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Time Out With Tanya

Nature Photo Walk with the Lensbaby 35 Optic – Skamania Lodge Weekend Getaway

By Tanya Goodall Smith on May 19th 2015

Welcome to Time Out with Tanya, where I’ve put my fast paced graphic design career on hold in favor of adventures in motherhood. I’m capturing every moment on camera, and you can come along if you’d like. Sign up for my weekly email here so you’ll never miss a Time Out.

Note: If you haven’t already, read my initial thoughts on the Lensbaby Composer Pro before checking out this detailed look at the Lensbaby 35 optic.

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Once a year my husband and I try to sneak away for a weekend without the kids. It’s really helped maintain our sanity (not to mention our marriage) and gives me a much-needed chance to take pictures just for me. I rarely get my camera out when my kids are with me out in public anymore. I find it difficult to focus on their well-being when I’m lost in “the zone” behind my camera. So, finding time away to experiment and shoot just for fun is a special treat for me.

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We like to visit local-ish spots for our weekend getaways. Our favorite places are a luxurious treat but fun, adventurous, casual and relaxing. This time we headed over toward the Columbia River Gorge for a visit to Skamania Lodge in Stevenson, WA and it was everything we hoped it would be. I took my camera with the Lensbaby Composer Pro and 35 optic out for a spin on our hike through the grounds and here’s what I found after a day of shooting.

Lightweight & Compact

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Stitch panorama created with Canon 5D Mark III camera and lightweight Canon 50mm f/1.4 lens

On this trip, I decided to leave my ultra reliable but oh-so-heavy Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II lens at home in favor of something a little lighter. I’ve been wanting to really put the new Lensbaby system I purchased for my birthday to the test, so I brought that along with my Canon 50mm f/1.4 prime. Both are lightweight and small. Perfect for touring around.

Slow and Steady

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I quickly discovered this lens is not for fast paced shooting. I’m used to capturing fleeting candid moments on a photo walk, and this lens does not really lend itself well to that. Mostly because of the manual focus and the fact that the tilt-shift and narrow area of focus make it difficult to figure out where your focal point is at all. I’m near-sighted and wear glasses, which added to the difficulty (yes, I’m basically blind and auto focus is my friend). Perhaps with more practice I’ll be able to focus more quickly.

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On the plus side, this really made me slow down and compose my shots intentionally. It was quite enjoyable once I surrendered to the idea of it. Keeping in mind that a larger aperture will make that sweet spot of focus larger, I kept my aperture between f/4 and f/8 to help nail the focus. Shooting wide open with this made it almost impossible to focus on anything.

I found that changing the focus slightly can drastically change the composition and even the story your image might tell. Take a look at these two images below. Where does your eye go first on each? Which do you think is a stronger image or tells a more interesting or relevant story?

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To me, the one with the focus on the crosswalk is stronger. It makes more sense. Otherwise, the focus is on a random patch of greenery and the viewer is left wondering why? Why would the artist want me to focus on this plant? For more tips on composition and focusing, check out our Photography 101 Workshop DVD.

Motion and Mystery

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Add a feeling of motion to your images with the Lensbaby Composer Pro with 35 Optic

If you want to add a feeling of motion or mystery to your images, the Lensbaby 35 Optic is something you should try. After loading my images into Lightroom, I was delighted by the results of some of these that lend a feeling of motion along the hiking trail. It feels like I’m jogging through the forest.

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Others have a tunnel-like feeling. If I were to shoot a series for a client, or even for my own portfolio, I likely wouldn’t shoot the whole thing with this lens (as I have done here, which was for practice and to show you results). I would likely use it for a few carefully chosen images to show some variety, especially if a feeling of motion or mystery was desired.

A Fine Art Feel

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If you want to add a fine art feel to an otherwise boring composition, this lens is a good tool. That blur just adds an impressionistic painterly feel that you can’t get with a “regular” camera or lens. Yes, you can add some blur in Photoshop, but the tilt in this lens really adds a distinct look you can’t replicate with post processing (at least not without spending a ton of time).

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Have some fun playing with textures to create abstract images. The possibilities are endless with this thing!

To Tilt Or Not To Tilt

A little tiny bit of tilt goes a lot way with this lens. You can get some pretty funky effects just by tilting it slightly. Beware of too much tilt, since you’ll end up with a black circle like effect in the side of your image (see below).

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The ability to really tilt the lens upward or downward allowed me to do things I normally wouldn’t be able to do with a standard lens. For example, I was able to tilt the lens upward enough to crop out the cars in front of the lodge and just get the architectural detail of the eaves from several angles.

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In this example, tilting the lens downward allowed me to focus on the little shack that’s normally out of my normal focus area, leaving the rest of the image blurry.

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Other Issues

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In-camera light metering seemed to be very unpredictable with this lens. I generally use spot metering with all my other lenses, so I assumed that would be fine for the Lensbaby, too, but my exposure based on the in-camera light meter seemed to be all over the place. Perhaps switching to a different metering mode would help? I’ll try that out with the 80mm Optic and let you know how it goes.

