Tag Archives: bokeh

Reflecting on the Eighth Night

How many menorahs are there?

How many menorahs are there?

Yesterday one of my friends from high school and Sunday School, Calvin Rose, posted a photo on Facebook of his lit menorah. I loved how the eight candles plus the shamash were reflected in the window.

Hey, thought I! I’ve never taken a pic like that in all these years of trying something new every Chanukah. It was time . . . especially with it being the eighth night. Otherwise, I’d have to wait until next year, perish the thought.

So I placed a TV tray by the window in the dining room and moved the menurkey to it. Lit the candles as I chanted the prayer and then picked up my Nikon D700.

Notice something colorful in the background?

Notice something colorful in the background?

After I lamented not having one big, solid window, I snapped and then checked the result. What a surprise! Thanks to my neighbor Tony, his multicolored Christmas lights gave me some sweet accidental bokeh.

Bokeh front and back

Bokeh front and back

Naturally, I thoroughly enjoyed finishing off the holiday with my very own reflective (low) light show.

Focusing on Tony’s lights

Focusing on Tony’s lights

Hope Calvin comes up with another great idea for me to steal try next year!

Strike Up the Bokeh Band

Nothing up my sleeve. Presto! It’s a baton!

Need an excellent example of background blurring, aka bokeh? Just check out this series of photos I took last Saturday morning of our high school’s drum major, Courtney.

Here it comes!

I love how my Nikon D700’s total focus on her pulling her baton out of her uniform so brilliantly softened the musicians and dancers she was about to lead. My Nikon 300mm f/4 lens did a great job of providing that contrast.

Time to start the show.

It looks like Courtney is conducting an abstract painting!

Our work here is done.

Of course, I’m sure everything looked perfectly in focus for her as she led our wonderful band and Angels to another fine performance.

Wildflower Perspective

Mexican hats in the foreground, Indian blankets and sunflowerishes in the background

As I was shooting photos of a small group of Mexican hats the other day, my eye was drawn behind those wildflowers. The bokeh’d (blurred) background was as interesting as the foreground. I loved how the different colors livened up the picture.

Purple and golden yellow go together (my high school’s colors!)

Horsemint was growing near the Mexican hats. Look how the purple pops out from the bokeh’d coreopsis near it.

Now the coreopsis are front and center.

Want to see those same wildflowers differently? Change your focal point!

Sunflowerishes in focus and out

I’ll admit that I’m a bokeh fan, other colored wildflowers in the background or not.

Penstemons are pretty in pink

That lovely blurring gives depth and, dare I say it?, pizzazz to these kinds of photos. All it takes is opening up your aperture (putting it on the smallest f-stop number, like 2.8 or 4), keeping the foreground in focus, and making sure there’s something that will soften nicely in the background.

Sometimes it’s fun to change your wildflower perspective!

UTSA’s Wildflowers Wow Me

Photos don’t do the wildflowers justice! It’s best to see them in person.

When I decided to make a solo, one-day visit to see my older son in San Antonio last Saturday, I had four goals in mind.

Phlox show off their purpleness.

The first, of course, was to see my handsome collegian at the University of Texas at San Antonio. Even though he had been home a mere week ago during spring break, I never turn down the chance to spend time with my blue-eyed boy.

Here’s more purple!

Second, we both read “The Hunger Games” a month ago and wanted to see the movie together. It’s so much easier discussing the pros and cons of the film with someone who also enjoyed the novel.

Bluebonnets and lily-like wildflowers go together.

Third, we wanted to check out off-campus housing for the fall. Even though we weren’t able to tour our first choice, we saw it from outside and liked it. Good-bye, dorm!

A small bee flies near a coreopsis.

And, finally, I figured that Texas’ recent abundant rains had produced a bountiful crop of wildflowers. I hoped my Nikon 105mm macro lens would get a workout.

A bokeh’d Indian blanket background surrounds a lone bluebonnet.

Which, of course, it did! After I dropped my son back at his dorm in the early afternoon, I was curious to see what kinds of wildflowers were blooming on the UTSA campus.

A bee enjoys an Indian blanket.

Along a road behind the dorms, the grounds were bursting with beauty! Indian blankets, bluebonnets, coreopsis, and more fought for my lens’ attention.

