Foundations of Photography: Specialty Lenses
Illustration by Petra Stefankova

Using the Lensbaby


Foundations of Photography: Specialty Lenses

with Ben Long

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Video: Using the Lensbaby

The doctor will see you now. Is this cool or what? We're in the surgery on Alcatraz. It's this really beat-up room with this creepy old operating table in the middle of it. It's just waiting to have its picture taken. And that's giving us some problems. It's a tricky thing. What do you do? It's an empty metal table in the middle of a room. So it's kind of a small room. We've got this cool light coming in through the outside. The first thing I tried to do was just stick a 50-millimeter lens on my camera and take a shot, and I got this. And it's pretty nice.
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  1. 4m 10s
    1. Welcome
      1m 46s
    2. Roadmap of the course
      2m 24s
  2. 3m 53s
    1. Words about focal length
      2m 6s
    2. Understanding camera position
      1m 47s
  3. 39m 19s
    1. What filters are for
      2m 37s
    2. Shopping for filters
      3m 55s
    3. Understanding neutral density filters
      4m 53s
    4. Applying neutral density filters
      3m 55s
    5. Polarizing filters
      3m 4s
    6. Some shooting tips for working with a polarizing filter
      2m 32s
    7. Using infrared filters
      9m 15s
    8. Processing the infrared image
      6m 7s
    9. Handling stuck filters
      3m 1s
  4. 38m 37s
    1. Working with ultra-wide lenses
      7m 19s
    2. Using a wide-angle lens
      4m 43s
    3. Understanding fisheye lenses
      4m 2s
    4. Working with fisheye lenses
      3m 59s
    5. Understanding fisheye exposure
      3m 3s
    6. Taking fisheye further
      4m 16s
    7. Processing fisheye and wide-angle images
      7m 38s
    8. Correcting tone in fisheye images
      3m 37s
  5. 35m 37s
    1. Understanding super telephoto
      6m 21s
    2. Shooting distant subjects
      8m 26s
    3. Compressing the sense of depth
      7m 53s
    4. Working with shallow depth of field
      5m 35s
    5. Working with teleconverters
      2m 38s
    6. Editing telephoto images
      4m 44s
  6. 16m 47s
    1. Understanding macro basics
      2m 47s
    2. Shooting close
      4m 52s
    3. Shooting macro
      5m 20s
    4. Working with a point-and-shoot for macro
      1m 58s
    5. Using a two-lens strategy
      1m 50s
  7. 16m 39s
    1. Understanding tilt shift
      3m 37s
    2. Correcting perspective
      4m 29s
    3. Creating the toy effect
      4m 41s
    4. Deepening depth of field
      3m 52s
  8. 32m 39s
    1. Working with specialty lenses
      2m 43s
    2. Using the Lensbaby
      9m 13s
    3. Working with the Lensbaby Macro attachment
      3m 50s
    4. Shooting with a Holga attachment
      3m 4s
    5. Using an alternative mount lens
      2m 18s
    6. Using super-fast lenses
      1m 47s
    7. Correcting Lensbaby images
      9m 44s
  9. 39m 48s
    1. Correcting perspective
      10m 41s
    2. Creating the toy effect
      6m 31s
    3. Getting the lo-fi Holga look
      11m 17s
    4. Reproducing the effect of a Lensbaby
      8m 17s
    5. Cropping and enlarging images
      3m 2s
  10. 2m 47s
    1. Choosing whether to borrow or buy
      2m 0s
    2. Goodbye

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Watch the Online Video Course Foundations of Photography: Specialty Lenses
3h 50m Intermediate Dec 17, 2012

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

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.

Ben Long

Using the Lensbaby

The doctor will see you now. Is this cool or what? We're in the surgery on Alcatraz. It's this really beat-up room with this creepy old operating table in the middle of it. It's just waiting to have its picture taken. And that's giving us some problems. It's a tricky thing. What do you do? It's an empty metal table in the middle of a room. So it's kind of a small room. We've got this cool light coming in through the outside. The first thing I tried to do was just stick a 50-millimeter lens on my camera and take a shot, and I got this. And it's pretty nice.

It is what the room looks like. But looking at it I just, I don't know, I'm in here right now and it feels creepier than this. How can I up the creep? So I'm going to try something called a Lensbaby. A Lensbaby is a specialized lens. It's not an attachment; it's an actual gizmo that I put directly on my camera. This is one of the Lensbabies here. There are lots of different Lensbabies models. I'm using something called the Lensbaby Composer Pro. All Lensbabies have one critical feature in common, and that's this action right here: the whole optical mechanism is on a ball joint that moves around.

The practical upshot of this is I can create an area of selective focus in my image. Anything outside of that area smears and streaks out into being defocused. The cool thing about the Lensbaby is I can move that area of focus around. So what I'm thinking is I'm going to be able to create some cool motion around the table. The Lensbaby is great for anytime where you're shooting something really dynamic, like these images, anytime where you want some selective focus to control the viewer's eye. It's a lot using a shallow depth-of-field effect, except that you get all this cool texture and stuff in your image.

So I don't want you to think that you use the Lensbaby when you want a creepy image. That's not what it's about. You can actually use it for a lot of different things, everything from really kind of pretty romantic images to really dynamic images, to making 50-year-old operating tables to look really creepy, and that's what we're going to do here. So I want to show you my shot. I'm shooting video with the SLR so that you can actually see through the lens. So I have got the Lensbaby set here. That's my hand there. That's what that was. Pretty wide here.

