Category Archives: Lensbaby

Compare and Contrast

Flower Surprise, photo by Harold Davis. View this photo larger.

Back when I was in high school, I was often asked to write essays that compared and contrasted two things or concepts. As a professional writer, I find that “compare and contrast” remains often a good organizing principle. Or at least an easy one. If you can compare and contrast two things that are different, but have some similarities, then you don’t really have to think about the things in an original way. Compare and contrast is pretty much an algorithm that becomes a routine.

I found this white, blue-striped flower hiding under some leaves in my front garden. The blossom pictured is very, very small with a total diameter of about 1/4″ (less then one centimeter). If any reader can help me identify the flower, I’d appreciate it.

The photo above was taken with my 105mm Nikkor macro with 68mm of extension tubes, tripod mounted, stopped way down to f/32. In other words, conventional painstaking high depth of field macro.

In comparison and contrast, the photo below was taken with my Lens Baby mounted with the +14 macro filter kit and the macro portion of the Tokina .45X wide angle lens that Lensbabies sells (I can’t really find the specification for the diopters this thing adds, but obviously it is substantial). This was wide open (the equivalent of f/2.0), low depth of field, and handheld at 1/1600 of a second.

I like both version of this compare and contrast, and think both look better in a larger size (click here and here to open larger versions of each photo).

Which version do you prefer? In this case, I slightly prefer the conventional photo to the Lens Baby photo: I tend to think that Lens Baby are best when they are used expressively, and not to reproduce a conventional effect. Please let me know what you think.

Flower Surprise 2

View this photo larger.

Also posted in Bemusements, Flowers, Photography, Writing


Snake, photo by Harold Davis. View this photo larger.

This snake seems much more ready to take a chomp than the friendly one I photographed earlier:

Giving Tongue

Also posted in Bemusements, Photography


Ladybug, photo by Harold Davis. View this photo larger.

I saw this ladybug, probably one of the last of season, the other day in Julian’s garden. Julian is my eight year old son, and he has a part of our back yard garden that he designed, and picked out the plants. I helped him plant them. Julian’s taste runs towards big, spikey succulent things (and also roses), and this ladybug was sitting on the biggest, spikiest thing in his garden.

I got up real close to it with my Lens Baby and macro lenses.

Also posted in Photography

Bulbs de Noel

A couple of days ago I strung colored Christmas lights around the perimeter of our front garden for the kids. Of course, they love the lights.

But somewhat surprising to me: so do I!

Christmas Light 7

This set of photos is of individual bulbs. They are extreme handheld close-ups with my Lens Baby. Only routine Photoshop post-processing was used.

The lights may be hokey, but they are fun. Up really close, they look like strange flowers to me: very appropriate for a garden!

When I look at these pictures (and at the actual lights), I’m tempted, like Austin Powers but in a different context, to say, “Shag-a-delic, baby, shag-a-delic!”

Also posted in Bemusements, Photography

Flower Like the Sun

This flower photo, like an earlier Lens Baby flower photo, reminds me of hot sun held secret within the plant.

The poet, engraver, and mystic William Blake put it this way (I know the photo doesn’t show a sunflower):

Ah Sunflower, weary of time,
Who countest the steps of the sun;
Seeking after that sweet golden clime
Where the traveller’s journey is done;

Where the youth pined away with desire,
And the pale virgin shrouded in snow,
Arise from their graves, and aspire
Where my Sunflower wishes to go!

Keep on Burning

Also posted in Bemusements, Flowers, Photography, Writing

Photoshop Not

Succulent, photo by Harold Davis. Click to view larger.

Despite what you may think, this photo owes nothing to Photoshop. I boosted the ISO late yesterday afternoon so I could take this image of a succulent in failing afternoon light at reasonable shutter speeds for hand holding.

With an ISO of 1,000, there was a great deal of noise added to the image (appearing as colored pixels if you look closely at the image in its larger size).

Also, light colored and lightly saturated areas in the subject went white–meaning they lost their pixels. In contrast to gaining the world and losing one’s soul, this pixel loss is a case of losing one’s pixels and gaining a pattern.

I am put in mind that all too often digital photographers think a photo can be saved (or essentially created) in Photoshop. Photoshop has many wonderful capabilities, which one should know about as one takes pictures. But there’s no substitute for properly visualizing at the time a photo is taken what the end result is likely to be.

