Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Ok Bokeh! Let's Make Stencils of Light!

If you're looking for a way to generate warmth this winter without driving up that heating bill, try an optical effect! Bokeh is the word for those wonderful glowing orbs that happen when pinpoints of light are out of focus in a photo. I'm going to show you how to reshape the globe.

Step 1: Cut a nice stencil-esque shape out of a piece of paper-board. I used a box cutter to cut a box of Annie's Totally Natural Bunny Pasta into a pretty pine tree. It should fit within the size of your lens cap.
Step 2: Attach your stencil-of-light to the front of your camera lens. I'm using Julia's camera, so I was super careful not to let anything touch the glass. At first with her wide-angle lens it didn't turn out the way I expected. I got a vignette border matte effect!
I switched to a longer lens and it worked like a charm!
For these photos I draped a string of holiday lights over the bedside table. There is one red bike light blinking in there too! My recorder's never been so majestic! And that's saying a lot for a recorder.

Now I'm thinking about what to do next. It doesn't have to be a high-contrast stencil. I want to try printing on a transparency to make my bokeh a photo! What would it be like with a color design? I want to make a little mechanical wheel contraption that rotates in front of the lens to make an animated moving bokeh for video!

Ahh! I'm excited. Here's a bokeh video I found.

Lights that lead us home at night from Tanja Tiziana on Vimeo.
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  1. Thanks for the link! We've been trying to come up with that very wheel over here, for use in a video, but can't seem to get results we're happy with yet. It's going to be a bit more of an abstract, but so far, not there. I'll keep you posted on the experiments.

  2. So with the wheel, the issue is frame sync. The continuous spinning would be good with a dancing line loop pattern. Bokeh by Brakhage.

    You wouldn't have to worry about linking frame rates if you used an LCD screen.

    I've seen transparent LCD screens that teachers use for overhead projectors. You hook it up to your computer (or TI-86 graphing calculator) and rest it on the surface of the overhead projector. You could get one of those and put it in front of the camera lens.

    You might be able to remove the backlight part of any little lcd screen. You could look for DIY video projector tutorials, and appropriate their LCD techniques for the camera.

    Keep up the good work!

  3. does this work with digital cameras too? How long was then lens you used to get it to work?

    this is so cool!!!

  4. Thanks Vicky!
    I'm not certain the details. It's not a film vs digital thing. It's about the lens and aperture.

    You might try zooming the lens in and opening the aperture as much as you can.

    If you can get a pinpoint of light in the background to go out of focus and make a little circle, then it should work! If you put a little stencil on the lens like a lens cap it will either be a vignette (border) or a bokeh (awesome!) effect.

    Give it a go and let me know if you learn more about it!

  5. Here is an outstanding DIY from Photojojo that shows you exactly how to do this.


    This is the first time I've seen it done with video though; quite a cool effect.