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Switching out the optic takes a little more time than simply switching out a regular lens, so for the purpose of a hike I just left the 35mm Optic in the whole time. Stopping to switch out optics didn’t seem to be practical, especially with my super fast hiking husband leaving me in the dust.

Conclusion

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After taking the Lensbaby Composer Pro with 35 Optic out on a casual nature hike, I probably wouldn’t use the Lensbaby for a fast paced walking around lens. It’s more conducive to pre-meditated shoots that allow you to take your time and really compose your shot intentionally.

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On that note, I had a lot of fun using this lens and now that I’m more familiar with how it works, I can’t wait to add it to my arsenal of tools for creating artistic and fun images.

Other articles you might like:

SEEING IN A NEW WAY—MY LENSBABY COMPOSER PRO FIRST EXPERIENCE & INITIAL THOUGHTS

5 WAYS TO IMPROVE YOUR STREET PHOTOGRAPHY (AND WHY YOU SHOULD DO A PHOTO WALK ASAP)

5 TIPS FOR TAKING AMAZING HIGH SCHOOL SENIOR PORTRAITS

FIVE MORE RULES TO ROCK YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY COMPOSITION

CREDITS: Photographs by Tanya Smith are copyrighted and have been used with permission for SLR Lounge. Do not copy, modify or re-post this article or images without express permission from SLR Lounge and the artist.

Tanya Goodall Smith is the owner, brand strategist and commercial photographer at WorkStory Corporate Photography in Spokane, Washington. WorkStory creates visual communications that make your brand irresistible to your target market. Join the stock photo rebellion at workstoryphotography.com.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Ralph Hightower

    Tanya,
    Like you, I am nearsighted. It’s probably been twenty years ago when my ophthalmologist recommended bifocals, which I resisted for the longest time because, well, it was vanity; because bifocals are for “old people”. But he said that bifocals can be made without the visible split. I decided to go with trifocals. If I’m doing reading up close, I may take off my glasses.
    I love the autofocus of my DSLR; I’ve only owned it for 1.5 years. But I also shoot with two manual focus film cameras.
    I encountered one situation where I had to take the lens to manual focus to photograph a vanity license plate of a very yellow Suzuki hatchback that had “Tweety Bird” on the plate. I directed my wife on which button to switch on the lens since autofocus was focusing on my car’s windshield and not the subject. Don’t worry, I was stopped at a stop light and not shooting or focusing while driving. I will do “drive-by” shootings, but the lens is focused at infinity.

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  2. Nashaine Johnson

    Am I the only one that got dizzy?

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  3. J. Dennis Thomas

    Lensbaby sent me a couple of prototypes to try out when they first got rolling and I used them for a few things here and there. But really I found it to lack any real-world use even in “fine-art” photos. I gave one away and the other sits in my bag in the pocket relegated to junk that I don’t use.

    One or two photos, I’m OK with. But honestly looking at a whole bunch of Lensbaby photos in a row just highlights how gimmicky it is.

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    • J. Dennis Thomas

      Not a reflection on your work BTW. Just a thought about the lenses in general.

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    • Tanya Goodall Smith

      Yeah, I mentioned in the article that I wouldn’t generally shoot or share a whole series of photos shot with this lens because it’s just too much. Really fun to play with if you want some funky effects, though.

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  4. Amanda Jehle

    I like the effect on some of these shots. Have you tried it with portraits at all? I was thinking it would be awesome for a Halloween themed shoot, depending on what the kids dressed-up as. However, the slow focus might make that a nearly impossible for fast-moving toddlers.

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  5. Mark Romine

    Nothing here that makes me want to buy one.

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  6. a abolfazli

    Great!

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    • Thomas Horton

      It is an effect that is not everyone’s cup ‘o pixles that’s for sure. I would not want to look at an album of nothing but LB shots. But used properly and sparingly, it can have a nice effect.

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  7. Adrian Jones

    Every shot with this lens makes me feel nauseous…

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  8. Anders Madsen

    Man, that is one highly specialized lens kit! Like you said, it’s definitely not something you will use for a large part of your portfolio, but it can do some things that are very hard to replicate in ordinary post production.

    I’ve had my eyes on this as a potential poor mans tilt-shift solution but your images makes it very cleat that it would not fit that bill – the distortion and blur is way to pronounced for that. In that respect, this article came at the perfect time for me, even if it means I have to keep searching for another solution. Sigh. :)

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    • Thomas Horton

      Unfortunately, if you want sharp tilt-shift, you gotta get a good quality TS lens and those are expensive.

      I highly recommend renting some before plunking down the money to buy one.

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    • Tanya Goodall Smith

      The “sweet spot of focus” on these is round. I’m thinking with an actual tilt-shift (which I believe was originally invented to correct distortion in architectural images) is more of a flat plane of focus. Good luck in your search!

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  9. Brandon Dewey

    great article

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