It’s month number 2 in the Lensbaby Blog Circle! After you read my post, make sure to follow the link at the bottom to the next Lensbaby blog, and keep going to complete the full circle.
My boyfriend Mike, our dog Ozzie and I take a lot of walks around our hometown of Portland, OR. A LOT. That means that we repeat ourselves. A lot. I usually have my camera in hand, so I’m always trying to come up with more interesting ways to take photos of our wanderings that don’t simply feel like more of the same.
We divide our ramblings into 2 kinds: urban and woods. Though sometimes they’re runs/ramblings because Ozzie is 52 lbs of really, really excited – if super sweet – muscle. He’s well trained but any of the following can send him into crazy-town, including but not limited to: horses, deer, coyotes, mountain bikes, cats, golf carts, anyone running fast, cars driving through puddles and making splashing sounds…you get the idea.
Anyway, we’re lucky to have some great hiking spots full of trails and old growth forest 20 minutes from our house, where Ozzie has 26 feet of Flexi lead to go as crazy as he wants to.
I like to bring a different Lensbaby lens each time we hike or walk, as I know I’ll see things differently with each. From focal length to effect, and the quality of light on a given day – the options for seeing and capturing something differently are endless. This past week I had the added bonus of shooting in SNOW – something of a notable occurrence, as we don’t tend to get much snow in Portland. When the first (actually second – I missed the first when I was away in Florida for Lensbaby at Click Away) storm hit, I grabbed my Velvet 85 in the waning daylight and waxing snow, and headed out for a quick, cold and beautiful neighborhood walk.
All Lensbaby lenses are all manual and don’t have electronics (therefore the camera doesn’t capture metadata like aperture), the f/stops are all educated guesses, so probably about 90-some percent accurate because I know these lenses like the backs of my hands.
A bit more about the Velvet series of lenses (there’s a 56mm and an 85mm) and what they do. They’re art lenses that, at the brightest apertures (for the 56mm, that’s 1.6-2.8 and for the 85 it’s 1.8-2.8) produce images with a soft glow over the entire thing, as you can see above. It’s tack sharp underneath, but it’s got a glowy overlay on top. All that impressionistic goodness comes from the design of the optics combined with a bright aperture. As you stop down to f/4 or darker, the glow goes away, and you have an obviously tack sharp center that still has nice soft fall-off on the edges. I love both of these lenses but enjoy the extra reach and compression the 85mm brings to certain landscape and street scenes like these.
Later the next evening, I encountered this person rounding the corner. I was walking Ozzie, so didn’t look up and ahead until I was pretty close and this impressive 6 or 7 foot tall snow person scared the crap out of me. Which was awesome – so after Ozzie and I completed our walk, of course I grabbed my camera and headed back out.
The Lensbaby Edge Optics (which come in the tilting Composer Pro II lens body) can be the most challenging Lensbaby lenses but also the most rewarding. You have SO much control over the area of focus and blur with this lens, it’s off the hook. Understanding exactly how to control it to get what you want just takes practice. The more you shoot with it, the more you’ll get it. I shot this with the Edge 50 (50mm) Optic.
This scene was pretty easy to shoot because I knew I wanted a vertical slice of focus. I wanted one shot where the sign was totally sharp and the snow person was a ghostly blurry apparition (which was my first split second impression when my heart momentarily leapt into my throat). Then, I knew I wanted to place Sir Snowy Snowster and his snowy grassy plot into sharp focus to show what I saw and realized a moment later. I tilted all the way to the right, and slowly rotated focus back and forth until the slice fell just so. I could have also created a vertical slice by tilting to the left, bug as it was already dark, I wanted to point in the direction of that street light and let as much light into the lens as possible.
The overall rule of thumb with this lens is tilting left/right = vertical slice of focus, up or down = horizontal, and diagonal = diagonal. Also, you’ll use your aperture to control how narrow or wide your slice of focus isIn practice it’s a little more complicated but if you start playing around with those guidelines in mind, it will help you get the hang of it.
Next up in the Lensbaby Blog Circle – the talented John Mee.