Lensbaby section

Lensbaby Double Glass trees
Lensbaby Double Glass optic shooting trees and reflections

The Lensbaby is a system of optics that you can screw on to your DSLR camera body in the same way as you add or remove any lens. And that, more or less, is where the similarity ends! Stepping into the world of the Lensbaby is rather like stepping inside a kaleidoscope. The optics can create the most wonderful effects inside the camera. It is a whole new ‘take’ on what you see normally through your own eyes, and through the view-finder of your camera. Prepare to be enchanted.
The Lensbaby system has been around since 2004. To quote their own words: “In 2004, Lensbaby was born out of a photographer’s frustration with flat, sterile, digital images. Since then, we’ve been helping photographers gain creative control and inject emotion into their images.” Lensbaby.com
And that is indeed what I get from my Lensbaby optics, a way to transform ordinary shots into something special, something that I have created rather than just recorded, and sometimes I create something that takes me quite by surprise!

The pages that I’ve made here roughly follow my own journey into Lensbaby land, from my very first bundle in 2013 through to today.

Meet the Lensbaby
I start with a little about the ‘base unit’ called the Composer Pro, and how you drop in the ‘optics’

The Double Glass optic
Then I look at this first optic, and what I could do with it right from day 1.

The Sweet 50 optic
In 2015 I bought my next optic, the Sweet 50. This added a new range of effects, and a simpler focusing system.

The Edge 80
In 2017 I added a third optic to my range, this time with landscape especially in mind. This optic has range of subtle effects, and a sharpness of focus that is quite remarkable.

As I suggested, the results that you can get straight out of the camera can be truly artistic – and I like to think my Lensbabys are for ‘Art Photography’. I really love that I don’t have to manipulate imaged on my computer in Photoshop.

Lensbaby Art 1
Looks at how the Lensbaby can help to compose a shot.

Lensbaby Art 2
Some of the ways in which the Lensbaby can take me by surprise.

I seem to work in 2 year cycles, as in 2019 I have just added a Twist 60 to my Lensbaby range. I haven’t used it enough yet to add it to this section.
I’ve got more Lensbaby shots on Flickr. I’ve divided them into the 3 lenses I use
On Flickr you can find my Album of Sweet 50 photos
On Flickr you can find my Album of Double Glass photos
On Flickr you can find my Album of Edge 80 photos

Note: the range of camera bases that Lensbaby support, Taken from their website July 2019: “We make creative effects lenses, tools, and accessories that fit the following DSLR and mirrorless camera bodies: Canon EF, Nikon F, Sony E, Fuji X, Micro 4/3”.

Flickr holds Elisa’s online Photo Gallery
© 2019 Elisa Liddell

Flying Solo

Male Common Redpoll (Acanthis flammea)
Male Common Redpoll (Acanthis flammea) in flight. Alaska. Nikon D4, Sigma 150-500mm f/5-6.3 lens Manual 1/8000 sec; f/6.3; ISO 1600

Flying Solo is how I think about using the full Manual setting on my digital cameras. There is a freedom that is so well expressed in this photo. It was taken by my good Flickr friend Jan Timmons; her Flickr photo gallery is here and a larger version of this photograph is here. Like learning to fly there is a learning process, but it is well worth it to be able to have your camera do what you want, rather than cruising along on Auto-pilot!

That’s how I thought about it when I wanted to use my new DSLR camera on Manual rather than letting the camera computer make all the decisions for me. After all, I’d paid a lot of money for my new Sony NEX-6 – I didn’t want to use it as a glorified ‘point-and-shoot’. So I bought a magazine, and then a book – and started trying to figure it out. I wanted to be sure of what I was doing; I had a sneaking suspicion that maybe I wouldn’t be able to undo it all if I got the settings wrong!

I looked at the charts, I read the explanations, I tried to learn the settings. I wasn’t very successful! Somehow the charts seemed to make sense until I tried to take a shot. I had the books beside me when I tried to shoot on Manual. Which button did what? Where were the buttons? It was all a mystery and a confusion to me. I felt it wasn’t going to make much more sense to read the magazine sections yet again!

