Category Archives: Lensbaby

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.

Also posted in Flowers, Photography

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.


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.

Also posted in Photography

Not Your Father’s Lensbaby

The Lensbaby 3G is not your father’s lensbaby. Although the optics are the same as the older Lensbaby 2.0, this is a new Lensbaby. Compared to the straigthforward and somewhat retro-looking LensBaby 2.0, the Lensbaby 3G is almost like a contraption from Rube Goldberg.

The older Lensbaby is a simple, bendable tube with some optical glass and a place to fit magnetic f/stop disks. 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.” In Lensbaby parlance, the sweet spot is the area of focus, and part of the point of the Lensbaby is that it gives you unprecendented control over the extent of the sweet spot in an image.

I recently got my hands on a Lensbaby 3G, and when I tried out the 3G I discovered that it does in fact provide a great deal of additional functionality beyond the earlier Lensbaby. Since you can lock the lens in place, tripod work is now possible. Among other things, this makes long shutter speeds a possibility: so the Lensbaby can be used effectively in darker environments. The possibility of lock-down also means that you can systematically vary exposure and other aspects of an image (being able to repeat an exposure is an important part of best photography practice).

Finally, the combination of being able to grossly stretch, compact, and bend the lens together with fine positioning (using the focusing post knobs) and fine-tune focusing (the focusing collar) gives me the possibility of correcting perspective in an image, much as one can do with a view camera or with my (very expensive) 85mm Nikon perspective correction macro lens.

With the photo of the Red Poppy (above) and the Pink Camellia (below), to get started I mounted the Lensbaby 3G on my Nikon D200, and the camera on my tripod. It’s nice that you can use Aperture-preferred automatic metering. Next, I inserted the f/4 aperture disk, and a +4 close-up filter from the Lensbaby Macro Kit.

My general process was to get the tripod, camera, and Lensbaby 3G roughly in position. Next, I wiggled and waggled the Lensbaby to get the sweet spot where I wanted. When I was satisfied, I locked the lens down, using the focusing collar to fine tune the focus and the focusing post knobs to fine tune the area of the sweet spot.

The Red Poppy (above) was blowing in the wind, so some of the background blur is wind, and some is pure Lensbaby. I clamped the camellia branch in place so the Pink Camellia flower would stay still (so the effect is entirely due to the Lensbaby).

You can expect more Lensbaby 3G images from me in the days to come. This is such a fun toy!

Here are some of my favorite Lensbaby 2.0 macros: Flower within the Flower; Me and My Shadow; Poppy Central ; Snake; Leaf Critter.
Related link: Lensbaby category on Photoblog 2.0.

Pink Camellia

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Also posted in Flowers, Photography

Shooting Star

I photographed this shooting star (Dodecatheon hendersonii) from the ground looking up towards the sun using my Lensbaby 2.0 with a +4 close-up filter and the star aperture disk from the Lensbaby creative aperture kit. I was hoping the star aperture disk would make stars near my shooting star. Indeed it did!

Related: More of my Lensbaby flower macros on Photoblog 2.0.

Also posted in Bemusements, Flowers, Photography

Flower within the Flower

I photographed this very special flower within a leucospermum bloom with a Nikon D200 and my Lensbaby 2.0. The Lensbaby was fitted with +14 diopters of close-up filters and its smallest aperture ring (f/8).

Here’s another Lensbaby flower macro, an abstraction of a peony in my garden:

Peony Landscape 1

Also posted in Bemusements, Flowers, Photography, Water Drops

African Daisy

Julian and I got some plants last weekend including this African Daisy. As an aside, I said to Phyllis, “I bet you didn’t know that I garden to photograph.”

She replied, “I had a hunch.”

So I can’t wait to see the flowers from the spectacular Pincushion plant (Leucospermum ‘Scarlet Ribbons’) Julian and I bought.

Anyhow, once I’d planted this African Daisy, originally from South Africa, but now naturalized in the Western United States, and seemingly happy in our garden, I photographed it. Handheld, using my Lensbaby and macro lens, with the “sweet spot” aligned around the center of the flower.

Here are a couple of other recent Lensbaby photos:

Pistil Heart

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Also posted in Flowers, Photography

Potato Vine Flower

I photographed this potato vine (solanum jasminoides) flower in our backyard with my Lensbaby and its macro lens. Then I hurried for cover from the rain.

Here’s a hydrangea, also taken with the Lensbaby macro kit, which can be compared with a hydrangea photographed with a conventional macro lens and extension tubes. In either case, the bud is really small.


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Also posted in Flowers, Photography

Boost That ISO!!!