Which Indian blanket will the bee pick?

Naturally, something else mirrored my wildflower love: Those darned, stinkin’ bees. As always, I moved in as close as possible, shot fast, and quickly walked away before the little buzzers could target me.

Thistle pollen covers a bee.

After about a half hour, I was ready to continue my drive back to Houston, where more of my state’s natural beauty distracted me until I just had to stop and shoot.

Which I’ll share in Thursday’s blog!

Happy New Year, Texas Style

My younger son blows on a punk.

Here in Texas, people set off fireworks on New Year’s Eve. I don’t remember that being the tradition in Chicago when I was growing up—all that noise and beauty was reserved for the 4th of July.

Looks like fireworks on Mars.

But we look forward to seeing bursts of color in the air and on the ground twice a year, not that we buy and set them off, of course. We’d much rather sponge off someone who isn’t worried about setting half the neighborhood on fire.

Fireworks light up the ground and surrounding air.

Last Saturday night that “someone” was my friend Karen E. (aka, Cody’s mom). They live within walking distance in the next subdivision in our master-planned community.

The fireworks brighten the night.

It was 70 degrees at 10:30 p.m. as my younger son, the Mister, and I watched the kids light up the night. Love when our winters are so mild!

An eerie red glow

To document the fireworks show, I used my Nikon D700 and Nikon f/1.4 50mm lens. I upped the ISO from 1600 to 4000 in order to get a fast-enough shutter speed to stop the action.

A fast shutter speed (1/500th) gives the ground fireworks an interesting look.

And then I snapped, snapped, snapped! I was pleasantly surprised at the great bokeh (blurred lights) and clean results that I got without any planning (as in totally dumb luck).

What goes up . . . .

My favorite shots? The rockets! I was able to capture the action as they left the ground . . .

Makes us oooh and aaaah!

And burst high above us! Happy 2012!!

The 2011 Retrospective: The Chanukah Lights

An end view of the boys’ menorahs on the first night of Chanukah.

My favorite childhood memory of Chanukah was lighting our family’s menorah. All four of us kids had to share those lighting duties, which meant we cherished our chance to kindle those candles twice.

My older son computes on his MacBook Pro illuminated by the second night’s candles.

My sons are lucky, because they have their own menorahs to light. And I’m fortunate, because that makes twice as many candles for me to photograph each Chanukah (well, except for last year when my older son was at college for the entire holiday). A recap of our 2009 Chanukah is here, hereherehere, and here. Last year’s illuminating experience is here, here, and here.

The long view of the third night’s candles.

As always, I tried to document this year’s holiday with unique photos every night. Which can be hard to do when you consider there are only a few variables to manipulate: My two sons, menorahs, and candles.

Interesting how the candles shrink at different paces on night four.

Fortunately for me, the candles burn for a long time and at different rates on both menorahs. That gave me more opportunities to change things up.

I snapped away looking up at the menorah on night five.

Having the menorahs on the dining room table where my older son set up his MacBook Pro made for some interesting photos, too (although I think he got tired of me turning off the overhead light so often).

More candles make the sideshow more interesting on the sixth night.

It also helped that he was home for the entire holiday. The more candles, the better photo ops!

The candles brightly burn very low on the seventh night.

The last two nights of the holiday were the easiest to capture via my Nikon D700 and Nikon 50mm lens.

My #1 son puts the shamash (helper candle) back on night seven.

More candles mean better lighting, although I still often used a +.03 or +.07 exposure compensation.

Both boys light their candles on the eighth night.

The action usually was fast and furious as I snapped away while the boys lit their menorahs.

My younger son makes sure his candles are snug on night eight.

Once you reach the eighth night, there aren’t an opportunities for retakes. You’ve just got to hope you’ve done your best in photographing eight wonderfully illuminating evenings.

Smoke trails off after a wick meets its maker on the last night.

And now it’s over!

Lighting Up

Yesterday’s third night of Chanukah burns brightly.

From the candles flickering in the Chanukah menorah . . .

The bokeh’d lights shine on our block.

to the outside Christmas bulbs a-glow in the dark,

I’m partial to multicolored lights.

may your holidays be filled with bright lights, fun, and love!

