Posts Tagged ‘photography’

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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Outdoor Photography: What I’ve Learned

Monday, October 28th, 2013

Hey everyone! I’m back from a quick trip to visit with family and I was asked to take some pictures of the event which took place in late afternoon and just before the sun set. My cousins were asking me about my “fancy camera” and how I learned to use it. Their questions reminded me just how far I’ve come with photography in the past few years and how I taught myself how to work a DSLR and shoot in manual. It took time and concentration but I’m so glad I kept at it, but I’m still learning.

I thought today I’d share a little about the camera and lenses I work with. As you know I take pictures of everything from craft projects to large spaces but I really do enjoy getting outside to play with my Nikon, whether it’s a wine country adventure or just a tour through my backyard.

First a peek at my toys – the camera bag is the Rose Moss from Jo’s Totes.

kates camera

 

I use the 12-24mm and 10-25mm zoom lenses for landscapes and room shots, and the 35mm and 50mm prime lenses for vignettes or details. The 35mm is my favorite so if I’m only taking one lens that’s the one I grab because it’s so versatile.

Here are a few of the things I’ve learned along the way when it comes to taking outdoor pictures …

Shade is Ideal.  Bright direct sunlight creates harsh shadows. Any outdoor scene looks better in shade than direct sunlight. For example with an exterior or a porch, shooting when the sun is behind the house and not in front makes for a better composure. For my own home, I’ll photograph my east facing porch in the afternoon after the sun has passed behind the house or my west facing rear courtyard in the morning while the sun is still shining directly on the front yard.

better detail with shade

knoxville gray fall front door

 

Seek the Golden Hour. Oh that glorious hour just after the sun rises and just before the sun sets. It’s when you’ll get the puuuuuufect light to capture your environment.

oahu sunrise

One hour after sunrise

horse on beach

One hour before sunset

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Photo Editing Trick: Fixing Blown Out Windows

Thursday, April 11th, 2013

Last week a crew from BH&G came to photograph both my kids’ rooms for an online story and I had the chance to work again with a stylist and professional photographer for a day and watch them create their magic in front of and behind the lens. Several shots included windows and I watched as the photographer took two different exposures of the window view in both dark and light settings.

For any one of you who photograph interiors with window scenes, you know that when you’ve got your camera set with a wide aperture and/or slow shutter speed to pull more light into the lens and brighten the room, often you end up with a window that is all white, or “blown out”, meaning the interior looks great but you cannot see the garden or scenery beyond, or any of the architecture of the window.

You can minimize this by waiting until the absolute perfect time of day when there is no direct sunlight coming through the window but that requires excellent timing, and there is an alternative. The photographer showed me this simple way he eliminates the problem by taking two different exposures and combining them with a Layer Mask.

Here’s an example of how it works using Pixlr – that free online photo editing software I’ve mentioned before with same tools as Photoshop. (If you have Photoshop or PE, the technique uses the same tools and similar steps.)  Here is the picture of our dining room table with plenty of light coming into the lens to show the details of the table and chair.

dining room bright

 

The problem?  You can barely see the detail of the doors or that there is a garden beyond because the French doors are blown out from the light entering through them. Quicken the shutter speed and the interior falls flat and the room gets dark but you can see the divided light panels of the door and the garden beyond.

dark dining room

 

In the real world, you can see both the room in bright natural light and the outside view, but the camera has limitations in these light conditions and can have difficulty capturing both, which is where clever photo editing comes in.

layer mask combined exposures

You can combine the two and reveal the outside view while maintaining the brightness of the interior (seen above). Here’s how with a handy photo editing trick to combines the two exposures in a few simple steps.

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