Blur on Purpose with Kath Strijdom

One day I accidentally took an out-of-focus shot of some city lights and thought, well, that looks pretty cool. Now I’m slightly obsessed.
— Kath Strijdom

Kath Strijdom, a Namibian born South African, now living in Rio, Brazil, has a thing for bokeh, and has been taking some enchanting images of her home town using a technique which purposefully blurs light - otherwise known as bokeh.

Bokeh is a Japanese term which literally means haze, or blur. If you want to know how to pronounce it, have a look over here. I asked Kath some questions about her fascination with it. 

Firstly, what is bokeh?

Those in the know define bokeh as the aesthetic quality of the out-of-focus area of an image. 

How do you actually go about getting a 'bokeh' shot? Are there any tricks?

My bokeh photos are usually completely out of focus which is easy enough to do by using manual focus. A shallow depth of field (wide aperture, fast shutter speed) is another way of getting a bokeh image.

Is there a story behind how you developed this style?

One day I accidentally took an out-of-focus shot of some city lights and thought, well, that looks pretty cool. Now I'm slightly obsessed. It's also a way to rock with my dodgy eye sight and old camera. No need to worry about things being in focus, only that the out-of-focus looks good. It also satisfies my love of light. In South Africa it was easy to find open spaces and clear horizons for great backlit shots. In Rio the light seems especially harsh and an open space is hard to find. For a long time I didn't really know how to take photos here.

Where are your favourite places to shoot?

I especially love bokeh shots using city lights or other light sources. In Rio my favourite places to shoot are the lagoon (Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas) and the view of Botafogo (my old neighbourhood) across the bay from Urca. The water adds an extra bit of magic.

What camera/s do you use?

Since the demise of my phone and mirrorless camera (sigh), I shoot on my (very) old Canon.

Do you have any tried and tested editing techniques?

I use VSCO and sometimes Snapseed for a bit of editing. I'm not sure I have any particular editing style or technique. Most times a photo calls for a certain type of editing, like in songwriting where a melody already contains the words or kinds of words that the song needs. 

What are some helpful bokeh hashtags to use?


Are there any other bokeh masters out there you admire?


Do you have your own hashtag for this bokeh thing? 

I didn't know I had a bokeh thing until now. :)

Lastly, would you like to say something about your cat, blue? 

Before we got him, Blue was run over by a car and fractured his pelvis. He needed a home and for ages, while he recovered, Neels and I thought about whether we could/should adopt him. Eventually it seemed like it was probably not a good idea. Then I heard that a family had adopted him. I was so bummed that there was no chance we could take him now that I moped around for an entire day trying not to let on. Neels obviously noticed and when I told him why I was sad he said that he had wanted to keep it as a surprise but the family that was adopting the cat was us! 

Here's Kath. Photo by @neelstrjidom.

Here's Kath. Photo by @neelstrjidom.

Blue, the kitty. He has his own tag - #kitty_blue

Blue, the kitty. He has his own tag - #kitty_blue


All images courtesy of @kathstrijdom. Follow her, @neelstrijdom, and Blue on their adventures in Rio on #neelsandkathinrio. 


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