Sunday, September 18, 2011

2011 WEEK 37: Hey baby, check out my Lensbaby!

What, you ask, is a "lensbaby"?

It's my latest toy (and a cheap one thanks to Craigslist). As for what the purpose of it is, well, it's what the pros call a "selective focus" device. The principle is very simple - basically it's a stand alone lens with a focal length of around 50mm that is attached to a bellows which connects to the camera. The bellows allows the user to bend the lens (and thus the light passing through it) changing the focal plane with it.

"Focal what?" This is the area where the light hits the sensor of the camera and normally it is parallel with the subject - focus at 8' and everything on that axis in the range of 8' (depending on f-stop, depth of field etc. but that's a different subject!) will be in focus.

The Lensbaby allows the user to shift the plane of focus into different angles for various creative effects.

This is what it looks like:

And this is my first photo taken with it:

Pretty funky huh?! These are the stairs at the longest renovation/upgrade site in Vancouver - I swear they've been replacing shrubs, re-doing concrete etc. here for YEARS.

The Lensbaby is a tricky little thing to get the hang of. It's extremely sensitive and the first challenge is how to hold it and be able to move it while still being able to take the picture - Move it a millimeter too far in one direction and everything is out of focus. The fact that the bellows is free-moving and can be twisted into pretty much any direction and you can see where the challenge lies. This is one of those gadgets where one has to take many more pictures than normal just to get one that turns out.

Ah... Fall is definitely here. I love the colours in this one. It also gave me a false sense of confidence because I got this picture in just two attempts. Not so the rest... In two hours I took over 300 pictures and ended up with only 20 or so keepers.

A photo walk downtown wouldn't be complete without another entry in the "Vancouver's Weird & Wonderful Scupltures" series. Nor would it be complete without our infamous bike lanes...

This next one is one that only kind of works... I wish I'd been able to nail the focus on the flowers not the leaves.

I took many, many pictures of the fountains around the Art Gallery and this was the only one that had anything in focus. 

This next one was snapped in colour but as soon as I saw it I just knew it would be more effective with some high contrast black and white post-processing treatment. It has that dreamy New York period feel.

I don't know why Nelson Street is an enemy of God... Or is this a Simpsons reference?

The Lensbaby really focuses one's attention on the subject of the photo - It's a creative form of tunnel vision. Again, I took a lot of photos to get this one. I also got a lot of strange looks: "What the hell has that guy got on his camera?!"

Depending on where the light is and how it is hitting the Lensbaby, weird things happen. I brought out the funky in this next one with some post-processing warming and with the addition of a vignette.

No effect needed on this next one. Straight out of the camera as it was captured:

The same goes for this one too...

Something about this next one makes it my favourite. I love the colours and the dreamy softness.

All in all, for my first fumbling attempts, I think I achieved some moderate success. I'm looking forward  to experimenting a lot more with my new "baby".

FOR THE GEEKS: The Lensbaby product line has a whole bunch of different versions. I have the Lensbaby 2.0 which comes with an aperture adjustment kit and aperture tool (that's the odd looking gadget beside the lens in the top picture. The higher-end Lensbaby products come with Macro lenses, different shaped aperture kits and versions that allow the user to lock the focus in place which given my struggles I can imagine would be a very useful feature.

Until next time folks.