O Christmas Tree + Capturing Bokeh
December 9, 2013
Our family spent the weekend doing all things holiday related, from selecting and decorating our tree to shopping for gifts to attending a production of The Nutcracker. Our little ones are still true believers in Santa so we’re constantly looking for little ways to keep the magic alive and even enlisting help from our two resident elves!
We spent some time decorating the “fancy tree” in the living room – the kids have their own smaller version in the study and we split the family ornaments between this one and the kids tree. After three years of flocked white trees, I was inspired to go au naturel and return to green Douglas Fir and its desirable scent, covering it in gold, silver, and white garland and ornaments.
This year’s tree continues the metallics + touches of green palette that began with the mantel. I was inspired by this beautiful tree at BH&G so I purchased a dozen paper moravian stars online, then painted them white.
Golden leaves, snowflakes, shimmery golden ornaments, and a medley of family favorites are also present on our tree. We reused the same wine barrel from two years ago as a basin for a rustic touch.
As nice as it is to see a Christmas tree in focus, we all love those beautiful bokeh shots too! I took a series of images over the course of the day and created a combination of images, turning it into a time lapse .gif – if you have a tripod, it’s easy to do, simply position your camera in one place, then take snapshots as the decorating progresses. (Photoscape has an easy .gif maker if you have a PC.)
You’ll notice there are a series of bokeh shots included. If you want to capture a bokeh shot of your Christmas tree or any holiday twinkle lights it’s a simple three step process.
First, you do need to know how to shoot in manual. To learn how, I recommend classes from Shoot Fly Shoot. Second, use a lens with a low numerical f-stop/aperture capability. I’ve mentioned my 50mm 1.8 specifically for bokeh, but for this tree shot I used this 35mm 2.0 which worked just as well.
Set your aperture at a low numerical setting (anywhere from f/1.4 to f/2.8) for shallow depth of field, then set your shutter speed and ISO so you have ample light entering the lens. The third step is to fool your camera and force it to focus on something in the forefront instead of focusing on the tree in the background.
Hold an object a few feet in front of the camera and focus the camera’s focal point on the object. Matt is demonstrating here, he’s holding up a metal bottle cap in front of the camera about 3 feet in front of the lens. Once I focused on the metal cap, he dropped his hand and I snapped the image. You’ll get larger bokeh orbs by focusing on an object closer to the lens, and smaller bokeh orbs by focusing on an object farther away from the lens. I encourage you to play with the process, it’s fun!
It’s that shallow depth of field and a focus on the object in the foreground that allows you to capture a tree with bokeh twinkle lights beyond.
That’s the simple way I capture those pretty little twinkle light orbs from a tree!