Posts Tagged ‘bokeh’

O Christmas Tree + Capturing Bokeh

Monday, December 9th, 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.

christmas tree and piano

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.

christmas tree decorations

christmas tree centsational girl

   

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.)

christmas tree

 

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!

set up for bokeh shot

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.

twinkle light bokeh

That’s the simple way I capture those pretty little twinkle light orbs from a tree!

 

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A Great Lens for Bokeh

Thursday, December 13th, 2012

On Tuesday night I was having a nice chat with some blog friends (Marian, Maria, and Cathe) at Marian’s book signing in my hometown and we were discussing blogging and photography, and the consensus was a that a 50mm 1.8 lens (or the more expensive 1.4) is a great blogger tool for those desirable beauty shots.

The 50mm is a fixed focal length (or “prime”) lens with wider aperture capability (refer to this post for a more in depth explanation on aperture.)  I bought my 50mm lens last December as an early Christmas present because I wanted the ability to snap pretty close-ups and to take Christmas tree bokeh pictures like this.  The ones with those pretty twinkle light orbs!

twinkle light bokeh

This image was taken with the little bowl of ornaments 7 feet away from the tree of twinkle lights and me positioned another 4 feet away from the bowl.   Camera settings with 50mm lens:  f/stop 1.8,  shutter speed 1/40,  ISO 800.

If you don’t know how to use or change the Manual setting yet, get ready to learn how with these fabulous online videos for visual learners that I’ve mentioned before offered by Shoot Fly Shoot.  Once you know how to change the aperture (or f-stop) to a wider setting, you’re all set to take great holiday bokeh shots, but it only works when you have a lens with that capability.

Kit lenses don’t go below a 3.5 f-stop, so you’ll achieve beautiful bokeh and shallow depth of field when you invest in a lens that allows you to go to a wider aperture of 2.0 or lower numerical setting.  A really nice affordable version is the 50mm f/1.8, offered for both Nikon and for Canon and for less than $125. 50 mm for canon and nikon

 

The lens isn’t just great for those pretty orbs in the background at Christmastime, it’s perfect for all those beauty shots where you want to achieve shallow depth of field beyond your subject matter (where the background or foreground beyond your focal point is blurred).

 

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