That’s when I joined Flickr. I was scared by all those knowledgeable people who would doubtless laugh at this ignorant newbie – but I so wanted to be in control of my camera, and I needed help and advice. A lot of serious Flickr members will post the technical information that goes with the shot (called EXIF data) so I could see a photo and the EXIF to help me learn. And for me DOING is always the only way to really learn. READING will only take me a little of the way! I did find some very handy little charts online, and gradually picked up important pieces of information that have stuck in my memory and that I use all the time.

So this article is all about the extremely simplified way that I devised to start taking off on my Solo flights. I’ve found or devised the most simplified charts and visual aids, to make sense of it all. I hope that it can help you if you are in the position that I found myself in :o)

The bits that really matter for taking control of your camera are:
White Balance
Aperture (F stop)
Shutter speed
Manual Focus

The ‘how-to bit? Well, I rely heavily on the electronic view finder (EVF), which is much, much better than the LED screen at the back of your camera. That is unreadable in sunlight. The EVF can be adjusted for your eyesight; it has an eye-cup to help shade from the sun; it gives you a colour view of what you are shooting; and what you see is pretty close to what you will end up with. Every element of your Manual settings can be seen in action and that makes a HUGE difference! So get a camera with an EVF, and even look online for opinions as to whether it is a good EVF. You can get one as an accessory for some cameras too.
So – to get practical :o)
If you are indoors and can see the LED screen clearly, use that to start with – the screen is that bit bigger. Select your LED/EVF display setting to show the settings you want – you can scroll through the display options. You want to have ISO, F-stop/Aperture and Shutter-speed – White balance if possible too. That way you can get used to the settings, how to get to the buttons you need, and how to read what the settings are that you have chosen. My references mainly refer to my small Sony NEX-6.

White Balance (WB)
This is where the camera decides what the lighting is like. There are several settings:
Natural light – daylight, shade, cloudy
Artificial light – incandescent fluorescent, Flour warm white, Flour cool white, Flour day white, Flour daylight, Flash

The camera on auto will judge for you which setting will give you the closest colour values to ‘natural’. So if you look at something, and then look again through the EVF you can judge whether the green leaf is the same both times – and your White Balance is right. Quite a lot will depend on your camera and your lens. I find that sometimes a ‘Cloudy’ or ‘Shade’ setting works better even in bright sunlight … let your own eyes become your guide. If something proves to be wrong you can always adjust it on your computer later!
I’ve written about playing with the WB here You can have fun playing with this setting, and get some quite different colour effects. But for starters just get used to looking to see if the colours look right to you.

ISO, Aperture and Shutter Speed. I put them together because they all work together and influence each other – so it helped me to thing of them as one system. The camera, like the whole of photography, is all about the light. And these three together affect how much light gets into the camera when you shoot.

ISO settings are usually in 100 steps from 100 to about 25,600 – the range varies. Put your camera on, and look for the ISO button and try moving it up and down as you look through the EVF. The bottom of the range (100) should be the darkest (some cameras go lower) and as you move up the numbers you will get lighter and lighter. That’s what ISO will do.

F-Stop settings actually open up the aperture (hole) in the camera to let more light in. Just to be awkward the numbers are the exact opposite of ISO. Here the smallest number lets in MOST light, and as the numbers get higher the aperture closes, and less light gets in!
F-Stop numbers usually range from 1.2 to 22.

The 8 Aperture F-stops on your camera
The 8 Aperture F-stops on your camera

Other things are affected by the F-Stop, but for the moment just find the Aperture/F-stop button or dial and get used to moving it and seeing how it too will let in more or less light.

Shutter Speed is the final one of the ‘big three’. At the lowest setting it is on ‘Bulb’ which allows you to time a Long Exposure shot, then timed from 30 seconds up to 1/3 where the +ve seconds begin. The speed is now in fractions of a second going faster right up to 1/4,000th of a second. Needless to say the Long exposure shots will need a tripod! Round about 1/10 handheld is quite easy with today’s image stabilising software. Shutter speed is another one where the lower the number the more light is let in – the higher the number the darker the image through the view-finder.

