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Join photographer, author, and teacher Ben Long on location in San Francisco as he explores the creative options provided by the kinds of lenses and lens accessories that don't always make it into most camera bags.
The course begins with a look at several common and inexpensive lens attachments, from polarizers to neutral density filters. The course then explores ultra-wide angle and fisheye lenses as well as ultra-long telephoto and macro lenses. The course concludes with a look at tilt-shift lenses, which are useful for architectural photography and special effects, and at offbeat lenses, such as Lensbaby and Holga attachments.
The course also contains Photoshop postproduction advice and examples that illustrate the creative possibilities that an expanded lens collection provides. And because some specialty lenses are extremely expensive, the course also contains advice on renting gear.
After you've spent hundreds, maybe thousands of dollars on a really nice camera body, I really can't recommend enough putting a really cheap plastic toy lens on the front. Now, I'm actually being serious here. You're probably familiar with a Holga camera. It's a Russian cheap kind of toy camera with a plastic lens and a lot of light leaks and a lot of other optical problems. It shoots medium-format film and has become very popular over the last few years because it shoots these really nice kind of randomly beaten-up images. There are companies that sell Holga lenses that you can attach to your SLR.
It's a Holga lens attached to a modified mounting system for Canon or Nikon, or other cameras. Attach it to the front and you actually have a Holga-equipped SLR that you can use to shoot digital Holga images. Now, these images are very, very beat up. The Holga lens that I got has extreme vignetting. The focus is pretty soft. Your focus mechanism--there is no auto-focus on a Holga--your focus mechanism is sketchy at best. There's not a lot of focal range on it, and trying to see focus through the viewfinder is difficult.
This is not a lens for the person who's a real perfectionist about image quality. You're just simply taking a lot of the image on faith when you shoot with the Holga, and you kind of need to shoot around your house some and get the images into your computer and look at them before you really head off to seriously shoot with it, to try to get an understanding of exactly how well focus is or is not working. You'll see a lot of variation from one Holga lens to another, and some people then go further and potentially trying to beat up their lens and get more of that toy look. You can see that it is a fixed f/8. So metering--obviously there's no automatic metering on the Holga either--metering is always going to be about shooting manually so you need to know how to use the manual meter on your camera.
Other than that, there's not much to it. You still need to worry about focus. You still need to work to compose your images, and you've got to keep a very close eye on your manual metering while you're shooting with it. There are some cool attachments for your Holga that I got with mine. I've got here a wide-angle lens attachment. This is another actual optical lens that just sticks over the front of the Holga, and that's it. Now I'm ready to shoot wider angle. It's a little bit wider. There's still a whole lot of vignetting, so you're not getting the full width of what this can do, and it's not a huge wide angle change.
There are also telephoto adaptors. Here's one. This is a two-and-a-half X adaptor that also just slips over the front. If you like one of these, it's easy enough to just leave them on all the time. It just comes right off with the lens. So this is a fun way of getting a really random analog kind of look out of your SLR. Again, it takes some practice to really figure out what it can and cannot do. A big part of working with a lens like this is managing your expectations. Try to get a solid idea of the type of effects it produces before you go out and shoot with it.
That way you'll be able to work to its strengths, not fall prey to its disadvantages, and have a better idea of what you're going to get when you get home.
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