I've been getting quite a few questions and interest in my Lensbaby, so I thought I'd devote some posts to this little lens and why I've fallen so in love with it. I meant to tell you guys yesterday that it would be a photography-heavy week, so if you're not interested, feel free to drop out!
Today I'll walk you through the basics of the lens and what it does, and tomorrow and Thursday, I'll take you with me as I used it both on our vacation this summer and at home.
I'd been stalking the Lensbaby suite of lenses and other products for awhile, but in a pretty causal way until late last spring. I was shopping for lenses in general, so they kept coming up on my radar, and then we got serious about them in a conversation at my Thursday Morning Photography Group. Turns out a few of us were jonesing after them pretty bad.
Let me tell you a bit about what the Lensbaby does before I launch into much more. Essentially the Lensbaby combines a basic lens with a ball and socket (or bellows) mechanism to manually focus and rotate the lens to provide the photographer with selective blur and selective focus (called the "sweet spot."). Because of the ball and socket mechanism, the lens is movable on your camera, and shifting the lens changes the location of the sweet spot.
Okay, look. There is so much to say about these lenses and how they work, and SO much that I have yet to tap into about them. Let me just tell you a bit about my experience with them. After our inspiring talk at our Thursday Morning Photo Group, and knowing that we were about to head out on our tip to London and Paris, I bit the bullet and bought the Lensbaby Composer (which has recently been replaced by the Composer Pro. What can I say? I'm cheap.) Part of me hated spending money right before such a big trip, but I take pictures instead of buying souvenirs, and to this day I feel that it was money well spent.
The first three shots in this post (after the shots of the lens itself) were what happened the day it arrived, straight out of the box. So learning curve? Um, yeah.
The LB is focused manually, and because I shoot primarily using manual focus with my 100mm lens, that part wasn't as tricky to adapt to as I expected it to be. Still, after months with this guy in my bag, I'm soaking up everything I can about working with them. They are tricky to navigate and not an easy learn. I am just at the very beginning of my journey with them, and I really feel like I've just scratched the surface of what they can do, and what I can do with them. If you're interested in learning more, Lensbaby has great videos on its site, and this Breakout is both beautiful AND informative, and this book gets you started with the very basics.
Even the big guys are getting in on the Lensbaby Love. Kevin Kubota, wedding photographer, designer and teacher extraordinaire, credits discovering the Lensbaby as "one of the milestones that significantly changed the way I photograph or approach a scene." In an interview with Corey Hilz, Kubota says, "I think that having a tool like the Lensbaby has really helped me look at things differently, and, more important, accept those variations as a complement to what I was already doing." Kubota uses the Lensbaby at almost every wedding he shoots. And when he doesn't. he regrets it!
My much beloved and oft-quoted David DuChemin also throws the Lensbaby some love, saying in his book Photographically Speaking, "Although it's easy to consider them a toy, they too change the aesthetic of the image and create an alternate plane of focus worthy of consideration when you want to speak about your subject in less traditional ways... or lend an ethereal feeling to your images."
I guess now what I'm working on is learning how to make this guy really sing. And that's what I love about this lens. Playing with that selective focus, thinking about what you want to highlight and what you want to blur is freeing and fun. I have fun when I pop my Lensbaby on my camera. I can feel my shoulders unkink, and I stop over thinking my shots.
Kubota description really nails my experience with this lens. Sometimes I'll be working in the studio, and I'll think, oh, I'd love to see how this would look with the Lensbaby. And sometimes I'll take it with me for the express reason to shoot my entire experience with it. Either way, it's another tool in my toolbox, expanding my eye and my creativity. Using it really pushes me, but in a way that has no expectation attached. I feel light and open when it's on my camera. If I screw up; it's all good. But on those occasions when I manage to capture a really golden shot? Pure joy.
Okay. I've gone on and on, haven't I? I'll stop now. If you decide to put one of these in your camera bag, let me know, and I'll share any tips I've managed to nab in the meantime. And if you already have one and have any ideas to share, please I'm begging you! Let me know! I can use all the help I can get! That's it for words from me for the week. Up tomorrow, a pictorial essay. Lensbaby on our vacation.