Christmas Bokeh : You Can Have Blurry Balls Of Light, Too

Have you heard about bokeh? Before I go any further – if any of you are like, “What in the world is bokeh, Jen, did you make that word up?’ I did not. The Japanese did. According to Miz Booshay @ The Pioneer Woman, bokeh is a Japanese term for “the subjective aesthetic quality of out-of-focus areas of a photographic image.” What that means is that some or all of the picture will be blurry and out of focus but in a way that we choose to find beautiful.

Anyway, a couple of days ago I was reading this post on Jen @ Our Daily Big Top’s blog about Christmas ornaments, happiness and … bokeh. I’ve been looking at these cool tricked out photos for awhile wondering, “How do they do that?” I’ve tried to do it with my little Canon point and shoot and it’s never worked. But seeing Jen’s post made me think, “I want to be just like her. I want bokeh, too!”

So tonight, for my birthday, I asked the hubby to show me how to do it – I knew he’d be able to figure it out with his big beautiful Nikon D40. Turns out the reason my camera can’t do bokeh is because it will not let me manually focus or rather… not focus.

Bokeh is about two things – aperture and focus. So you want to open your aperture up as wide as possible with numbers like f/2.0 – “The wider the aperture, the better and more frequently you will happen upon beautiful bokeh.” And you want to put your camera in manual mode so that you can control where the focus is and most importantly isn’t. Your goal is blurry, but in a pretty way.

Does this make sense?

Anyway, with the help of the Nifty Nikon, I was able to try my hand at some bokeh. Here are some of my better photos:

an example of bokeh where part of the picture is out of focus

You can see in the pattern of the table cloth behind my pretty Canon how the background becomes blurred – that’s bokeh, if you find that pretty anyway.

not so much bokeh but beautiful

I tried to make bokeh with Miss Blue as the “focused” part of the photo but had little luck. Being held by her big strong daddy, it didn’t leave much room for a bokeh background behind her.

Also she is fidgety (like most babies) so focusing on her wasn’t easy either. I think if she were sitting on her own, somewhere pretty like outside maybe, that I might be able to get better results.

In due time, mommy, in due time.

Anyway, one of the areas bokeh is particularly known for is where there is virtually no focus at all – you see this a lot in pictures of Christmas Trees where everything is all blurry and there are big balls of light everywhere. I think you see this a lot because it’s relatively easy to make happen once you figure out the dynamics behind bokeh.

lights on

I did my first few photos with the lights on – we weren’t sure if our tree would work for this because it’s entirely fiber optic – even the big bulbs are really just fake bulbs over tufts of fiber optic branches – but they came out okay, and then I decided to try it with the lights off even though Dan said, “oh no, that won’t work…”

lights off

Boo yah bokeh baby. Looks like the teacher became the student, because I schooled that boy!

(Yes, I am well aware of my nerdiness.)

bokeh baby

More bokeh goodness to come, I’m sure.

3 thoughts on “Christmas Bokeh : You Can Have Blurry Balls Of Light, Too

  1. Nice post. Bokeh also changes depending on the subject’s distance from the camera. Just an idea for improving the colour rendition in your pics, the yellow hue is due to the camera recording the white balance incorrectly, something that can be rectified pretty easily in post-processing.

    Merry Christmas!


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