These are the BIG THREE because when you put them together you can work out a balance between them.
This is how they affect light entering the camera

Light entering the camera sensor
More light to less light entering your camera sensor

And this is how they interact. Move one of them and you can get the same light by sliding one of the others to compensate.

ISO, Aperture and Shutter speed
The Big Three together and their relationship

It sounds complex, but in fact it isn’t as bad as it sounds at first! Just remember that moving one stop of any of the Big Three can be compensated for by adjusting one of the others.

Rue of 3 regarding exposure
The photographic ‘rule of 3’ regarding exposure – that 1 stop of each of the 3 are equal

It sounds complex, but in fact it isn’t as bad as it sounds at first!
To take an example with my NEX-6. It works best when the ISO is low. A high ISO always gives ‘noise’ – a grainy speckled look to the shot. So for me my first thought will be that the lowest ISO I can manage will be my best choice. But what if the lighting is low and I can’t change it? To get a good shot I might need to slow down the shutter speed so far I’ll need a tripod.
Or if I am shooting a bird in flight I might need speedier shutter speed. So I have to balance and make the best combination I can. I have one lens that is frozen at F2.8. That means I have to work with both shutter speed and ISO when I use that lens!

There are other things that you’ll think about when you get used to the Manual system. But first of all I would suggest that you stick with your kit lens that came with the camera body (usually it has a modest zoom of 18-55mm) and just play around and get happy with flying solo!

The final element you need to fly completely solo is Manual Focus.

Manual Focus is just as much a part of flying solo as as the other three elements. You are in charge of making the shot, and where you want to focus is part of that decision process. Most cameras will have some visual aid to help you, that can be seen through the EVF. It might be just a sound or a small square that lights up green when the point of focus is achieved. My Sony NEX-6 has a very useful additional aid called Peaking Level. This shows the point(s) of best focus highlighted in colour. You can set the colour (red, yellow, white) according to what you are shooting, so it can be clear. You can also set it to low, medium or high intensity.
The example here is not the best example – I took it using one Sony RX100 hand-held to shoot the LED screen on another RX100 (also hand-held) but hopefully it will give you the general idea! You can find a whole lot more about Peaking if you search online.

Sony RX100 showing peaking areas in red
Sony RX100 showing peaking areas in red

This is so helpful! It gives that added aid to precision focusing. The second additional focus assistance that Sony offer is Manual Focus Assist. This automatically zooms in on your image between 5x and 11x to help you achieve maximum sharpness. It is wonderful for Macro photography . When I start to rotate the ring on my macro lenses (I have three!) the MF-Assist jumps to attention, and I can find my point of perfect focus easily. Then a second or two later it will return to the ‘normal’ view in the EVF.

Sony α77 II A-mount Camera with Sony 100mm F2.8 Macro (tele-macro) lens
Settings – Manual – F2.8 -shutter 1/164 – ISO 50 – WB daylight

Here’s an example of the combined result of using manual focus. Firstly, if I had left this shot to the in-camera auto-focus it would focus on the closest object – which would be the parts of the petal to the extreme left of the shot. But I wanted the focus to be on the delicate stamens and stigma – those elements are also centrally placed. So I can adjust the focus Manually to concentrate on the stamens – and as soon as I start to adjust, the M-F Assist takes me in much closer so I can have pinpoint accuracy. When the Peaking colour lights up the elements I want, then I can take the shot with confidence.
An additional point to notice is that shooting at F2.8 means that I can get in really close, and the areas that are out of focus are gently blurred. One of the pleasures of shooting with a Macro lens ;o)

So now you have total control of your camera, and you can use it in whatever way you want. The Auto settings are designed to take the ‘best’ possible shot, balancing all the elements the camera sensor can judge. But there are so many ways in which you can use the power of the camera to create something quite different from the ‘balancing act’ that the on-board computer is set to judge as a ‘perfect’ shot.

