlink fence:

We then can ask – which is more interesting – the one against a slate grey background, or the one in which we think we can see a tree. Clearly, it’s the tree – and the imagining of where that tree is – in an empty lot? does it have anything to do with this picture?

Another example is the picture of this bird by Tony Rowlett – if the picture of it was just in a pond, would it be as interesting?  The fact that it is up against a blurred background means that it stands out more, it doesn’t get lost in an obvious background and leaves you to question and imagine where it is.

I suggest this blur is as important as that which is in focus. It is finding the patterns in the blur, which allows you to explore the possibilities of its context, and what makes that which is in focus all that more valuable.

Some more pictures done by Lee-Anne Ragan added May 19, 2010:

and then a photo by me:


  1. I LOVE this post. It’s something you do really well – see the patterns, trends, issues and overall concepts.

    It’s what Daniel Pink talks about in his book the whole new mind – using the right side of the brain (overall concepts, patterns, metaphors) as a metaphor for our society moving from the information age (left brain) to the conceptual age.

    Gorgeous pics.

    Comment by Lee-Anne Ragan — May 18, 2010 @ 11:04 pm

    • Thanks – i thought it was a great metaphor as well, and something i never had heard about.

      I have added some more pics of ours (that i knew i had initially, but then couldn’t find and now did)

      Comment by practicalradical — May 19, 2010 @ 7:03 am

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