I found the below image (photographer credit: Xavier Leung, original photo), which depicts an American battleship currently docked in Hong Kong.

enter image description here

Is anyone familiar with this striking effect? I can't tell if it's post-processing, or if there is a physical means of achieving this effect.


The effect is done by defocusing the lens at the end of a long exposure. That way you get a sharp image overlaid with the bokeh you would get if the background was out of focus. Simply set your camera to manual focus, set the exposure time to say four seconds, then after three seconds quickly turn the focus ring as far as it will go.

  • Aha. Seems so obvious in retrospect. – jogloran Apr 20 '13 at 14:01
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    I suspect you could also use a multishot feature to do the same thing...take one shot in focus, blended with a shorter shot with the lens out of focus. Many cameras can do this in-camera now with JPEG. – jrista Apr 20 '13 at 19:11
  • In other words, the photographer applied the orton effect. – Julian Jul 13 '14 at 19:26


It seems to me like he's using some kind of fog filter maybe, or some vaseline-like substance on his front filter/element. Eg: http://www.tiffen.com/fog_filters.htm

I don't think it's PP, it would be too tricky since the lights overlap the buildings and the buildings are not blurry.

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    I don't know if it's a fog filter, since the foreground looks completely distinct. – jogloran Apr 20 '13 at 6:03
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    It could be multiple images, leaving the foreground without any filter being used. – dpollitt Apr 20 '13 at 8:48
  • I thought vaseline as well -- except that the foreground is sharp... – Mike Apr 22 '13 at 11:08

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