Here is one example of how you can stretch the possibilities of your camera and lens. I was shooting a small hydrangea in bright sunshine. I loved how the sun was bleaching the flowers, melting the petals into bright white background. I didn’t want the camera to try to compensate for the brightness of the light – I wanted to use that brightness.

Blue hydrangea flowers in bright sunlight
Blue hydrangea flowers in bright sunlight. Double Glass and+4 macro filter

And that is just one small example – another is explored in Playing with the White Balance, which looks at what you can do when you take control of the WB and ignore the rules.

And finally – what is to me the wonderful reward of getting to grips with full manual mode – the range of vintage lenses that you can now use with modern digital cameras. Some of them are from the 1960s or before, and are wonderful lenses producing lovely images. And not expensive either. But you need to be able to use your camera in manual mode as they were produced before cameras had on-board computers. So far I have collected 4 such lenses, and rate them as among my greatest favourites. So have a go – get flying solo and take to the skies.

Flickr holds Elisa’s online Photo Gallery
© 2019 Elisa Liddell

Spring is in the air ….

Kokeshi doll surrounded by flowers
The sense that Spring is here and summer is close behind!

One of my little Kokeshi dolls in the Spring sunshine. Surrounded with flowers, it feels like summer can’t be far behind!
Actually the prevailing winds are still blowing down from the Arctic to us here in Scotland, and the wind chill factor is keeping our warm winter coats and hats at the front of the wardrobe …..

Flickr holds Elisa’s online Photo Gallery
© 2019 Elisa Liddell

Adding drama to the leftovers!

Empty eggshell
Making drama out of left-overs!

I’m not a big fan of eggs for breakfast, but Mike is. So I took the discarded eggshell and set it on a piece of glass, and shot it against a black velvet cloth. OK, I am a hoarder! I have a box full of shells, from small bird’s eggs to crab shells, to ordinary eggshells. And another full of feathers. And yet another full of seashells. You get the picture! Almost nothing is discarded before I get my hands, and my lens on it. From flowers to fruit, they all have to take a detour into my ‘studio’ (usually the front room window sill) before they leave the house ;o)

Flickr holds Elisa’s online Photo Gallery
© 2019 Elisa Liddell

Failure revisited!

The final final version
And at last I am happy with the result.

or Can I make something out of nothing?

I have so many folders that I mentally label as “Failed shoot”. It’s a product of my habit of taking a few shots ‘just in case’ … just in case I later regret that I didn’t! I came across a folder from January 2018 just called ‘Pinks’. I was curious, it rang no bells, triggered no memories. Inside were just 5 shots. Then I remembered. I was putting away Christmas lights that we hadn’t used. And I thought I’d turn them on and maybe take a few shots before they vanished back into the cupboard for another year. In a hurry to finish the tidying up I put them together with a jug of flowers that was close by – and took a few shots.
The results didn’t impress me when I looked at them later on. The lights didn’t sparkle at all, they added nothing. The wall I’d placed the jug against was nicely neutral, but in my haste I’d overlooked the cast shadows. Rather disappointed I mentally stamped the folder “Failed”. Only 5 shots in all, so I didn’t delete them at once.

Later that year I brought the folder out of mothballs, and took another look. I wanted something to play with, to experiment with the newly installed suite of Photoshop plug-ins called NIK. And if I liked the image that emerged, I could use it with my Sunday group that specialises in post-processing to transform a photographic image.

collage of 5 failed shots
All 5 shots that I took that day, and marked as ‘failed’

step 1
Looking at the originals, I decided to try number 3. I didn’t want too many cast shadows, and I didn’t want too much of the table surface either … I might want the jug to feel like it was free-floating.
step 2
was to take it into Camera RAW, straighten it slightly, lighten it, and crop off the dark band on the left side. Then into Photoshop to play and see what might work to make something visually interesting out of the image!
step 3
was to launch the NIK panel. What might work? I selected Color Efex Pro 4 panel and then Bi-colour, as I wanted something to jazz the image up and bring it to life.

