Category Archives: Lensbaby

Passiflora

Passiflora

Passiflora, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

A Passiflora vine twines around the No Parking sign in front of our house here in Berkeley, California. Nicky pointed out one particularly colorful Passion flower, and I snipped the blossom to bring it indoors for photography.

I placed the flower on an illuminated light box and arranged the bud so it was lit by the afternnon sun from behind. I used a white fill card to lighten shadow areas.

This image was created using a Lensbaby Composer with its fisheye attachment. One of the marvelous things about this fisheye-Lensbaby rig is how close it focuses. The lens was right up against the flower.

I used a tripod and shot four exposures without using an aperture disk (the lens was wide open at about f/2), each exposure at ISO 100. The exposures times were 1/5 of a second, 1/13 of a second, 1/25 of a second, and 1/50 of a second.

In Photoshop, I layered the exposures together, starting with the lightest (1/5 of a second) on the bottom. Once I was satisfied with the results, I converted the image to LAB and inverted the Lightness channel to turn the white background to the black you see in the final image.

Waiting

Waiting

Waiting, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

My Mom came back from giving a workshop in Guatemala. Late last night found me at SFO to pick her up.

Waiting. The plane was late. Next, the wait for luggage. Not Godot, luggage.

I was bored so I snapped this distorted photo of the carousel using my Lensbaby Composer with the fisheye optic, at 1/15 of second using the f/5.6 aperture ring and ISO 100, hand held. Waiting for luggage, or Godot—whichever comes first—with a fisheye lens.

Magnolia World

Magnolia World

Magnolia World, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

This is another Lensbaby fisheye. I put the camera on tripod up very close to the magnolia tree and used the f/22 aperture ring. I intentionally overexposed to create a high-key effect.

In post-processing I used FocalPoint from onOne Software, a Photoshop plugin, to give the image a sense of focus in the middle and to help blur the edges. Then I partially desaturated the image using the High Structure filter in Nik Silver Efex Pro. My goal was to get the image looking almost like old-fashioned needlepoint.

Lensbaby Fisheye

Leucospermum Fisheye

Leucospermum Fisheye, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

This is a close-up fisheye of my Leucospermum Scarlet Ribbons. I photographed the flower with the Lensbaby Composer and the new Fisheye Optic.

The image you see is a hand-HDR composite of five exposures, all at ISO 100 on tripod. Each exposure used the f/22 aperture ring. Exposure time ranged from 1/4 of a second to 1/30 of second.

White Tulips

White Tulips

White Tulips, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

Shot with a Lensbaby Composer and the standard glass optic, using the f/4 aperture ring. I love my Lensbaby, a great spur to creativity when I’m feeling like trying something different. Check out my Lensbaby set on Flickr.

Pinhole

Pinhole

Pinhole, photo by Harold Davis.

I took this photo of the Golden Gate with the pinhole plate attachment that is part of the Lensbaby Composer Optic Swap System. The effective aperture was f/177 (well, a pinhole is a very little thing!), and the exposure time at ISO 200 was 6/10 of a second, tripod mounted. Here’s the color version:

Golden Gate through a Pinhole

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It’s amusing to think that I went to some trouble to turn my relatively expensive DSLR into a toy camera with literally no optics—a pinhole is just that, a hole the size of a pin. But having interesting and unusual choices to play with, like those provided by the Lensbaby Composer and its Optic Swap System, is fun and a spur to creative visual thinking.

Other recent Lensbaby Composer images: Absence of Color; Calypso Orchids; Zebra & Jaguar; Portrait of Nicky; Hello, World.

Absence of Color

White Tulips

White Tulips, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

I photographed these white tulips in a crystal vase with a Lensbaby Composer. I shot it in RAW, and (obviously) came back with a color image. Looking at the thumbnail in Adobe Bridge I decided that presenting the image in black and white (grayscale), with a theoretical absence of color, would actually remind the viewer of more color than it would have been had it been in color (if you know what I mean).

Related stories: Breaking Wave; Golden Gate in Black and White.

Calypso Orchids

Calypso Orchid

Calypso Orchid, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

In mid-April the Calypso Orchid grows wild on the forested slopes of Mount Tamalpais.

