Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Beaucoup bouquet bokeh

with 34 comments

Sinuous Firewheel Flower Stalk by Flower Head 4262

English doesn’t have a lot of words that originated in Japanese*, but as far as I’ve been able to tell, the recent addition bokeh appears to be one. The word means literally ‘blur’ or haze’ in Japanese, and photographers worldwide have begun using the term to designate the out-of-focus parts of a picture. While the firewheel (Gaillardia pulchella) flower head in the background of today’s photograph isn’t really a bouquet, it certainly appears as a colorful bokeh. Add the sharply rendered details of the sinuous firewheel flower stem that runs diagonally across the foreground, and you’ve got a welcome contrast. For more on bokeh, you can check out this article.

I recorded this abstract view in Great Hills Park on June 16th. That was two months ago, and although the great colonies of firewheels have gone to seed and dried out, I’m still seeing an occasional lone flower head of this species asserting itself as I wander about Austin.


* Most of the words that have entered English from Japanese were originally Chinese, including tofu, geisha, soy, tycoon, honcho, and bonsai.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 21, 2014 at 5:53 AM

34 Responses

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  1. That looks like a silky ribbon to tie up the bokeh bouquet. Would typhoon be another import? And possibly manga.


    August 21, 2014 at 7:06 AM

    • Your imagination is free to wander into ribbondom, but mine is tied up because I know the sinuous stalk wasn’t as flattened as it appears here.

      I looked up typhoon, and in the etymology at


      I was surprised to see that the original Greek word, which came into English via Arabic and Hindi, underwent influence along the way from Chinese, but apparently not Japanese.

      In contrast, manga is indeed another word from Japanese that the Japanese had taken from Chinese.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 21, 2014 at 7:18 AM

      • Let’s try a few more then; kimono and sushi ?


        August 21, 2014 at 8:36 AM

        • Bingo: the American Heritage Dictionary confirms that sushi and kimono are pure Japanese. When I started preparing this post I listed a bunch of words that English has borrowed from Japanese, only to discover that most of them were originally Chinese. I’m happy to say that firewheel is and has always been pure English, and a poetic name for a wildflower at that.

          Steve Schwartzman

          August 21, 2014 at 9:17 AM

  2. Beautiful bouquet – …..ummmm I mean bokeh!!!


    August 21, 2014 at 7:42 AM

  3. Jolie fond et belles coleurs.


    August 21, 2014 at 8:12 AM

    • Merci, Pierre. Les firewheels, c’est-à-dire les roues de feu, nous offrent toujours des couleurs si belles et vibrantes.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 21, 2014 at 9:10 AM

  4. Interesting!


    August 21, 2014 at 10:07 AM

  5. I loved this photo. Totally brilliant. 🙂


    August 21, 2014 at 10:42 AM

  6. Stunning triple B shot! I always love how you do your research and educate with your posts! I kind a like the new fancy term addition “bokeh” used by photographers. It serves and has a very useful purpose!


    August 21, 2014 at 11:30 AM

    • All the best of Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms, right?

      I’ve always found research fun. I used to spend many happy hours searching in libraries and now usually on the Internet. The more we know about something, the better, as far as I’m concerned.

      I first encountered the term bokeh a few years ago, at which time I had to look it up. For the decades that I’ve been involved in photography photographers have taken the background into account, especially when its softness is used to set off an in-focus subject. The only difference is that now there’s a concise name for it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 21, 2014 at 1:20 PM

  7. Classic Schwartzman. Very much appreciated on all counts. D

    Pairodox Farm

    August 21, 2014 at 12:49 PM

  8. A lovely bokeh/bouquet Steve. I was surprised Geisha is not Japanese. How about tsunami and sushi as common Japanese words in English?


    August 21, 2014 at 1:30 PM

    • Tsunami and sushi originated in Japanese, but with most of the words English has borrowed from Japanese, Japanese had gotten them from Chinese. Now that English has become so prominent, many other languages borrow words from us.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 21, 2014 at 3:29 PM

      • Oh yes, have you heard of Denglish? The Deutsch-English mixture we get here! Often English words are used for German things completely inappropriately. For example, Public Viewing is the big screens in public parks for watching football games and has nothing to do with bodies…


        August 22, 2014 at 1:43 AM

        • No, I hadn’t heard of Denglish, but I had heard of Spanglish (Spanish + English, franglais (français + anglais), and Taglish (Tagalog + English). I suspect there are plenty more involving languages we’re not familiar with.

          Steve Schwartzman

          August 22, 2014 at 6:30 AM

  9. Pleasing image, Steve. Bokeh bouquet, indeed.

    I am not fond of the word bokeh as it is often not used correctly. I am not fond of giclée and “fine art” for the same reason. I don’t care for tofu either, but that’s an entirely different subject.
    Curmudgeonly grousing over.

    Steve Gingold

    August 21, 2014 at 3:21 PM

    • As you say about bokeh, I’ve noticed that quite a few people seem to think depth of field (DOF) means a lack of much depth of field. You apparently prefer a lack of tofu, though I’m fond of the stuff, at least when it’s cooked with yummy things from which it can absorb flavors. Your mention of giclée and fine art reminds me that I’ve always thought it pretentious when museums label a black and white photograph as a gelatin silver print. Signed, your fellow curmudgeon.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 21, 2014 at 3:35 PM

      • Actually, when marinated and prepared with savory flavors that hide it well, I don’t mind tofu as much as I used to. It’s one of those things that get spoiled for you early and never quite recover. When a child I was on my own a lot as my folks owned a deli. My brother and I lived on Kosher hot dogs for months on end. Still can’t stand ’em. Someone once served me a poorly flavored tofu pie. That is still my mental reference when the subject of tofu for dinner arises. 🙄

        Steve Gingold

        August 21, 2014 at 4:12 PM

  10. Your sinuous strand of scaly sharpness sets off the imaginative background most eloquently. This one draws me in, and it’s hard to look away. Also, your double border with the red stripe is a fine complement.


    August 21, 2014 at 4:44 PM

    • I’m happy enough to take credit for the sharpness of the sinuous stalk and the softness of the colorful flower head beyond it, and I’m pleased to hear that those elements draw you in. At the same time, the thin outer border, which appears blue when the cursor is outside the image and red when the cursor is inside the image, is a product of the WordPress theme I’m using, so I have no control over it. That you like it here is good news.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 21, 2014 at 4:52 PM

  11. So… If I were to ask a photographer to try and capture a sharp image of a stem with a lovely, blurry flower in the background, he might say, “Okie-bokeh!”

    I enjoyed this, from the article. “The word translates as blur, haze; however, in the right context [it] can also be used as mental haze, craziness, senility.” You can bet I’ll be looking for the right context.


    August 21, 2014 at 8:29 PM

    • I’d been mentally pronouncing bokeh with emphasis on the second syllable, but your “Okie-bokeh!” led me to realize that the stress is on the first syllable. Live and learn.

      I hope my bokeh will remain limited to what you see in the photograph and won’t extend—regardless of age—to mental haze, craziness, or senility.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 21, 2014 at 9:07 PM

  12. big wow


    August 21, 2014 at 9:21 PM

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