Monthly Archives: December 2009

Master Bokeh with the Bokeh Masters Kit

Bokeh Masters Kit

Have you ever seen those photos with nifty bokeh shapes scattered in the background? Well, it’s actually easier to accomplish than you might think.

The shapes are a result of two things: bokeh and a mask (a mask for your lens, not your face). Bokeh is something that happens naturally with the right lens and lighting conditions, and the mask is something that you can purchase from one of our “local” photography bloggers.

Udi, from, has put together the Bokeh Masters Kit so the rest of us can experiment with custom bokeh shapes. The kit includes a bunch of precut shapes and a holder that attaches to your lens so you can swap them out easily.

vmmm vmmmm birds walking_the_other_way

Bokeh Masters Kit Contents

The concept is simple — place a thin mask with a small shape cut in the center right in front of your lens. The shape acts as a secondary aperture and forces the blurry background highlights to take the shape of the cutout. Without the mask, the shape of the bokeh takes on the shape of the lens aperture. But the mask cutout is just the right size to only have an effect on the bokeh while leaving the primary image in tact.

Right now, Udi is offering up three different kits: Demo, Advanced, and Master. The demo kit includes the disk holder and five pre-cut disk shapes. The advanced kit includes the demo kit plus an additional 15 disk shapes. And the master kit includes the advanced kit plus eight uncut disks and a disk wallet to keep all your disks in one place. The uncut disks allow you to create your own shapes and designs.

Now, you might be saying to yourself “I can make this stuff with construction paper, why would I buy it?” Well, because the disks and disk holder aren’t made of construction paper. They’re made from a thin and durable plastic and the pre-cut shapes are laser cut to give you nice smooth edges on your bokeh. Plus, the cutouts are just the right size to give your bokeh nice definition while minimizing any negative effects on the overall image. The blank disks in the master kit also have a circular guide on them to help you keep the size in that optimized range — I made myself a Christmas tree shape and took a shot of… the Christmas tree, duh.

[UPDATE 12/11/2009] Sorry, I just found out that the blanks no longer have the guides because some of the testers found that it got in the way of cutting. But you can trace your own outline from the circle in the disk holder.

Christmas Tree Bokeh

I’ve known Udi for a few years now, and I was lucky enough to get a pre-production kit a few months ago. It was really neat to mess around with the kit and give some feedback to Udi (which he did take and work into the final product). So I’m pretty excited to see the end result of Udi’s hard work — he really has put a lot of effort into these kits. If you’re interested in the kit, visit the links below.



And if you guys have any cool bokeh shots (all shapes are welcome, even plain old circles or pentagons), feel free to drop them in the comments below!

Win a Free Lens Rental

Some time ago, we gave out a few free lens rentals via — and now we’re doing it again! We’ll give out a one week equipment rental to two different winners (see details below for entry). This is a cool deal as the holidays approach, and it’s a good way to try out some new equipment or even use it for a paid shoot or personal project.

If you haven’t checked them out in a while, they have a few new things happening. First off, they’re selling some of their equipment as the bring in new stuff — not a bad way to pick up a new lens or camera body at a discounted price. Also, you can get a 10% discount as a first time customer if you use the code “First10″ when placing an order. And finally, is offering a membership program to the heavy users — $99/year gets you a full-time 10% discount on orders, increased availability of rental items, and no cancellation fees. Not a bad deal if you’re shooting a lot of paid projects that require top quality glass. They’ve also been bulking up on lighting equipment for you Strobists, and they now do sensor cleaning for you dSLR users.

For the rental giveaway, here are a few ground rules:

  • You need to be in the US.
  • The order will need to be made online and you will need to provide a credit card number. This won’t be charged but they will need it to ensure you don’t run off with their lens :-). is a reputable business but if you don’t feel comfortable with this condition please don’t enter.
  • The offer excludes super telephoto lenses and pro camera bodies.

To enter the raffle, just leave a comment and tell us you’d like to win! I’ll draw two winners on December 12, 2009 — so get your entry in right away.

[UPDATE 12-8-09] You can enter multiple times by doing any of the following:

  1. Leave a comment on this post. (1 entry per person)
  2. Retweet (Via your Twitter account) “Another lens rental contest! Retweet and post the RT as a comment for a second chance to win! (via @BorrowLenses)” Post the RT and/or (preferably) the link to your RT here in the comments (as a separate comment from the #1 entry method). (1 entry per person)
  3. Post about this giveaway on your blog, in a forum, or any other appropriate avenue — just don’t spam the forums and other public spaces. Then leave a comment (again, separate comment from your other entries) with a link to your post. (1 entry per person)

So there you go — 3 ways to improve your odds at winning.

[UPDATE 12-13-2009] The raffle is over, and the winners have been chosen. See my follow-up post for more details.

Link Roundup 12-06-2009

Lots of new links from the last two weeks. If things keep up like this, I might have to go back to posting these every weekend.

16 Frigid Sources of Inspiration

For those living in the upper reaches of the northern hemisphere, winter is approaching along with cold weather and snow! I spent a good portion of my life in North Idaho, and now that I live in San Diego I sometimes miss the winter weather. But then I remember that I wear t-shirts for 350 days/year, flip-flops are my main shoes, and my “winter coat” is a sweatshirt. So I’m pretty much okay with just a visit back home every so often.

