Christmas lights are everywhere at the moment, as are photographs of christmas lights.  So when I saw a link on twitter recently advertising a kit to turn bokeh into shapes – bokeh being the effect you get from out-of-focus light sources – I thought it would be a good time of year to try it out, and possibly a way of getting slightly different shots of christmas lights.  The kit arrived yesterday just before I headed off to a wedding, so I threw it in the camera bag with half an idea of trying to use it at some point during the afternoon

As it turned out, the wedding was a fairly intense 2 hours of continuous shooting, with little time to experiment.  In the hotel where the drinks reception was I did, very briefly, get to play with the bokeh effect that the new kit allows me to achieve, with varying degrees of success.

There are a few necessary conditions for the kit to work.  Firstly, it needs to be used on my nifty fifty 50mm lens, and I need to shoot with the aperture wide open (f/1.8).  Secondly, the light sources need to be out of focus, and in the background.  Ideally a good distance back from the subject so that the subject can be kept in focus.  However I found my 50mm lens on the crop-sensor D300 was a bit tight for the few portraits I tried with the bride in front of the christmas tree in the hotel lobby.

Wanting at least one successful shot to incorporate into the set of wedding photos from the day using the kit, before I left the hotel I opted to make a photograph where the bokeh was the subject rather than the background.  I framed tightly on a christmas tree in the  car park of the hotel, put the camera into manual focus, with the aperture at f/1.8, and the ISO left at 1600 where it had been most of the day.  The light was falling fast, so a shutter speed of 1/50 wasn’t particularly fast, but allowed me to hand-hold the shot.

Instead of focusing the camera, I deliberately put the subject (the tree) out of focus, focusing instead much closer to the lens, and the kit, which contains a disc holder and pre-cut discs with different shapes (a heart in this case) to put into the holder, was mounted on the front of the lens.  It’s a quick, effective and repeatable way of getting a distinctive look with a subject that is being photographed the world over at the moment.

For more info on the kit, and to order it, check out the Bokeh Masters Kit.

3 Responses to “Shaping the light”

  1. [...] There’s loads more but I currently have writers block so that’s it for now. Check out Ronan’s bokeh hearts here. December 19th, 2009 | Category: 50-500 [...]

  2. I was messing around, making my own last week (out of cereal boxes :-)), but glare was an issue, did you have issues with this kit?

  3. Stephen,

    No didn’t notice any glare issue at all, but that said haven’t played around with it much yet. I can see how if glare is an issue it’d be difficult to work around that, shooting into light sources and all! For the price ($25 delivered) I would be inclined to recommend the kit for this kind of stuff.


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