Bokeh is the ephemeral essence of blur, something you can see yet remains completely intangible. Other times, it can be shaped into a mold, controlled and specific. The 306 entries from this week's Shooting Challenge capture bokeh at both extremes.

Lead Photo - Scent of a Woman

We put Christmas lights on the wall and I had a patient friend as a model pretending to perfume herself for an hour. Nikon D3000, 50mm, f/1.8, ISO 3200, 1/20 sec.
-Anna Albert

Miniature Stetson

I was walking the streets of Hipsterville (aka Los Feliz, L.A.), on the prowl for what my friend calls 'body-dumpers'—older beat-up American giants with expansive trunks that evoke the transport of bodies, a la Jimmy Hoffa. My friend has a website,, and I'd been meaning to contribute. (We're from Detroit, may explain the preoccupation with beat up American cars, Hoffa, dead bodies in trunks)


I stumbled upon this beautifully battered red Jeep Wagoneer, complete with fake wood paneling. I took a ton of shots before I noticed the coolest part about the truck—the little cowboy hat hanging from the rearview. Shooting with a 5D mkII body and an EF 24-70mm f/2.8L lens, shot 70mm, wide open at f/2.8, ISO 400. I knew from the hyperfocal contest that the longer the focal length and the closer I was to the subject, the shallower the depth of field, and the better the Bokeh.
- Adam Thurtell



Long time fan, first time courageous enough to enter the challenge. I really wanted to take pictures of a cityscape, or find a ferris wheel somewhere. When that didn't work out, I almost gave up until I realized I could mimic the same effect with glitter. I pulled out this old purse of mine and snapped away in different angles. Took me forever to pick the one I like the most, but I'm pretty happy with the result. Here's to making it work! Only some cropping in Picasa. Specs: Canon Rebel XS 18-55mm, ISO 400 F1/5
- Asra Hussain

Aston Martin


I was messing around with pictures of Christmas tree lights to get some ideas and noticed that the lights were primarily red, yellow and green, which made me think of a stop light. I grabbed a diecast model of an Aston Martin V12 Vanquish (from the James Bond movie, Die Another Day) that I have and placed it on top of a box that I covered with a grey blanket to simulate aphalt. I draped a black blanket over a chair so the lights would would stand out. The Christmas tree lights were tough to work as they weren't staying in position just hanging over the blanket, so I used some black electrical tape and taped them to a pen to set them in a row. I used another blanket to cover the other lights around the three subject lights. Set the car about 5 feet from the lights and my tripod about 3 feet behind the car. Stopped down to 5.6 and focused on the rear of the car to get the bokeh effect. Used a handheld light to illuminate the rear of Aston. I took about 50 pictures of the lights as green, yellow, red from top to bottom, then realized they were inverted and had to reset the lights in the correct order. Whoops! 100 or so shots (including the errors) and I liked this one the best. Nikon D60, Sigma 105mm Macro, ISO 400, 105 mm, f/5.6, Shutter 0.6s
- John McGrail

Daylight Bokeh


I kept trying to get an interesting bokeh shot at night, but the daytime setting turned out much more pleasing. Shot was taken with string lights and a Nikon D90 + 50mm @ f1.8, 1/160, ISO 200.
- Nick Sprankle



The idea for this photo actually woke me out of a deep sleep. I sat up in bed and said "EXPLODING DEATH STAR BOKEH!!!" My poor wife opened her eyes and kinda said "whaza?" before falling immediately back to sleep. I left her in bed and went to work blowing up a Death Star.

The main subject of this photo is a Micro Machines X-wing that I bought new about 20 years ago. It's not much bigger than a US quarter. Thanks to the small scale, I didn't have to build a very big Death Star. It is a roughly golf ball sized clump of tin foil peppered with some colored translucent Lego bricks. I just added bricks until the bokeh'd Death Star looked nice and explodey. I setup this scene in my lightbox and then moved it into a sunny window. My regular hot lights weren't giving me bright enough bokeh by themselves. A few shots later, I had this!

