Phlorography & Lensbaby

See It…. Believe it… Breathe it into Life!

Lensbaby optics introduce photographers to a world free from restraints and judgment, and to a universe full of surprises. They lift boundaries and conventions and allow one to soar into worlds beyond the imagination. Today our Phlorography community (a Facebook group with nearly 7,000 members worldwide) had the opportunity to have an online conversation with Craig Strong, the co-founder of Lensbaby. Craig shared the history of the company as well as the various optics and how they can be best paired with camera bodies, among many other topics. He invited us to stop by the Lensbaby offices when we're in The Portland area. We were very fortunate for this time together. We all learned a lot!

Pink Dogwood in Skagit Valley, WA - Velvet 56

 The most common question I'm asked is which one is my favorite Lensbaby. I'm convinced that's a trick question; the operative word should be "ONES," plural. There's no easy answer. If I encounter a scene with a fair amount of activity, such as other flowers or foliage, in the frame around my subject, but farther in the distance, I might pull out the Twist 60 (see the pink camellia below). If shooting a flower in close proximity, I make sure to have macro converters or macro filters attached. If I'm not in a swirly frame of mind, the Sol 45 renders the background and "sur-round" uniquely and, with the bokeh blades engaged, the effect is indescribable (see the lizard).

If I'm close to my subject and it's filling the frame or there's nothing around it to twist or swirl, then I'll choose from the Sweet 35, Sweet 50, Velvet 56, or Velvet 85. I love the Sweets (again with macro converters or filters for flowers), especially if some specular highlights make an appearance (see the abstract leaves and Portland Roses). The Sweets pivot or tilt in the Composer Pro II housing. The Velvets give my subjects a rich, unmistakable velvety glow and they also handle light beautifully. So maybe I want to use the Velvet instead; or both! The Sweet 35 and Velvet 56 are among my top choices for landscapes also (see Bloedel Reserve).

But, if I want to stretch beyond what the 56 can reach (imagine not being able to step into a flower bed), the Velvet 85 is the way to go. Also of note, is how nicely the 85 does portraits. Hmmmm. You see, it's not so simple. They each do different things and they all have their place. Why waste time and lose precious light in the field when you can have it all and decide later by leisurely reviewing images in post?

It's important to say that my Canon 100mm and 180mm macros are always invited to the party. They typically come adorned with at least 3 or 4 Omni Filters, also by Lensbaby (large set; I like the basic kit plus color expansion pack). It's a veritable buffet; you put it all on your plate; sample everything, and indulge in what you like best.

While things have a way of adding up, the key lies in being methodical. As is the case with any new tools, it takes time to acquire the skills necessary to "operate" them. This is important, in particular with Lensbabies. You want to set yourself up for a positive experience. There are no electronics inherent in them. All focusing and exposure settings are up to the photographer.

One thing at a time…. always.

Lensbabies are a surefire guarantee that no two photographers will walk away from a scene with identical images.

(Note that these are a sampler; not an exhaustive look into the Lensbaby effects.)

Pink Camellia with Twist 60

Lizard (above) - Sol 45 with bokeh blades engaged