So,... I started taking pictures a few years ago and have been gradually getting more serious. The more I shoot, the more I am aware of photography as an art. And as I progress, I've been buying more books of the famous masters to study... and after looking at thousands of photographs from famous photographers I found it impossible to ignore the lack of one of the most valued techniques/looks/lens-properties/talked-abouts: Bokeh.
On my coffee table sits Helmut Newton's Sumo. My shelves are lined with the likes of Annie Leibovitz, Kishin, Steve McCurry, and many others of many genres. And of thousands upon thousands of pictures on my shelves, I'd say less than 0.5% have significant bokeh, and by that I mean elements that are so out-of-focus they lose recognizable structure or context. Personally, I find McCurry's pictures some of the most beautifully haunting images of people I have ever seen, and of all the photographers I looked at, he probably has the most pictures with the strongest bokeh out of my collection. But even then, only a small percentage of only his tight face portraits feature bokeh--the other 95% of this work has the whole scene recognizable, even if it's obvious that the subject is a single person.
I know this might sound offensive to some, but to be blunt, I am starting to feel that Bokeh is the Crutch of Amateurs.
It appears easy to make pretty pictures these days--get yourself a big aperture prime, and if you got the dough whip out the 85 f1.2 lens, or if you really are spendy the 200 f2, and dump gallons of cream over all but your subject and voila, a pretty picture that has half the board here clapping their hands.
So... why am I writing this? Well, it started as I was thinking about this thread:
Just your standard discussion of what lens is good for portraits. Yes, there was some talk of different focal lengths, but ultimately it came down to bokeh with many folks saying that the 85 f1.2, 135 f2, and 200 f2 being the kings. BUT, the lens that the OP originally honored was the 70-200 f2.8 IS II, which covers all those focal lengths in one single lens. Being also a superbly sharp lens, the only real-world difference is the amount of bokeh achievable, and arguably the quality of that bokeh.
Without trying to sound arrogant, but I guess I can't escape it--I think I've finally reached a point of awareness in my photographic journey to realize bokeh is more of a hindrance than aesthetic prize.