A corallary: the built-in bracketing inherent in Raw conversion into Photoshop is just swell–but you’ll be happiest if you expose right smack dab in the middle of the range in the first place, instead of having to salvage an exposure that is at the tail end of the curve.

Meta information: Nikon D70, LensBaby 2.0 with +10 macro filter, ISO 1000, f/4.0 aperture ring, 1/250 second handheld.

Also posted in Bemusements, Flowers, Patterns, Photography, Photoshop Techniques

The Fly and I

It all started this morning with this fly buzzing around my work room. After I’d captured the fly, I got out the Lens Baby transmogrification disintegrator reintegrator.

My wife said, “Not the Lens Baby, please! A bee is one thing but a fly is quite another. I’m taking the kids, and when I come back, I don’t want to see gross hairs coming out of your arms, at least any grosser than they are now!”

I put the camera on a tripod (portentous music), and photographed the fly on a cyclomen petal (which accounts for the lucious background color).

I photographed it conventionally with my macro lens and extension tubes.

So far, I’ve mostly been using the Lens Baby handheld. But I figured since I had the setup and the tripod, I might as well try different Lens Baby aperture rings as well. It worked best with the wide open aperture ring and the Lens Baby macro kit, exposed at about 1/60 of second.

You really don’t want to see too much of the fly. At least I don’t, and I don’t think my wife does either.

So to heck with being conventional, if you are going to trade places, er, I mean photograph, a fly, you might as well use the Lens Baby and its macro filters.

So why it is so upsetting to watch a head like my head appear on the fly, and fly hairs grow on my wings? I seem to be making a buzzing sound, and I won’t even mention my distressing food cravings. And that fly with my head has got my D70, and keeps saying, “Say Cheese!”

Help me! I’m turning into that which I photograph. And, oh yeah (more portentous music). That transmogrification disintegrator reintegrator is busted. I CAN’T CHANGE BACK! HELP ME! HELP ME! (Fade to black.)

Also posted in Bemusements, Photography, Writing


Wings, photo by Harold Davis. View this bee in a larger size!

Yesterday I picked Julian up from school and took him to his appointment with his reading specialist, Harriet. Harriet lives near the Berkeley Rose Garden, so while Julian was in-session I wandered around the Rose Garden taking pictures with an abbrievated kit.

This bee seemed to be on her last legs. Probably, thing are getting too cold for her, even in coastal California. I love the shimmer of her wings, and what looks like a fur muff.

Photographed hand-held with my Lens Baby macro setup, cropped but otherwise no special post-processing.

Also posted in Bemusements, Photography

Bright Lights Big Leaf

A reader writes:

Man, I love how you photograph water!

And someone else asks:

How do you do this? I am so jealous…wink, wink!

Of course, I appreciate the compliments (who wouldn’t?). But without being overly modest, I think photography is more about seeing than about technique. It’s easy enough to describe the tools and techniques I used for these photos:

Nikon D70 manual, Lens Baby 2.0 +14 macro filters, ISO 200, f/8.0 aperture ring, shutter speeds of 1/320 of a second (upper photo) and 1/400 of a second (photo below). Post processing included adding contrast gradients in Photoshop and extreme sharpening of specific elements, but was otherwise routine.

But knowing how I did it doesn’t mean that I could ever do it again (or that you could do it, no offense). Mostly the issues are being there and seeing:

  • Being there with a camera in the first place with one’s head in a “taking photos” frame of mind.
  • Seeing the photo twice: once in the camera viewfinder as something special, and once more when looking through the photos one has taken.

In these days of digital photography, I think it helps to learn to see with the possibilities of digital post-manipulation in mind when you start to compose the photo.

Now, here’s a question: a while back after a couple of readers requested it I started adding meta information about the tools and techniques I used on each photo. Do you find this helpful, or not? Please let me know.

Queing Water Drops

Click to view this photo larger.

Also posted in Bemusements, Photography, Photoshop Techniques, Water Drops, Writing

Lens Baby Burning Flowers Bright

Keep on Burning, photo by Harold Davis. Click to view this photo larger.

A reader writes:

I like some of your lens baby shots, but you are getting carried away again! The Lens Baby thing is a trendy gimmick. Please get back to normal photography.

Not since my Iris photos have I head so much feedback from readers–both pro and con–on a group of my photos. It’s true that I do tend to worry a photographic theme and obsess over it–but unlike the Irises or the Figs, the Lens Baby is a piece of hardware rather than specific subject matter such as a kind of flower.

