Capturing Defocused Urban Backgrounds

Yesterday, I was enjoying watching the city view of London on top of a double-decker bus. Of course, I had my camera with me, and was looking for some interesting sights to capture from that vantage point.

Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, it started raining thus blocking the outside view.


During the trip, I immediately remembered the catchy yet melancholic tune called Babylon by David Gray, released in 2000 when I was living in London.

Although it’s a song about a relationship between two people that was, or should have been, perfect and then falls apart, I’m more interested in the clip’s short candid clips of London at night. Here’s a link to the clip.

At 26 seconds within the clip there is this scene which I wanted to duplicate, except no rain which would have been well-suited to London!:


Capturing the shots

The goal was to completely blur the background using selective (manual) focus and wide aperture. I opted for around ISO 3200, F4, and 1/125 secs on most shots.

As you can see, the rain got considerably worse as my journey went along, leading to more interesting shots.

collage lights

London is also the subject

London is a huge market for all sorts of stock photos. Therefore, adding some shots of London’s red buses in the background would increase their value. Since pedestrians and signs are completely de-focused, I believe it should have no problem being accepted commercially throughout.

When there were no buses, I looked for traffic-heavy scenes with interesting effects of the tail lights.

Approaching Harrods Department Store

One of the largest department stores in London and even the world is Harrods, located in the upscale neighbourhood of Knightsbridge. You can’t miss it, especially at night when the lights are turned on.

Traffic was heavy and using this to my advantage, I captured clean shots of both the red bus and Harrods sufficiently blurred.

Emotional melancholic abstract background with defocused lights bokeh in London, UK behind rain drops in window glass, Focus on few drops due to the shallow depth of field

Not sure if agencies will accept the above as commercial since Harrods may be specifically identifiable, including with the keywords…but still worth a shot. Otherwise, I’ll just remove Harrods as one of the tags. As for those keywords, I opted for the following. If I missed something out, please let me know.

“Caption: Emotional melancholic abstract background with defocused lights bokeh in London, UK behind rain drops in window glass – Focus on few drops due to the shallow depth of field

Keywords: defocused, raindrop window, london bus, london rain, background, abstract, blue hour, blur, blurred, bokeh, crossing, crosswalk, depressed in big city, depressing london, depression, downtown, droplet, effect, emotional, focus, glass, glow, headlight, high angle view, lights, london, london evening, london night, london rainy, lonely in big city, looking through glass, melancholia, melancholic, neon, night, nostalgia, nostalgic, pattern, raindrop, rainy, rainy street, red bus, sadness, tail light, traffic, urban, water, window, winter, twilight”


I avoided too many similars and in total I captured 10 shots, which I’ve submitted to 12 agencies using StockSubmitter. I think the lesson learned is that even when you’re stuck in traffic on a bus, there are opportunities – keep an eye out! I think some of these will be strong sellers.

Melancholic London Lights

In addition, I’ve uploaded the Harrods shot to Photo4Me and Fine Art America to be sold as Print on Demand.

Wishing you all a great Sunday…

“Sunday all the lights of London shining,
Sky is fading red to blue
Kicking through the autumn leaves
And wondering where it is you might be going to” – Babylon by David Gray



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