Photographing Out-of-focus Blue Hour Cityscapes with Bokeh Lights

Photographing Out-of-focus Blue Hour Cityscapes with Bokeh Lights

One sunny evening, I was shooting BTS (behind the scenes) shots of my clamp tripod in downtown Singapore. Then somehow got into a playful mode and shot out-of-focus cityscapes with pleasing bokeh lights that I had seen many times before but never got around to try it myself.

Since my first attempt, I’ve been a little hooked and tried at a few different locations. Here are some of my favourites to date!

If you’ve never tried these cityscapes with bokeh lights, you can follow four simple steps below. It’s real easy-peasy!

NO. 1: Find a location with enough lights (e.g. lights from buildings, car lights, street lamps).
NO. 2: Start around 15 to 10 minutes before the end of dusk (check gaisma.com for your local dusk time).
NO. 3: Use Aperture Priority mode and choose a large aperture (start with the smallest f-stop number and adjust for your liking [a wider aperture results in larger bokeh orbs]).
NO. 4: Switch to manual focus (as opposed to auto focus) and turn the focus ring until the lights are completely out-of-focus.

You Don’t Even Need a Fast Lens or Tripod

You may think that you need a so-called fast lens (i.e. lens that is capable of shooting at f/2.8, f/1.8, f/1.4, etc.) to achieve pleasing bokeh effects. No, you need not! In fact, you can take these photos using f/3.5 on your kit lens. FYI, second photo above was shot at f/3.8 on my trusty Nikon 18-35mm (f/3.5-4.5) lens.

One last note. You don’t even need a tripod for these shots. Sometimes I casually go out in the evening to photograph bokeh lights by slipping my small sub camera (Olympus PEN E-PL1 ) into my jacket pocket. Without carrying a tripod around, it’s much lighter and hassle-free!

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