Choosing Color Efex Pro 4
Choosing Color Efex Pro 4
Bi Color applied in NIK
Bi Color applied in NIK

That looked like a promising start to making something new.

step 4
the top colour looked nice and rich, but it was a solid blue-purple block. Maybe it needed something subtle to break it up?
I’ve been collecting texture layers for a long while now. Flickr users are so generous, and make lots of beautiful texture layers available to fellow Flickr members. I also started to look at commercial collections for added effects. Design Cuts was the place that I began, as they offer bundles of discounted graphics and files, and I could try out different suppliers and see what suited me. My big favourite is 2 Lil Owls and from Denise I have some amazing effects, like light flares.
So I looked in my 2LO collection called Crazy Flares, which mixes light flares with all manner of textures. And I selected this one

2 Lil Owls Crazy flares
2 Lil Owls Crazy flares

These light flares needed to be overlaid, and then used in Screen mode for the best effect.

2 Lil Owls Crazy flares applied
2 Lil Owls Crazy flares applied as an overlay

That’s better! beginning to shape up!
step 5
was to save that image as a jpeg. I needed a single layer for my next idea. So I saved the PSD file as it is, then saved the layered image to start again. I opened the newly saved image as a Smart Object into a new PSD file as this allowed me to easily play with the Photoshop’s inbuilt filters … I wanted yet more light effects ;o)
step 6
was to apply the Filter -> Render -> Lens Flare effects. Because the image is a Smart Object I could access the effects window and adjust it easily to get the intensity, direction and actual lens simulation that looked best.

The final transformation
The final transformation – does it work?

Yes – that looked OK, and better than my starter image!
step 7
was to gently wipe out a little of the bleaching effect of the light falling on the petals – a little more intensity for the petals, please! So I highlighted the mask, and removed a little of the glare.

The final final version
And at last I am happy with the result.

And now I have something that has more interest than the original – there’s more going on visually. Colour-wise there’s an interesting play with the bi-colour division set up in the NIK. The final lens flare has added to the ochre tints in the lower half. The light flares and text texturing has lightened and added interest to the upper blue-purple half. And the flowers in the jug are the vertical that joins the two horizontal planes. Finally, the petals towards the top right of the image are balanced by the lens flare circles in the bottom left.
Maybe I’ll post it and see what happens … now I just need a name for it ;o)
So I posted it on Flickr to see what people thought – here

Flickr holds Elisa’s online Photo Gallery
© 2019 Elisa Liddell

Infrared second steps

Infrared view across the howe (valley) of the river Ythan, Aberdeenshire, Scotland.
Infrared view across the howe (valley) of the river Ythan, Aberdeenshire, Scotland.

“Adventures in the Infrared wonderland – part 2”

And it IS a new way of looking at the world, and an exciting one that I am so pleased I can enjoy.
My Nikon has some limitations for me. I’ve left the settings as they were when I bought the camera as I still struggle to understand the on-board computer on the Nikon D80 and D90! I still use the kit lens too. There was (and still is) enough to master without adding new lenses to the mix. It is quite a substantial weight and bulk too. Most of my cameras are small Sony NEX-6 or 7 along with the RX100 in my pocket.

3 cameras I use
3 cameras I use – comparison in terms of size and weight

Left, The Nikon D90 with kit lens – Middle, NEX-6 with macro lens – Right, RX100
Weight: Nikon 945gms/2lb1oz Nex-6 530gms/1lb 2oz RX100 260gms/9.5oz