A piece of hardware is a tool. In the hands of an artist, a new tool can be inspiring, fun, playful, and lead to different ways of looking things. Which is what photography is really about: new ways of seeing our world.

Sure, there’s photographic life beyond Lens Babies, and a Lens Baby is far from appropriate for use in every photograph or every situation. Like any tool, there is a place for my Lens Baby–and places where the Lens Baby should not go. “Worrying” a tool to obsession is a way to learn about good places and bad places for the tool, just like photographing a specific subject in many ways is a way to learn about the subject.

What do you think? Have I gone overboard with my Lens Baby and its macro lenses?

Meta information: Nikon D70, Lensbaby 2.0, no aperture ring, +14 macro filters, ISO 200, 1/200 second, dark blue contrast gradients added to the perimeter of the photo in Photoshop.

Also posted in Bemusements, Flowers, Photography

Shell Game

Shell Monster Jaw, photo by Harold Davis. Click to view larger size.

These photos are of shells very close up, using my Lens Baby with macro lens (which intentionally creates a very shallow “sweet spot” that is in focus). The photos are part of an experiment I’ve made of raising the ISO to 1,000. Theoretically, this should increase the noise in the photos. The benefit is that dialing a higher ISO into my camera allows me to use faster shutter speeds. The process of finding the sweet spot is really finicky, and I think being able to use higher shutter speeds is great–well worth the added noise, with manifests itself as a kind of grain-like effect.

Close up, these shells reveal fantastic imagined things. The Lens Baby takes care of the background–everything is out of focus, so one can concentrate on what the foreground reveals.

Above I have a pre-historic monster jaw (actually, a starfish about one inch long). Here’s a shell version of Artemis Ephesia, a goddess found at Ephesus with about one hundred breasts:

Shell Artemis Ephesia

Here’s a mountain, perhaps in some realm where sacrifices litter the route to the summit:

Shell Mountain

Last, a starfish itself has a starfish on its back:

Starfish Star

Meta information: Nikon D70 Raw capture, manual exposure, Lens Baby 2.0 with +14 macro filters and f/8.0 aperture ring. Lighting was a combination of ambient daylight and a colored Tungsten spot. ISO was set to 1000. The shutter speed in each of these photos was between 1/500 of a second and 1/1250 of a second. I accepted the default settings for Raw conversion, and did essentially no Photoshop processing.

Also posted in Bemusements, Photography

Leaf Critter

Leaf Critter, photo by Harold Davis. Click to view large size.

To me this photo looks like a cute, beguiling leaf creature. I like the way you can see magnified leaf veins through its “eyes.”

Meta information: Nikon D70, Lensbaby 2.0, no aperture ring, +14 macro filters, ISO 200, 1/250 second, minimal post-processing in Photoshop.

Leaf Critter

Also posted in Bemusements, Photography, Water Drops

Wet Rose

Wet Rose, photo by Harold Davis. Click to view larger version of this photo.

This photo of a Cecil Bruner rose in our garden following the rain the other day was done with my macro-equipped Lens Baby and the f/4.0 aperture ring (exposed manually with an ISO of 200 and a shutter speed of 1/320 of a second).

Also posted in Flowers, Photography, Water Drops

Stop in the Name of Love

Stop in the Name of Love, photo by Harold Davis. Click here to view larger size.

Stop! in the name of love
Before you break my heart

This is a photo of a rosebud in our garden covered with raindrops in the morning. What I like most about it is that if you look carefully at the upper two drops you can see the Stop sign that is at our corner outside the garden.

Meta information: Nikon D70, Lensbaby 2.0, no aperture ring, +14 macro filters, ISO 200, 1/250 second, routine post-processing in Photoshop.

Also posted in Bemusements, Flowers, Photography, Water Drops

Digital Noir

It was a dark and stormy night. Somewhere out there a dame was in distress.

But this time it was a digital dame, and–oh, no!–her pixels were breaking up…

This photo was taken with my Lens Baby and macro filters with the f/8.0 aperture ring. It’s part of an experiment to see what happens when I boost the ISO with Lens Baby photos. After all, these photos are not crisp anyhow–one may as well get the benefits of a high shutter speed!

The Digital Noir figure was lit with a combination of ambient daylight and a colored Tungsten spot. ISO was set to 1000. The shutter speed was 1/500 of a second. I accepted the default settings for Raw conversion, and did essentially no Photoshop processing.

Digital Noir

Also posted in Bemusements, Photography, Yoda