This was a photo I’ve had in mind for a long time, but for some reason kept putting off until one morning this summer when I finally decided to go for it. It involves something called a Bokeh Wall, which is basically a homemade solution for creating cool sparkly out-of-focus backgrounds like what you see here. All you need (so I’d heard) is a vertical surface and something you can attach to it that reflects light. Even though everything I had seen seemed to indicate that homemade bokeh walls like this were quick and inexpensive I always figured it would involve a lot more planning and preparation than it actually did. I’m going to be honest here: the picture you see above took exactly ten minutes to capture, involved almost no pre-planning, and was an entirely spur-of-the-moment activity that my son and I did before I left for work one rainy morning a few weeks ago.
Here’s a picture of our entire setup that I took with my iPhone:
If it looks all too simple, trust me: it was. In the foreground is my D200 with my trusty 50mm lens. Next is a toy train I pulled out of one of my kids’ toyboxes and behind that is, I kid you not, one sheet of crumpled aluminum foil taped to a board we got at the local Habit ReStore for two dollars. I thought I would need a tripod, but tried a few shots with my camera sitting on the table and it worked just fine. If you’re looking at this picture right now and thinking “This is cool, but I’ll never be able to get a shot like that,” trust me: you can :)
I shot this at f/1.8 to get some really cool bokeh going on in the background, but as usual I kind of wish I had stopped my lens down a bit because the depth of field is just a bit too shallow for my liking. And while I could go back and re-do the photo (and probably will), I wanted to post my initial shot here even though it’s less than ideal because I was so excited about taking it. The dual-toned background is a result of two light sources: a window which is just to the left of my camera, and an overhead chandelier. Light coming in from the window is more white whereas the incandescent bulbs on the chandelier were yellow, which not only led to the multicolored background but helped light the toy train in a bit more interesting manner as well. Incidentally I also used the self-timer on my camera to eliminate any possible vibration from my finger pressing the shutter, and also shot at ISO 100 to get the highest-quality noise-free image possible, and given that my camera and my subject were stationary the resulting low shutter speed of 1/20 was not really an issue.
This makes two pictures here on Weekly Fifty that were the result of sheer curiosity, experimentation, and good old-fashioned trial-and-error. And if you take anything away from this post, I hope it’s at least a small desire to try something new with your camera too :)