Photoshop work includes cloning out a small bamboo skewer I was using to hold up the X-wing. I also did a little dodge work on the fighter to bring out some of the greys and a slight crop to make the shot a little more dramatic. Shot with my Nikon D300 and 55mm f/2.8 manual macro lens. F/2.8, 1/1250th, ISO 200, daylight white balance. May the bokeh be with you!
- Adam Wolf


Orange Fizz

This is a shot of orange soda with a little bokeh fizz. For this shot I acquired a shooting assistant, tripod, my 50mm G-series canon lens, and some Christmas lights. I thought I would try to incorporate the bokeh balls, typically a secondary subject, into the primary and came up with this. 50mm, 1.8, 1/30, iso 400.
- Ryan Meyer


The Stuff Scrapbooks Are Made Of

Taken on a sunday morning while playing with my children. Nikon D90, 50mm 1.4f Nikkor Lens, Shutter Speed 1/500, ISO 200 (not sure).
-Rehan Riaz



I live in the Washington DC Metro area and tonight we had the biggest snowstorm since last year. I've been trying to get some shots using depth of field and snowflakes all winter but I've always either been working when the snow is just right or it's been freezing rain instead. I didn't happen to have my camera on me but I was at my mother's, so I picked up her Canon Digital Rebel XSi and her wide angle lens (Only lens she has right now) and went to town. I couldn't travel far because I was worried about getting snow all over her camera, so I stayed under the deck above our garage and took some shots. This was the best shot I got and I had to use flash to do it, but I'm very happy with the results.


Jolly Boy

Image of Albert Minott lead singer of the Jolly Boys. Jolly Boys are a famous old school Jamaican Mentos Band formed in 1955 and given their name by Errol Flynn.
This shot was taken after a performance on the evening of January 26th at Gee Jam in port Antonio, Jamaica. They do a really cool version of Amy Winehouse's Rehab. Canon 5D Mk2, Canon 50mm lens 1/50th @ f/1.4 ISO 1000.
- Jonathan Bloom


Burning Money Away

Two aces taped on a green t-shirt. Background has red xmas lights and gray wires between them almost look like a smoke. Money burning away... DIY Bokeh shape filter made from step-up ring. Removed tape and added some vignetting in Gimp. Nikon D7000 with Sigma 50mm F1.4 EX DG HSM, 1/3s, f2, ISO 100, 50mm
-Petri Damstén


Coffee Shop

I took this photo with a Minolta X700. It was Ilford HP5 speed 400 film. I develop my film and print my photos and then scan them sometimes. This photo took me awhile to get the contrast right because the negative was pretty thin. That's my friend Cody's profile in the reflection of a window at a coffee shop.
- Sarah Crist


City Lights

A friend of mine once told me about a little trick for long exposures, which is to de-focus during the exposure. Sounded like just the thing I could use to let me bokeh shot stand out a bit. I had some issues with defining the bokeh balls well at first because the camera kept moving when I changed the focus. The fix was to cover the lens while I de-focused the image. I like how the stars in the background are in focus - you could say it's reverse-bokeh. Shot with a 35mm f/1.4 lens on a Canon T2i at f/1.4, ISO 100, 5 second exposure.
- Shea Chen



The air was crisp, breezing its way into my room because of the cracked window. All of the lights were off, except for the glow of outside. Sometimes it's better to disappear while the outside world lights up. Nikon D3100, Lens: 35 mm - F/1.8
- Kellie Segdwick


WINNER - Double Snowflakes

Oh, the weather outside is frightful... or is it? Actually, it's quite beautiful when there is a slow, gentle snowfall. This is a photo of the snow falling tonight (January 26) in Merrimack, NH. The f-stop listed above is about as accurate as I can be. When I got home, I sliced up a blank aperture disc into the shape of a snowflake, grabbed my old, but powerful flash (that can actually work with the full manual lenses, unlike the built-in or my SB400), and started shooting off into the snow (but focused very close). The result is that each actual snowflake in the frame of the image became a point of light which, due to the near focus and the snowflake shaped aperture disc, appeared as large snowflakes. Nikon D90, ancient off-brand flash (BRIGHT!!!!), Lensbaby Control Freak Settings: ~50mm, ISO100, f/snowflake, focus at ~12" from lens.
- Ryan Powers


Incredible entries this week. The collective talents of Shooting Challenge participants is staggering. See all the wonderful photos in the galleries below. Find full-size (and savable wallpapers) on flickr.

For the last six months, I've been working on a very exciting project called Philanthroper, which is now live, accepting $1 donations for a new nonprofit every day. Sign up to help us build something that could change everything.

Gallery 1


Gallery 2

Gallery 3


Gallery 4

Gallery 5


Click to view