Looking through the view-finder I see the full colour image, so I needed to learn how to ‘see’ in my mind what the infrared image was going to look like. It’s a knack you develop over time, by trial and error. Happily there’s no cost for dud shots (and I’ve taken plenty!) So you need to pause and look at the shot on the LED ‘review’ screen and see if it works in IR.
Most of what I’ve seen online are landscape shots, and that is a good part of what attracted me. There’s a whole lot of landscape and seascape here, and so many trees too. So I have taken my Nikon to each and every place I go shooting. It has refreshed familiar scenes to see them in a new way. But I rather wish that I had approached my IR journey of discovery by another route. Let me explain. I’ve made a still life comparison sequence here to show how the normal full colour photo can be rendered in PS into B+W, and then compared with the same shot taken on the Nikon IR 720nm. Well, the Nikon shot is almost the same, as I had partially dismantled the still life before the idea of a 3-way comparison struck me ;o)
Here is the original still-life shot that I took for a Flickr challenge to include many colours. I’ve got blue, lavender and turquoise in the blue spectrum – reds and greens – then orange and golden tints as well as a patterned white background. The eyes are naturally drawn to the bright oranges, the reds and the blue glass vase first.

A colourful festive still life composition
A colourful festive still life composition

Transpose the shot into B+W and the blue glass along with the reds and greens become the dark tones, while the oranges have become the lightest tints. Look closely and the oranges still have their skin textures, as does everything else. The red berries may be darker, but you can see the sugary coating on each berry. The sparkles on the red and gold pine cones are also very clear. And the pine needles on the bottom left of the arrangement are even clearer than in the original shot. By removing the colour the textures of the elements has been made clearer.

The colourful festive still life composition in B+W
The colourful festive still life composition in B+W

So what happens when you look through Infrared eyes? My arrangement is a little different, as I explained, but all the elements are still there. The first and most striking thing is that the blue glass is now completely transparent and only the optical distortion of the background pattern shows you that it is still there. The IR has also brought out the shadow cast by the glass, which is barely visible in the other 2 versions. It has done the same with the shadow cast by the clock. Look next at what it has done to the reds. Both the berries and the small ribbon bow at the very front are now white. The greens are also white, which is no surprise (one of the striking things we know about IR, tree leaves and grass become white) but look at the three oranges! They could be made of porcelain, together with their leaves they are so strikingly white!

The colourful festive still life composition in Infrared
The colourful festive still life composition in Infrared

Another surprising thing is that there IS colour in there. It is the gentle turquoise that has won the colour accolade. The blue has gone completely, but the turquoise is now a grey-blue. And another surprise is that the two pine cones, one red and one golden now have the same tonal values, both equally dark – and in IR they emerge as the darkest values of all, followed by the shadows that were not prominent in the other versions. The shadows (and the strength of the background too) might be related to a different camera and different lens with different F stop – but the striking differences remain. Using the infrared light band of the colour spectrum offers a completely different view to that experienced by the human eye.
I’m not big on technicalities, but there’s a lot of information on the range of IR filters that are available. I know that they range from the 500s to the 800s and are referenced in ‘nm’. I have 3 strengths:

  1. the 590nm (called the Super Goldie) which lets in more ‘normal’ colours that are within the IR spectrum
  2. the 720nm which is the one I have used above. That lets in a little from the ‘normal’ colour range. As you have seen there is some blue, and some yellow in the shots I’ve used so far.
  3. The 850 nm which is the closest to pure B+W in not admitting any other colours.
    I’ll be exploring what I have learned about all three in these articles. And adding to my own understanding as I go along – there’s nothing as helpful to learning as having to write about it. So this is helping me while (I hope) entertaining you!
    The first converted IR camera I bought was the Nikon D90 with the 720nm filter replacing the full colour original inside the camera itself.