Lots of colors shining here

That’s my holiday wish to you, my readers, with all my heart.

Enjoy your celebration!

Holiday Wishes

Cute reindeer wait for Santa.

To my readers who will be celebrating tonight and tomorrow . . .

Focusing on a multicolored ornament resulted in wonderfully bokeh’d lights!

A very

Snowmen lights all in a row

Merry Christmas, y’all!

Snoopy and Woodstock rest up.

Happy holidays to everyone!!

A Photographic Disc Golf Dress Rehearsal

The #2 son putts.

Recently, #2 played in the aptly named Dress Rehearsal for Texas States at Houston’s Tom Bass Park. Texas States is a huge, two-day disc golf tourney (that happens to be this weekend!) at that location. The one-day, 36-hole dress rehearsal gave players a chance to check out the course. And it gave me an opportunity to prepare for shooting photos at the real deal.

Ryan’s drive flies off the tee on top of a hill.

I was looking forward to making sure I was ready to take decent disc golf photos. I hadn’t shot at Tom Bass since last year’s Texas States, but I soon remembered why the course is so tough for players and photographers alike: It’s swampy (this was a muddy, warm day) and long. I was dragging by the end of 18 holes, and I hadn’t hoisted a disc!

T.J. putts uphill.

But I wasn’t complaining, because I was getting my fill of two of my favorite photo subjects: The #2 son and wildflowers! It was too early in the year for an abundance of flora. But there were enough to make me take more pics of the flowers than the players.

These delicate, small white flowers were all over the park.

I used my Nikon 105mm macro lens with my Nikon D700, because it does a good job with action and flower close-ups. There were a few times when I wished I had opted for my Nikon 70-200mm lens on shots of the players putting (I needed the 70mm range), but I was willing to sacrifice for the 105’s macro capabilities.

Even weeds can be pretty!

I’ll be using the 70-200 this weekend, because the disc golf action will take precedence. But I’m sure I’ll still get some close-ups of different wildflowers that have sprung up since the dress rehearsal. They’re so easy to capture, because they don’t move!

Yellow flower

Shooting flowers gives photographers a great opportunity to work on bokeh, that lovely blurring of backgrounds.

These little yellow flowers looked shiny close up.

The key is to open up your aperture (set it on the smallest number, e.g., f/2.8 or f/4), move in close, and focus on one spot.

They’re the same type flower, but one is white and one is purply.

And don’t forget that if you can’t effectively crop when you’re taking the photo, you can always cut out the excess in photo-editing software like Photoshop Elements. It’s not cheating to crop! It’s still your photo; you’ve just made it a more-effective picture by zooming in on what’s important. Our high-megapixel digital cameras are made for cropping; you don’t lose any resolution, so your photo stays sharp.

Brown, reedy stuff

The dress rehearsal did give me a chance to kick that nature-photography jones temporarily out of my system.

A branchless tree looks stark against the sky.

Just like the disc golfers, including #2, I’m going to be rarin’ to hit the course and see what I’m capable of at Texas States. Let’s hope I take more photos of the active players instead of the inactive wildflowers!

Jumping Jehosaphat!

Up and over the bar in the pole vault!

Last week’s high school junior varsity track meet also featured our girls’ team. For them, the freshmen don’t have their own division, like the boys do, because there just aren’t enough girls. But that doesn’t mean that they’re not in it to win it!

Jasmine leaps in the triple jump.

I concentrated on shooting some of the field events, because I knew a couple of the girls who were competing.

Cori takes off and glides through the air during the triple jump.

You might remember Cori and Tori (ironic rhyming!) from this blog post about their JV basketball travails.

She extends and is about to stick the landing!

They both compete in the triple jump, and it was fun trying to capture them photographically as they flew through the air.

Tori begins her trip over the high jump bar.

Tori also high jumps. Knowing she had at least three attempts, I tried different angles in documenting her efforts.

Tori springs up.

This angle made for a messier background (I’m glad the Nikon 70-200mm lens wide open at f/2.8 provides such wonderful bokeh!). But it was best for seeing her face, as she strained to jump over the bar.

Up and over . . . while the bar stays put!

Tori might like this angle best . . . because it shows her winning jump!

Leaping lizards . . . and Bulldogs!