I photographed these Calypso Orchids near Cataract Falls on tripod with a Lensbaby Composer. I used a +4 close-up filter and the plastic optic swapped into the Lensbaby to give the images a soft and dreamlike atmosphere.

Calypso Orchids

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Hello World

Lensbaby Baby

Lensbaby Baby, photo by Harold Davis.

Dear World,

My Dad likes to photograph me with all kinds of weird lenses, first the fisheye and now this Lensbaby Composer with a plastic lens. Dad says he switched in a plastic lens, and trained the “sweet spot” on my eyes so that they are in focus and the background blurred. What are you going to do when your father is a photographer? Sometimes he gets into Photoshop and makes me look like an old painting. I think that’s funny.

Anyway, World, here I come! My Dad has taken me to playgrounds for the first time, and I’ve met girls my own age named Ingrid and Samantha. Dad can’t resist telling their moms the story of my birth, how small I was when I was born, and how I beat the odds. Dad says they gave me a “low single digit percentage chance” and that I am a true miracle.

So I say, World, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Here comes Katie Rose!

Zebra & Jaguar

Zebra & Jaguar

Zebra & Jaguar, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

Strolling down the avenue with my baby in the carriage and my Lensbaby around my neck I passed a red, antique Jaguar MK2.

I aligned the Lensbaby Composer “sweet spot” with the front of the Jaguar mirror showing the reflection of the Zebra-striped white fence. This shot was taken with the f/4 aperture ring and the wide angle auxillary lens, handheld at ISO 400 and 1/3200 of second.

Related image: Mighty Mite; more Lensbabies.

Portrait of Nicky

Portrait of Nicky

Portrait of Nicky, photo by Harold Davis.

I took this portrait of Nicky—now missing his snaggle tooth and with a gap—using my new Lensbaby Composer with the optic swap system, plastic optic, and the 0.42X super wide angle auxillary lens. I used a shutter speed of 1/1000 of a second on manual exposure control (there’s no way to control the aperture with the plastic lens attachment).

I’m still getting to know the Lensbaby Composer system, but I’m currently wild about it. A great new universe of totally weird creative possibilities that are far away from the f/64 school of photography (and I say that with true affection for both approaches).

Lensbaby Poppy Duet

After photographing a Papaver nudicaule being born, for the next few days I continued in the same damn the torpedoes full speed ahead hand held ignore the noise high ISO fashion, taking photos with my Lensbaby 3G as the poppies emerged.

Both photos: Nikon D300, Lensbaby 3G, hand held. Photo above: +10 close-up filter, no aperture ring, 1/250 of a second, ISO 100. Photo below: +4 close-up filter, f/8 aperture ring, 1/125 of second, ISO 2000.

Lensbaby Poppy

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Being Born

Within the short life span of the poppy flower (Papaver nudicaule shown here), being born, or emerging from the pod, is a significant percentage of the total. Even so, the duration of emergence is short enough that it can be over if you go inside for another lens. This has actually happened to me: by the time I got back a few minutes later, the flower had emerged.

I photographed this poppy birth just before dusk on the first sunny day after a period of rain. I knew it was dark, and the flower was moving in the breeze, so I needed a fast shutter speed (and there was no point in a tripod). In the situation, I decided to take the noise is beautiful approach, and used an ISO of 3200 at 1/400 of a second with the f/5.6 disk on my Lensbaby 3G (equipped with a +10 close-up lens).

I’ve been asked about the Lensbaby a number of times, for example: “What version of the Lensbaby do you use? Are you happy with it? Any problems? I’m considering getting one and would love to talk to an actual user about it..”

I started with a Lensbaby 2.0 and am now using the Lensbaby 3G, which I consider a great improvement because you can lock the lens into position. I have had no problems with my Lensbaby whatsoever. I completely recommend the Lensbaby if you understand what it is: a special purpose lens that can create unique images and unlock creativity. However, it’s certainly not a general purpose lens, and there are many situations in which I would never use it.

Related links: My Poppies on Flickr, Lensbaby on Photoblog 2.0.

Dahlia Daze

I took this photo with my Lensbaby 3G. It’s a 3/10 of a second, tripod mounted exposure using the f/8 aperture disk at ISO 100. The ability to lock this selective focus lens in position (not possible on the earlier Lensbaby models) made it possible for me to take this shot.

