Way back, 15 or so years ago, when I first picked up a camera with the thought of being a serious photographer, I never imagined that I would ever find myself in a rut! How could I ever run out of fun things to photograph? There seemed to be inspiration around every turn, and I was rarely without my camera.
Landscape and macro photography consumed me for years, and I felt myself growing artistically and technically. And then I discovered underwater photography, and a whole new set of challenges awaited me and excited me! But it isn't often that a dive trip comes along, and I've recently found myself spending less and less time with my camera.
I began to teach photography, and the joy of watching others discover what they can do with their cameras has been a delight! I am perhaps late to the teaching party. But I'm trying to make up for lost time and I hope my students are having as much fun as I am!
So why the creative dry spell? I'm not sure, I think I've been concentrating so much on teaching that I lost sight of the joy I get from playing with my camera. How to get the creative juices flowing again? Enter Lensbaby!!!
I was an early Lensbaby user when they were first introduced years ago. But I was a new photographer, and I was struggling with manual settings, trying to get things in focus and the thought of producing "on purpose" out of focus photos didn't appeal to me. So I sent it back and never gave it another thought.
Fast forward to now, and my dry spell of creativity, and I saw an ad for the newest members of the Lensbaby family. And I felt a spark of interest! Could this be just what I needed to find my way back to the artistic side of my brain? I ordered the Velvet 56 lens from Lensbaby and tried it out for the first time last week.
It takes some getting used to, it's a totally manual focus and aperture lens. But I actually found that to be rather fun and adapted to it quickly. The challenge for me was figuring out what to keep in focus and what to blur, because the beauty of the Velvet 56 is that only part of the field of view is sharp, the rest is a gorgeous blurry bokeh, the nature of which depends on the chosen aperture.
My first go with the Lensbaby involved a pint of blueberries and a Boos Block cutting board. Focusing the lens was very easy in the controlled conditions of the kitchen. I used a constant LED light to highlight the berries, and braced the camera on a tripod for the long exposure. I quickly came to love the dreamy bokeh that is possible with this lens!
I ventured outside early the next morning and played around with the lens in a field of flowers, and before I knew it, hours had passed and I was lost in the creative process. YES!! I was thinking about how backgrounds could enhance my subject, what stays, what should be excluded, how is the light playing with the scene and how can I use the shadows to bring out the texture. Who's in a rut now? Not me!!! That right side of my brain was humming along nicely!
Look at the beautiful softness of the background and yet there is still plenty of detail in the primary flower. I used a Plamp to move the background flower near the top further from the subject to soften it even more.
I am so happy I gave Lensbaby another chance!
It doesn't take a new lens to get you back into the game, of course. Sometimes, a new location or new technique is enough to jump start your creativity. For me, the Lensbaby 56 proved to be just what I needed. It has given me a new way to look at my macro photography, letting me play with focus to highlight my subject and bring an artistic edge to my images.