Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Bokeh Christmas Light Photos

I love this time of year so much.  I love the music, the lights, advent church services, all of the fun traditions, and fluffy white snow.   I do not like the very frigid weather that we had for about a week last year.  The one advantage to that was that we didn't have to wait in line at Santa's Village like we did last year because most people decided to stay home because the high was -8.  Don't worry we bundled her up well and Santa's house was well heated.

Today I am finally posting about some lovely photos I took with my Nikon DSLR around Thanksgiving.  I recently purchased a 50 mm f/1.8 lens which had been on my wish list for awhile. This lens is great for portrait photography and it has the ability to create some nice bokeh effects. Bokeh is that wonderful background blur that you often see in professional photographs.  Another definition of bokeh that I love is "the way the lens renders out-of-focus points of light."  I like that definition especially for this post on bokeh Christmas lights.
I moved some furniture around in our bonus room to get some blank wall space.  I found some 5' light strings at the Dollar Tree and hung them up on the wall with clear push pins.  I chose to get colored lights but you could also use plain white ones too.  We have laminate flooring in our bonus room that looks like a dark wood and I loved the way the colored lights reflected off of the floor.
I used Lyla's Simba stuffed animal to take some test shots while she was napping.  The key to these photos is to shoot in either manual mode or aperture priority mode so that you can adjust the aperture on your lens.  Aperture is the opening in your lens.  As the aperture widens, the amount of light that gets in increases.  Aperture is measured in f-stops.  Smaller f-stops=wider aperture and more light, bigger f-stop=smaller aperture and less light.  My standard kit lens that came with my camera had 3.2 as the smallest f-stop that it could achieve.  This new lens can go down to 1.8 which is a significant difference.  I toyed with the idea of spending twice as much to get a fixed focal lens that could go down to 1.4 but I have been satisfied with the results that I get with this lens.  I got to try it out for the first time with my sister's senior pictures and I loved the beautiful bokeh backgrounds that it produced.
The other key to these photos is the distance of your subject from the background that you want blurred.  In the first photo of Simba I have him placed only about a foot or 2 from the background and you can see that I get a some blur but the green wires are still visible.

I gradually moved Simba further from the background until I achieved the effect I wanted.
Unfortunately my subject was a toddler and didn't always stay where I wanted her to but I still love shots like the one above even if I can see the wires and the baseboard heater in the background.  This lens is also harder to get the subject in focus when your subject is constantly moving.  I definitely need more practice!

Bob the Sloth and a snack had to make an appearance in some of the photos to keep her in one place. One of my favorite shots is the one of her lying on the floor and holding the snowflake.  This definitely wasn't in the plan but I'm glad I kept snapping even when she decided to lie down!  Oh and if you want to learn about the Christmas pjs that she is wearing read this post.

I think I am going to try to get another session in with a milk and cookies for Santa set up.  Cookies will definitely keep her in one place!  Next on the blog: my take on a car seat poncho.

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