So, on to part 3 where I’ll be considering the 720nm filter and what it can do

Back to the start of the IR section
My photography articles Talking Digital Photography
Flickr holds Elisa’s online Photo Gallery
© 2019 Elisa Liddell

Chasing the light

Gladiolus petal in the sunshine
Close-up of a gladiolus flower in the late sunshine

When I was writing this I thought of it as “Chasing the late light at F2.8” or “3 cameras and 1 flower”. But both of these titles were a bit unwieldy as URLs, so I simplified it. But there are three lenses in this playful tale, and all are indeed set at F2.8. So, to begin…

The way my house is laid out, the front gets the sunlight in the morning, often until the early afternoon. A big south-facing bay window makes it the best place to shoot. Then it gets tricky … by late afternoon the sun has moved round to the side of the house; then there is a small window of time, and a small physical side window where I can sometimes catch the light. There are trees in the way – so, especially if it’s windy, there is a constant flickering of light and shadow. Then the sun moves round to the back of the house, and sometimes there is the late light shining through a willow hedge right into the kitchen and onto a dark blue Formica top of the breakfast bar. This the story of chasing the late afternoon light with a lovely salmon pink gladiolus stem, trying to get some photos using just the natural light! And as two of the cameras were already set on F2.8 I shot the third on F2.8 too.
Note: I always shoot on full Manual, especially indoors – I’m so used to it I never even think about it. And the White Balance remained constant on ‘cloudy’ or ‘daylight’ on all 3 cameras for this shoot.

The cameras to hand were:
1) Lensbaby Composer Pro with 50mm double glass optic with a +4 macro filter (essentially a fixed focal length)
2) A NEX-6 with my favourite Helios Russian lens (frozen at F2.8 so it is a fixed focus)
3) The Sony A77ii with the tele-macro 100mm lens (a heavy combination, but so versatile in the results it can achieve)

I moved a small round wooden table beside the side window with the swaying trees casting strong light then deep shadow. I laid the gladiolus on the wood and waited to catch the sunshine.
The tele-macro allowed me to zoom out and take in both the flowers lying on the table.

light and shadows on gladioli flowers
Sunlight casting strong light then deep shadow on my gladioli flowers. shutter 1/800 ISO 80 WB “cloudy”

I could catch the sunlight and strong shadow it cast; the graceful curved shape of the stem; and a sense of the wooden surface, with a slight reflection too. And using F2.8 meant that the background was nice and dark due to the shallow DoF.

Next I took the Helios lens. It makes a lovely and soft image, but F2.8 is the only option – which gives me a closer composition but with no flexibility to move in closer, or further away.

The Helios lens gives a lovely soft bokeh
The Helios lens is gentle and gives a lovely soft bokeh. shutter 1/80 ISO 100 WB “cloudy”

The light is softer, and there is a background bokeh and definite reflections on the table.
So – could the Lensbaby offer me anything different at F2.8 (the aperture ring was in place from a previous shoot)

Lensbaby and gladiolus flower
Lensbaby Double Glass +4 macro filter catches the light on the flower. shutter 1/2000 ISO 100 WB “daylight”

The light was much harder to control, and focusing took more time as the tree branches gave a strobe effect the table! But I did manage to get the Lensbaby swirl of bokeh around the petals, and the internal glow! Here I used a high shutter speed. I try to keep the ISO as low as possible – I find that my Sony cameras are best with low ISO, and get noticeable ‘noise’ at higher settings.

By now the sun was moving round the house and lower in the sky .. so to complete the process I waited until I could catch the light as it fell across the breakfast bar. I went back to the big tele-macro lens, as it can get closer in to catch the water droplets better than the the other two.

Gladiolus flower resting on the formica worktop
Gladiolus flower on the Formica worktop, shot in the fading evening light. shutter 1/80 ISO 50 WB “cloudy”

Against the dark surface, and with light slanting through the open door I took the final shots. This time the white of the freezer in the background stopped me achieving a matt black background. But there are nice reflections on the work surface, and it looks like liquid – a lens effect I hadn’t expected. And I can get in closer with the tele-macro than I could with either of the other two lenses.