When it’s rainy and dark outside–approaching the shortest day of the year–what’s a photographer to do? With this photo I was playing with my Lens Baby, and experimenting with taking up the ISO as far as it could go (to 1640 on my D70). So the name of this song is “grain for rain;” more accurately, “noise for rain.”

I needed the ISO boost to be able to hand hold close-up flower macros (these with the f/4.0 Lens Baby aperture ring at 1/160 of a second).

Lobelias are pretty small, and the grain, er, noise, is kind of grainy (or noisy), but this effect isn’t for everybody or every photo!

Here’s another rainy, noisy photo from the series:

Red Wetter

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And yet another, of a decorative cabbage (I think the noise kind of works in this one!):

Rainy-Day Cabbage

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Also posted in Bemusements, Flowers, Photography

Me and My Shadow

Me and My Shadow, photo by Harold Davis. View this tiny tiny sugar ant larger.

In this wet and rainy weather, the sugar ants invade our house. Looking, I guess, for food and shelter.

This one is tiny, about 2.4 millimeters long (that’s a little less than 3/32 of an inch). If you look at him closely, you can see his eyes. (You may need to view the photo larger to really see the eyes).

Dare I admit that this ant was caught in museum gel? Even so, he wasn’t still. I photographed him with my Lens Baby 2.0 with the smallest aperture ring (f/8) and stacked macro filters (pretty close to right up against the ant!). ISO 200, and 1/15 of a second, using a tripod.

Also posted in Bemusements, Photography

Monster Art Nouveau Lens Baby Orchid Macro

I’m just so in love with these orchids, as I’ve said it is a slippery slope. I don’t want to become like this couple who lived in the same building with us in New York. Their entire life was centered on an orchid room. Somehow they managed to grow a jungle in a place that was one step up from a tenement. I think I’ll stay obsessed with photography–and Phyllis and my kids and the mountains and writing and designing web sites and programming and and and. Orchids will just have to be one of those hidden passions on the side. So please don’t tell anyone. My orchids can be our secret, too!

Orchid Detail VI

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Also posted in Bemusements, Flowers, Photography

Poppy Central

“This stop poppy central! All aboard!”

I photographed this icelandic poppy in Julian’s garden. (Julian, my eight year old son, has his own garden that he designed and we planted together.)

What interests me is the selective depth of field, so that the center of the poppy is clear but the background is pleasantly unsharp.

Also posted in Bemusements, Flowers, Photography

The Orchid’s Moustache

This photo of an orchid reminds me of a man with a moustache and a big. colorful hat. I think he likes his moustache very much!

Also posted in Bemusements, Flowers, Photography

Orchid Angel

As I noted recently, orchids are a slipperly slope and tender trap. I went to Berkeley Hort with my Lens Baby macro setup, and had fun photographing orchids. These photos are all with my Lens Baby 2.0, various macro magnifications, the f/5.6 aperture ring, handheld at about 1/125 of a second. I used the f/5.6 aperture ring to get a reasonable sized sweet spot.

The photo above reminds me of an angel. In contrast, this one makes me think of alien eyeballs:

Orchid Detail IV

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This one is a heart, or maybe a little devil:

Orchid Detail I

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This one might be a tongue and mouth, or maybe it is just plain weird and beautiful:

Orchid Detail II

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Also posted in Bemusements, Flowers, Photography

What about the Tooth Fairy?

As you can see, Julian has a very loose tooth. He’s very proud of it, and quite excited by it.

The other day as we were walking along he asked me, “Daddy, if they’ve explored Antarctica and the South Pole and the North Pole, and they didn’t find a Santa Claus, where does he live?”

It’s always hard to know how to answer this kind of thing. I punted with, “What do you think?”

Julian replied (this is a word-for-word quote): “My working hypothesis is that the presents come from you and Mommy and there is no Santa Claus.”

After a little quick soul searching, I confirmed his hypothesis (after all, he is eight). I added an injunction to keep the secret from his younger brothers, so they could continue to enjoy Santa.

“OK,” says Julian, “and what about the Tooth Fairy?”

I tried “What do you think?” again, although I knew where it was going…

Julian didn’t miss a beat. He said, “Of course you and Mommy are the tooth fairy, and now I can tell you what I want in exchange for my baby tooth.”

How soon we grow up!

Also posted in Bemusements, Kids, Photography

Flower Warp Core

I’m thinking of this flower image as something like the wacky engine room in the Tim Allen comedy classic Galaxy Quest.

It’s the kind of image that I calleded expressive in Compare and Contrast. I think it works.

Also posted in Bemusements, Flowers, Photography