Postcard | Canon 5D, 50mm, 1.6sec f2.5, ISO 100

Once upon a time, long before the advent of digital photography and Photoshop, I was a casual photosnapper with a fascination for kitschy cameras: Lomo Actionsamplers, Nickelodeon PhotoBlasters, Polaroid i-Zone sticker cameras. Had I invested in an SLR early on, I most likely would’ve amassed a fine collection of lens filters that transformed pedestrian streetlights into starbursts, added perfect rainbows to otherwise-blah landscapes, and refracted images like a kaleidoscope.

Despite eventually owning several digital cameras and figuring out many of the Adobe Creative Suite programs, I never embraced photo manipulation–partly because I’m lazy, but mostly because I’m just not creative that way. I suppose I could’ve still bought those specialty lens filters, but knowing that I could achieve most of the same effects with Photoshop killed my interest.

And then I stumbled upon the SLR Bokeh Kit at

Bokeh means “blur” in Japanese. In photography, it refers to the soft, out-of-focus background achieved with a large aperture (such as f2.8). Depending on the light source, bokeh can be a lush wash of color or a spectacular explosion of circular, sometimes polygonal, confetti. Amazingly (from what I’ve read), the term is relatively new to photography; it didn’t appear in the lexicon until the mid-1990s!

Cupcakes | Canon 5D, 50mm, 1/80 f1.8, ISO 1000

Blush | Canon 5D, 50mm, 1/40 f1.8, ISO 1250

Glassy Chicago | Canon 5D, 60mm, 1/125 f6.3, ISO 200

There are several videos in www land that show you how to render pinpoints of light into, say, hearts and UFOs by making a special filter and cutting out the appropriate shapes, but I’ve already mentioned that I’m lazy. The SLR Bokeh Kit provides a plastic filter that goes over your lens as well as 21 different shapes, including hearts, butterflies, stars, and, for less-mushy types, recycling symbols, checkmarks, and headphones. It also comes with 8 “blank” discs that you can work your X-ACTO knife magic on.

Since C and I have been making more music videos lately, I’m always kicking around possible B-roll ideas. Although this effect is probably more suited for still photography (I’ve seen some inspiring photos but haven’t yet messed around with the combo myself), I wondered if these shapes could be incorporated into video footage somehow.

The following video comprises my experiments from the night we shot a video for Cheap Time‘s latest single “Another Time,” and the night I accompanied the Inhuman Eating Machine on his “big salad” session. The first night was peppered with ambulances, fire engines, and an endless stream of cars. The second night saw nonstop rain and strings of fluttering lights. Unsurprisingly, I was instantly enchanted by the multicolor birds, butterflies, and hearts that cavorted on the three-inch screen of my Canon 60D. The nine-year-old in me wished that I had a unicorn or pegasus to add to the parade.

Despite my childlike enthusiasm for the effects, I’m well aware that the potential for cheesefest with these filters is high and I can’t imagine videographers with a refined, high-brow aesthetic utilizing them. But you never know. Who doesn’t like a good ol’ surreal dream sequence featuring hovering happy faces, dancing dolphins, and drifting envelopes?

It’s cool in small doses,

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Filed under photography, video

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