I do spend a lot of time chasing the light – I guess many of us do! It is nice to be able to control the light in a studio setting – and I do that too. But natural light and the camera lens can make unexpected magic, with lens flares, bokeh, and a richness and variety of light quality that man-made lighting just can’t touch. I no longer have the energy or stamina to chase the light across the landscape and into the night …. but around the house can be quite a challenge too ;o)
On Flickr you can find my Album of Gladioli photos
Flickr holds Elisa’s online Photo Gallery
© 2019 Elisa Liddell

Lensbaby Art and Glass 2

Golden coins (only chocolate!)
Golden coins (only chocolate!) shot with the Double Glass optic and +4 macro filter

In my first selection of Lensbaby “art” shots I wanted to concentrate on how the Lensbaby can creatively enhance a composition – even transform it. Now I want to add some more flamboyant images! As I said … what I set out to do and what I end up with can be miles apart. Every shoot is a journey into the unexpected! The magic comes when the camera takes you by surprise! So I have compiled a small gallery of shots that have done just that – taken me completely by surprise!

A very early shot from 2013, when I first bought a Lensbaby.

Scarf ring on a bright scarf.
Scarf ring on a bright scarf. Double Glass and +4 macro filter

I took a bright colourful boa scarf and placed a scarf ring on top to help me find the sweet spot, and learn focussing. The result really blew me away! The colours, the bokeh, the swirling and zoom-type movement … wow! OK, I missed on the focus, it landed on the fuzzy wool to the left of the target ring – but what a result. I admit, I was hooked ;o)

Since then I have learned more about the powers and potential of the various optics, and how to control and use them. But they can still take my breath away. One subject that the Lensbaby is especially wonderful with is trees, and foliage.

Sunlight through trees.
Sunlight through trees. Double Glass at F2.8 with telephoto optic

Simple sunshine through the trees at Leith Hall gardens, with the bokeh movement of the leaves. And next, looking up on a dull day, as the sunshine caught the tops of the fir trees.

Looking up through the tree canopy.
Looking up through the tree canopy. Sweet 50

And a magical composition, combining two shots that I have described
at the bottom of the page about the Sweet 50 optic here:

tree walk at LeithHall
Walk into my world. The Sweet 50 composite of a Leith Hall walk.

It seems that handling light is one of the many superb qualities of the Lensbaby range of optics.

Blue hydrangea flowers in bright sunlight
Blue hydrangea flowers in bright sunlight. Double Glass and+4 macro filter

Here the way the optic handles bright sunshine makes for a softly melting watercolour effect. The petals become almost translucent. And the effect is achieved in camera, and not by post-processing.
Another shot where bright sunlight was handled so well by the Lensbaby

One of the old stone lions that guard the garden gate at Leith Hall.
One of the old stone lions that guard the garden gate at Leith Hall. Sweet 50

I was hiding among the branches, and trying to shoot the stone lion gate-post at Leith Hall. I thought the extremes of light and shadow would defeat the camera … but a rather haunting semi-abstract emerged.

An old tree stump, caught in a shaft of sunlight.
An old tree stump, caught in a shaft of sunlight. Sweet 50

Here the sudden sunlight falling on the tree trunk, and the delicate shadow cast by the weed across the stump, caught my eye. Again, it was the contrast of light and shadow – and again the Lensbaby surprised me. No post processing was needed – just a small crop.

In all three of these shots I expected I was asking too much of the camera and lens, that the extremes of bright light and deep shadows would mean failure – but I was taken by surprise at what the Lensbaby could do!

And finally, one of my personal favourites – something the Lensbaby can do as no other lens I have, and no post-processing skills I have can simulate.

A crystal glass sphere lying among some flowers.
A crystal glass sphere lying among some flowers. Sweet 50 optic

A flowering rambler atop a wall, sunshine and a crystal sphere – and the Lensbaby. Unexpected magic ;o)

I’ve got more Lensbaby shots on Flickr. I’ve divided them into the 3 lenses I use
Double glass optic:
Sweet 50 optic:
Edge 80 optic:

I hope that you have enjoyed this personal journey through 5+ years of my “living with the Lensbaby”. I have enjoyed looking back, and now look forward to see what new surprises and delights it can offer me ;o)

Flickr holds Elisa’s online Photo Gallery
© 2019 Elisa Liddell