Will You Be My Lensbaby?

What has a flexible rubberized tube, like a short version of the hose you find on a vacuum cleaner, and a piece of optical glass at the end? Why, my Lensbaby, of course: a specialized interchangeable lens that fits Nikons, Canons, and other dSLRs. The point of this somewhat bizarre but dearly beloved piece of photo gear? To allow a photographer to control the portion of a photo that is in focus. Lensbaby adherents call this in-focus area the “sweet spot.” Another way to put this: a Lensbaby is an SLR camera lens that allows selective focus with one area of a photo (the sweet spot) in sharp focus surrounded by gradually increasing blur.

Peony Landscape 1

View this photograph larger. Read more about this image made with a Lensbaby.

Lensbabies come in three varieties: the original Lensbaby, Lensbaby 2.0, and the recent addition to the Lensbaby family, the Lensbaby 3G. The original Lensbaby and the Lensbaby 2.0 are pretty much the same conceptually, although the Lensbaby 2.0 is “brighter, sharper, and faster” as well as more expensive than the original Lensbaby. The Lensbaby 2.0 has a better piece of optical glass on the end, stops down to f/2.o rather than the f/2.8 offered by the older version, and costs $150 versus $96 at retail.

As you can easily see in the pictures below, the Lensbaby 3G (it retails for $270) is an altogether more elaborate affair than either of the classic Lensbaby models.

Original Lensbaby
Lensbaby 2.0
Lensbaby 3G

Whichever Lensbaby you use, don’t expect electronic communication with your camera. You focus by positioning the camera with Lensbaby attached where you want it, and by pushing and pulling the vacuum hose part of the Lensbaby. This sounds a little wild, but actually focusing the Lensbaby works pretty well. (Note: the Lensbaby 3G also has a collar you turn for fine focusing.)

You set the diaphragm of the lens (this is the lens opening, also called the f/stop) by placing a magnetic metal disk with a round opening in the front of the lens. Lensbaby calls these aperture thingees “levitating aperture disks,” and a complete set of these comes with each Lensbaby, along with a handy-dandy levitating aperture disk holder attached to a tool for removing the disks from the lens.

For the most part, you make exposures in manual mode based on trial and error, although with some cameras (such as the Nikon dSLRs) aperture-preferred metering does work.

Once you own a Lensbaby, you may be struck by the need to dress your Lensbaby up. You’ll be glad to learn that there are a full line of accessories for your Lensbaby, including close-up filters and “creative” aperture disks (these last are disks like hearts and stars, and even blank disk slugs that let you cut your own shapes). The ability to capture close-ups with the Lensbaby adds a very important facility to this lens.

It was great to be able to control the sweet spot of focus with the Lensbaby 2.0, but one significant drawback was that this usually meant positioning the bellows tube of the lens by hand. There was no way to lock it in place. This was a significant limitation, because it meant that long exposures were out of the question. In addition, if you had pulled or pushed the Lensbaby tube, you couldn’t expect to repeat what you had done exactly making bracketing and controlled exposures difficult. The Lensbaby 3G overcomes these obstacles, although it also introduces a degree of complexity into the Lensbaby universe.

With the 3G, in addition to the tube, lens, and place for aperture discs, the 3G sports a mechanism for locking the Lensbaby down, focusing posts, and a barrel focusing ring. You squeeze release pins together to unlock the 3G, and you use the focusing post knobs to fine-tune the positioning of the “sweet spot.” See Not Your Father’s Lensbaby for more details on using the 3G.

Lensbabies have been used for every conceivable type of photography, from romantic wedding shots, to creative product and fashion work, and for stunning flower macros. So why should you try out a Lensbaby? I’m a great believer in a new lens as a way to jump start new ways to see, and certainly the Lensbaby is new. It’s easy to use, will give you a different view of the world, and its distinctive simplicity will give a boost to your creativity.

Poppy

View this photo larger. Read more about this image made with a Lensbaby.

For more information about Lensbaby: Lensbabies website; Not Your Father’s Lensbaby; Lens Baby Burning Flowers Bright; Working That Lensbaby Macro.