I have a confession...over the winter I began to feel some major burnout creeping in. Galleries and videos to edit, time on-call and at births, and being away from my family either shooting or editing so much was taking a toll on me. I recognized it was a problem when I had a stretch of time during which I felt too exhausted to photograph my own kids. While I adore documenting birth and family stories for others, sometimes it doesn’t leave much time or creative energy for my own family. I knew I needed to get my groove back with my personal work. So I thought about what might help me become re-inspired to document my own life.
In my search, I came across Lensbaby and was intrigued that it could achieve the look of freelensing (a creative technique where you shoot through your lens when it’s held against the camera body instead of attached) but without the risk of dropping the unattached lens or introducing dust into the camera sensor. I opted for a versatile ‘nifty fifty’ 50mm lens and before I knew it, my perfect little Lensbaby Edge 50 Optic with Composer Pro II was on my doorstep and I was planning my first opportunity to make some magic just for me. In the hours after our last snowfall of winter, I unboxed my Lensbaby and took it for a spin...and here--in words and pictures--are the highlights of my Lensbaby Journey.
As I clicked off my first few shots that day and tilted the lens around to different angles, I could tell right away that this lens gave me newfound control over what I could bring into focus and what could be blended into the background. It wasn't merely separating the subject from the background, but rather there was so much more to it. This was one of the very first images I created when I received the lens. There was a learning curve at first, and I only made a few images that spoke to me that day. Here, I used the soft bokeh to mask the dirty old snow and also to create a dreamy effect against the trees. I angled my slice of focus to fall right across my daughter's smile. Both the process and the resulting image felt intentional, yet unique and creative. Exactly what I needed to feel reinspired to shoot for myself.
As springtime came and the colors and textures in my yard inspired me, I decided to play with the macro feature, which is just a simple extension pull of the lens. I have always found macro photography in my garden to be my happy place, where I can go to relax and unwind. With still life, there is no rush to capture a moment. It is calm and controlled and just what I need sometimes during a busy day, or in the morning when I have a few minutes to go into my own little world.
I became more comfortable over the weeks using my Edge 50, and it came along on our adventures. It is my smallest lens and is no trouble at all just being slung across my body for quick access while I hiked and made daytrips. I was happy to get this first image of all three of my children in a single frame. The blur of the Lensbaby made this more interesting to me than it would have been with a traditional lens.
Flash forward to summer, when I decided to take just my Lensbaby Edge 50 on our trip to the farm where I would have typically brought both a wide lens and a portrait lens to capture the breadth of our experience at the farm. I wondered if it would fill my need for details, environmental portraits, and general storytelling images. When all was said and done, I was truly amazed I could document the story of our trip for our family so artistically and effectively with just a single small lens. Here are just a few images that fill my heart and mind with memories from that day.
I used the Lensbaby a lot during the summer and became comfortable with knowing when it would shine as a tool. Most of the time I shot outdoors because the weather was so nice and because nature inspires me, but I also love the effect indoors...
Whenever I found myself craving something different or looking for the beauty and interest in the mundane, my Lensbaby was my go-to for adding visual interest to an image that may have otherwise been uninspiring.
I remember the day when I knew I had come a long way on my Lensbaby journey. I had developed a strong appreciation for the buttery softness I could create, the ability to control my slice of focus, the portability, the uniqueness of my Lensbaby images, and the creativity I have when composing with the lens. I was with my children on one of our favorite summer hikes and I knew that I wanted to create a set of images that would be reminiscent of summer memories tagging along on their adventures while they played in their own little world together. I knew Lensbaby could help me make that vision happen. Shooting that day was like hanging out with a friend I've only known for a few months, but yet with whom I feel natural and comfortable as if we had years of friendship together.
In this Lensbaby journey, what I gained most of all was the permission to let go of perfection, to release the compulsion to grab precise focus, to step out of my tidy comfort zone...and all the while I was reminded to live in the moment and create pictures of my life that truly make me feel something deeper and richer. They are more than pretty pictures, these images...they bring me right back to a real moment and show me how it felt to be right there in the haze and imperfection of motherhood and childhood. Thank you, Lensbaby, for helping me find the extraordinary in my ordinary.
Have you experimented with a Lensbaby? Which LB lens should I try next? I'd love to see some of your Lensbaby work or hear about your favorite Lensbaby lens!