But for you nut jobs who love the snow, I would encourage you to get out and photograph it this year. A snow covered landscape is really quite amazing, and the “white stuff” can completely change the mood of any location. Aside from the obvious landscapes, I’ve included a few “people shots” here to get your gears turning.

And if you have some good winter shots of your own, be sure to share them in the comments!

reflections (A)
Creative Commons License photo credit: camil tulcan

Winter Panorama - Kromme Rijn, Amelisweerd, Rhijnauwen, Utrecht
Creative Commons License photo credit: lambertwm

Iceberg - Ilulissat - Greenland
Creative Commons License photo credit: Ludovic Hirlimann

Creative Commons License photo credit: JC Labarca

frozen light in a snow weekend, MANZANEDA ☃
Creative Commons License photo credit: Paulo Brandão

Creative Commons License photo credit: enggul

I've reached the end of the world
Creative Commons License photo credit: Stuck in Customs

Aoraki Rappel
Creative Commons License photo credit: Dru!

Winter at the Lake
Creative Commons License photo credit: Brian Auer

Lone Wolf
Creative Commons License photo credit: h.koppdelaney

Creative Commons License photo credit: Johan Rd

The Sound of Silence...
Creative Commons License photo credit: lapidim

Glacier Grey, Chile
Creative Commons License photo credit: * hiro008

Straumur Aurora
Creative Commons License photo credit: orvaratli

lonely tree in the snow...
Creative Commons License photo credit: santo rizzuto

Paris under the snow
Creative Commons License photo credit: Gregory Bastien

Portrait Photography eBook Winners

The Essential Guide to Portrait Photography

Last week, when I posted the review of The Essential Guide to Portrait Photography, I also mentioned that we had two copies of the book to give away. In order to win a book, you had to post a photo or a Flickr Gallery having to do with the topic of the book. We had only photo entries (sorry guys, sets are not the same as galleries), so I picked two of my favorite photos to receive a copy of the book.

You’ll find the winners of the contest below with their own comments before the image. The book is free for these two, but the rest of you can still grab a copy of your own. The price is now just under $20, but still totally worth it for the amount of useful content it contains.


Photo by Faisal. This little girl instantly got my interest in photographing her. I was captivated by her innocence and perhaps a little saddened by a certain abandoned gaze in her eyes. The place is ‘Jaglot Gor’ on the way to Hunza from Gilgit, Northern Pakistan. We had delicious Chapshru (a local dish) here.

Photo by Faisal


Photo by Jonathan Robson. Taken last weekend, very hard to get them both in the same frame!

Photo by Jonathan Robson

Live, Laugh, Celebrate Book Winners

Last week, when I posted the review of Live, Laugh, Celebrate, I also mentioned that we had two copies of the book to give away. In order to win a book, you had to post a photo or a Flickr Gallery having to do with the topic of the book. We had only photo entries, so I picked two of my favorites to receive a copy of the book.

You’ll find the winners of the contest below with their own comments before the image. The books are in the mail for these two, but the rest of you can still grab a copy of your own. As I said before, it’s a great book for the whole family to enjoy and a nice addition to the coffee table collection.


Photo by DanielTaken at last years Halloween Charity Ball in Bucharest. The Ball’s theme was heroes the inspire children! I give you, Catwoman! :)

Photo by Daniel


Photo by JoanieTaken at a gathering of Mountain Men…in the mountains, natch. Here are just a couple of the 100+ who showed up to honor and celebrate the lives of those who helped carve out America’s West. Today’s mountain men are just as colorful as the men of yore. There are tall tales, hearty meals, tomahawk throws, black powder guns target shooting, and card games where I’m pretty sure everyone tries to outcheat each other. Add in some liquor — homemade and store bought — and late night campfires and the odds of laughing so hard you just about wet yourself are pretty good.

Photo by Joanie

Buy and Sell Photo Gear at RutsCameras

I tend to buy cameras and equipment from time to time, as I’m sure most of you do too. In my case, I’m usually scouring eBay for good deals on old film cameras or darkroom equipment. eBay is a great place for this, but I have more than one issue with it from a photographer standpoint.


Jeff Rutman also had issues with existing sites and services dealing used photography gear, so he did something about it. RutsCameras is a camera & equipment auction site similar to eBay, but it’s only for photography stuff. He’s just getting it started, but it could be a very good marketplace if enough people get on board. Here are some of the strong points of this new site:

  • IT’S FREE! At least for now. I know, “free” usually sounds too good to be true, but this guy seems legit. No seller or buyer fees.
  • NO JUNK! The problem with eBay is that you have to wade through tons of crap in order to find what you’re looking for. No more searching for a camera model only to find 800 listings on a screwdriver of the same model and 3 camera listings buried in there.
  • SWAP GEAR! I noticed on a few of the listings that swap offers were accepted. I would assume that this means you can swap gear if you have something the seller is looking for too. Pretty cool option.
  • JEFF LISTENS! He actually wants feedback and suggestions when it comes to shaping the site. This is way cool because you’re more likely to “have it your way”. The site even has a forum for feedback and general discussion.

At any rate, I just wanted to give a shout out to RutsCameras in case some of you are looking to buy or sell photography stuff. I haven’t tried the site myself (I don’t have anything to buy or sell at the moment), but I’ve been poking around for a day or two. If you’re looking to buy or sell any time soon, maybe give it a try. And, as with any online venue, make sure you read the fine print and that you understand what you’re signing up for.