So I can focus a Lensbaby just like any other lens. It's a manual focus. There is no autofocus. Now, in this area right in here and around here, you should see defocusing. Watch what happens as I move the lens around. I'm focusing now on the head of the table. I have tilted the lens really far to the left, and now all of this stuff in here smeared out of focus. I can move that down to here to the end of the table, focus on that, and now the head of the table is all out of focus.

So this is what I mean about I have got this area of selective focus and everything going into it has got this nice defocusing effect. So I'm going to stop the video now and go into actually taking my shot. Now, this is pretty easy to do. I typically start by setting the lens to its normal orientation, which is right here, and focusing it, just to be sure that I've got everything in focus. That looks pretty good. Now, what I'd like to do is get some of that smearing, and I'm going to tilt the lens up a little bit to blur the legs out.

I have framed with the window in the shot because I like the light coming through the window, and I think it's going to give me a little blurring. That's looking pretty good. I'm going to take my shot here. I'm working with Live View because the way I've got the tripod crammed into to the corner here, I can't really get my eyes behind the viewfinder. So I am at ISO 800 right now, and I'm in Manual mode. Right now, my Lensbaby is set to an aperture of f/4. Just like any lens, bigger the aperture, the softer the depth of field. So at f/4, this is what I get.

So that's pretty cool. I've got a good amount of smearing there. I'm liking that. I think I might want a little less smearing. I think I might want to play with the depth of field some. Now, normally, I would do that simply by changing the Aperture control on my camera, but there's no automatic aperture selection on here. I've got the camera in Manual mode, and I'm just following the camera's light meter to get my metering correct. I'm looking for my aperture. Here we go. When you buy a Lensbaby, you get a collection of apertures.

Now, this is really cute, I think. I'm at f/4 right now. Here's f/8. It's actually a tiny little aperture. So I need to take the f/4 aperture out of there and put in the f/8 aperture. So fortunately, they give me this little magnet, and these things are magnetized, so I can hold them. All I have to do is reach into the Lensbaby with this thing, pull out the f/4 aperture. This is so appropriate that we're doing this in an operating room. Isn't this cool? And now, I'm going to take the f/8 aperture and stick it in there, and there are little magnet things that hold it in there.

So that should be in there. This is also a nice little touch: the cap of the aperture little holder thing here is an old 35-millimeter film cap, so you get a little bout of nostalgia every time you change apertures on your Lensbaby. So now I've got a smaller aperture. That should give me some slightly deeper depth of field. So let's see what we get here. I actually see the depth of field change in the viewfinder. There's a little bit less blurring than there was. I'm going to go ahead and take that shot and this is what I get. I'm liking that.

I'm not quite sure about it though. I'm thinking that it's just a little cramped. This is--part of what's creepy about this is that operating table is just sitting there in the middle of this bare empty room. I'd like a wider field of view. Now, the Lensbaby by default has, it's not a zoom lens, it's got a fixed focal length, but you can get these special attachments. This is the wide-angle attachment. There's also a telephoto attachment. And the way these work is the end of the Lensbaby is threaded. I can just screw this right on there, and now I'm going to have a wider field of view.

So right away, I see the change in camera. That's pretty wide. And one problem here is that I can actually see the edge of this thing in the view. So I don't have--when I'm using these adaptors--as much latitude for bending as I do when I'm not using the attachments. So I'm going to take that shot and I get this. Now, I've lost some of the smearing. The wider angle is resulting in a less smeary image. So I want to go back to my other aperture. I'm going to switch back to f/4.

To do that, I've got to take the wide-angle attachment off. One thing that's nice is if you buy the entire Lensbaby set, there's a whole other optical piece that you can pull out of here and replace with other things. This is actually a very nice piece of glass. The areas that are sharp are very, very sharp. There are other optics that you can put in there that leave the sharp area not quite so sharp. So for example, there's a plastic optic that you can put in there. Personally, I'm finding that I'm shooting most with the high-quality optic.

I really like the focused part being as focused as possible and really playing with the smeary part around the edges. So there's my aperture change. Another cool thing about these apertures is an addition to straight circular apertures of various sizes, you also get these: apertures with weird little shapes. What these do is turn specular highlights, bright highlights in your image, into funny shapes. Maybe not funny shapes. I don't know whether I really laughed when I looked at one of them, but more curious shapes than simple highlights.

Now, I'm going to put my wide-angle adaptor back on, so again, I've just gone from f/8 to f/4. That's going to give me a shallower depth of field. I often find I need to focus to bring the threads all the way out before I can get the thing on. Again, metering-wise, all I'm doing is putting the camera in Manual mode and changing shutter speed until the meter in my camera shows me that I have got a decent exposure. So it's actually, even though I don't have any automatic aperture control, it doesn't matter. It's very easy to work with the Lensbaby.

You have just got to remember to pay attention to the manual meter when you're shooting. Okay, this I'm liking. I have got a nice wide angle. That wider aperture has given me more smear. And this is starting to get something more--I don't know. It's got a little extra something over that 50-millimeter shot that I shot earlier, of just the tables sitting in the middle of the room. So that's the Lensbaby. It's a really fun way of getting a really different look in your image. One thing you need to be careful is the Lensbaby images can be very distinctly Lensbaby, so you really want to work a little extra hard to find some creative ways to use it so that the first thing people think when they see your image is not, "Oh, you'd shot that with a Lensbaby." You don't want the effect to upstage your image itself.

There's a macro attachment that goes with this that's very cool that we'll see later on. And together the whole thing is a very inexpensive way of getting a really different look to your images. So check out Lensbaby's site for details. They have lots of different models at various price points.

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