Saturday, December 27, 2008

Bokeh, baby

I'm not really a gadget person--I have a pay-by-the-minute cell phone, and that says it all. But I do love, LOVE my camera, which is a Canon Digital Rebel xti. I am the farthest thing from even a hobbyist as a photographer, but I take so many photos I think I will burn out my hard drive. The digital camera just begs to take shot after indiscriminate shot, and so our photo file has almost 8000 photos, lots of which I could discard, but haven't.

All of that aside, many of photos I take are just experiments with composition or light or subject, whatever. Here is my latest experiment, and I thought I'd share it with you.

Bokeh is the light effect of blurred little hearts that you see in this photo of Ada.  Bokeh is not really the blur, but describes the character of the blurred elements behind the object in focus. There are many great websites that talk about the nuances of bokeh, including this one by Ken Rockwell.  Bokeh can be the way the points of unfocused light blur naturally, or you can make your own bokeh lens hood to create different shapes with the light.  I used hearts, but you could come up with whatever you like.

I love the way you can create bokeh with Christmas lights in the background, and so I tried to make a few shots myself, using my little handmade bokeh lens hood. I learned how from this site on DIY photography.

Here is my lens:

As you can see, it is the sloppiest handmade thing ever.  I used dark paper, some scotch tape, and I cut the heart out with a scissors.   I traced the circular lens and cut a circle from the dark paper.  I cut a strip to go around the lens.  Then I cut a heart in the center of the paper circle.  I taped it all up.  Then I slipped it over my camera's lens.  Making this took me all of 2 minutes, obviously.  
To my credit, I made a neater second one with a cute little Martha Stewart heart-punch, but it was too small, and didn't let enough light in to get a real focused shot.   My first slop-job did the trick with the light, and so it was good enough.

The lens I used is the one I use most: A Canon 50mm 1:1.4. It takes some really nice pictures in low light. I almost always hate a flash, and this lets me do what I want without one, for the most part.

To get the photos, I had to get the blur, or bokeh, far enough into the background, so by trial and error I found that Ada had to move some distance (maybe 5 feet) from the tree to be the object of the focus. Then the background of the lights naturally fell out of focus, and caught the light in the shape of the lens hood hole.

Here are a few more shots I got later at night. This time I had problems getting a good image of the object in front of me, probably because I wouldn't turn on lights. 
And because our tabby kitty kept moving toward the lens to be petted. But I do like these hearts floating behind her silhouette, and while I'm sure I'm alone in this, I love this softy shot of our favorite quilt on my knee. 

If you still have your Christmas or Hanukah lights up, you should make a little bokeh experiment for yourself. Very fun, very cheap, and only takes a few minutes.

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Irene Latham said...

Well that is just so cool! You're not alone in your appreciation of the soft quilt on your knee. :) I have never heard of this technique (strictly a point and shoot photographer in a family of brilliant photographers) and this will give me something to impress them with at the next gathering. I especially like your diy spin on it. You are so cool.

Kirie said...

Thanks, Irene! I'm glad you like the technique and the quilt, too. You definitely should try it with your camera. After a few practice shots you'll keep finding places to make bokeh...

The quilt actually has a little story to it that I'll relate someday...funny, we connect over the whole quilt thing, too...anyway, thanks for the sweet feedback. Hope your weekend is going well.

La Belette Rouge said...

Very clever. Your discerning and poetic eye, your love for your subjects and the desire to capture the moment in a way the communicates your feeling always show in your photographs.

Paula said...

Very very cool! I love photography and our Christmas lights are still up- I will have to try this :)

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