I like to keep my camera with me for those unexpected, special shooting opportunities; like when the light is so fantastic, you just can’t resist! This happened during a wonderful outdoor dinner during the blue hour at a restaurant on the beach. Fortunately, I had my Nikon D850, Lensbaby Sweet 35, and my Platypod Max with a Really Right Stuff BH-40 ball head. I was able to take advantage of the light (as unobtrusively as possible) by placing my camera on the table for a few shots while the light was perfect. A tripod was obviously too large......but I needed an extra-steady camera to get the low light shot. The Platypod allowed me to compose and shoot with ease, while actually waiting for dinner. I loved the results, and decided to recreate the tabletop shots at home, using the same concept with a creative background and a specialty lens.
For this shot I used my Nikon D850 and an interesting interpretation of a vintage lens, the Lomography Daguerreotype Achromat 64mm f2.9 art lens. Using a wide aperture, focused on the subject, this lens can create beautiful effects with out-of- focus points of light in the background, much like the nifty 50mm lens. However, the Achromat has a variety of interchangeable aperture plates, including the heart shape that I used here. The shot was equally as nice as with the round out-of-focus effects from the string lights in the background, but it was the heart shaped bokeh that well, stole my heart.
I tried a variety of lenses, from a Nikkor 50mm lens, Lensbaby Sweet 35, and the Achromat. I wanted to create something similar to my impromptu beach dinner shot with a dramatic background. I decided to use the Achromat because of the heart shapes in the background produced by shooting at a wide aperture. The key to this type of shot is for the subject to be relatively close to the lens, use a wide aperture, and try varied distances to the background to create the best bokeh. You can always try a few aperture settings to see what works best for your subject.
I couldn’t resist the opportunity to photograph a crystal vase of roses with hearts in the background. You could try colored lights for a different effect, and use almost any subject you choose. To set up the shot, I placed the camera and lens on my patio table, which was covered with black velvet. You could use any table cloth you like. In the background I set up a curtain of string lights, similar to holiday lights, which are perfect to produce the improvised bokeh effect. My subjects included two wine glasses, roses and a single candle for a romantic effect.
This is a simple and inexpensive process that allows you to experiment with creative techniques, and have a lot of fun. Or, you could just bring your Platypod to dinner!
About the Author: Deborah Sandidge is a professional photographer specializing in world travel and artistic imagery. Deborah is a photography instructor and the author of the book Digital Infrared Photography.