Comparison: How Using a Lensbaby Affects Photography

I recently had the opportunity to shoot with my long-distance friend David Saffir. We are usually thousands of miles apart, so this was a great chance to work side-by-side. One of the goals of the shoot was for David to experience Lensbaby’s lenses and macro attachments, and since the upcoming webinar Datacolor is co-sponsoring with Lensbaby is on floral photography, we went to the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, as a prime location for shooting native California flowers, as well as landscapes.

When reviewing images after the shoot, I was struck by a pair of shots of the same view across Mission Canyon. David Saffir’s image was taken with the Fujifilm X-Pro1, with the 35mm f/1.4 lens. Mine was shot with the Canon 5D Mark lll, with a Lensbaby Composer lens. Comparing the two images is a good opportunity to analyze Lensbaby photography; highlighting some of its unique features.

Final Image by David Saffir

Final Image by David Saffir

Lets start with the “straight” photo, shot with the X-Pro1. David cropped this image to what he felt was the best composition. The slightly hazy air, and its effect on the shaded portion on the opposite canyon wall was part of what had drawn his attention to this scene, along with the powerful silhouetting of the foreground tree trunks, and their dramatically lit leaves. Here the eye moves around the composition, following the dark lines created by the tree trunks and limbs, and settles on the leaves, and finally on the little vignette of the trees on the far side later in the examination of the image. This is how traditional landscape photography controls the eye of the viewer to draw it to the areas of interest.

Final Lensbaby image, by CDTobie

Final Lensbaby image, by CDTobie

Now, lets compare this to the Lensbaby shot. Here the branch with the orange leaves has been placed in the center of the image, where the sharp focal zone occurs, making it a more important part of the composition. And the sun has been placed where it will shine through the trees, producing a dazzling effect. So, even standing side-by-side, the intended compositions are somewhat different. But in both images the small story of the delicate tracery of branches on the far wall of the canyon is important. However, with the Lensbaby image, further emphasis is placed on this scene, as well as on the branch of orange leaves in front of it, by the selective focus of the Lensbaby lens.

Center Detail, David Saffir's Image

Center Detail, David Saffir’s Image

Center Detail, CDTobie's Lensbaby Image

Center Detail, CDTobie’s Lensbaby Image

The outer regions of the “standard” image are as sharply focused as the central area, allowing the eye to move into and out of them at the same tempo as the center of the image, with only the content to control the eye movement. But in the Lensbaby shot, increasingly less focus, and more distortion, occurs in areas farther from the focal center. This creates an artistic blur effect that mimics the way the eye sees, making this image look “right” when the viewer is in the right range of distances from the image, and looking at the center of focus. To look elsewhere in the image is to view the blur that can’t usually be examined, as the focus of the eye moves as the viewer attempts to view these regions, bringing them into sharp focus as well. Here that does not happen, allowing the viewer to examine the peripheral regions, examining the blur and the stretching of the elements further out from the image center, which have a beauty all their own.

Off-Center Detail, David Saffir Image

Off-Center Detail, David Saffir Image

Off-Center Detail, CDTobie Lensbaby Image

Off-Center Detail, CDTobie Lensbaby Image

Both images are good compositions, and interesting images. The less literal and more poetic feel of the second image is caused almost entirely by the use of the Lensbaby lens. Not all viewers will be comfortable with this different way of seeing, but those with a more artistic view will immediately see the beauty of the Lensbaby version of the scene.

Credits: C. David Tobie, Copyright 2012.   Website: CDTobie.com   Return to Blog’s Main Page

Advertisements

Behind the Scenes: How This Image was Captured and Processed

Final Image, with 100% Scale Detail Inset

Final Image, with 100% Scale Detail Inset (Click for 100% View)

At 6AM this morning, the marine fog layer was thicker than usual in the California Central Coast. There was a diffused glow hinting at a sunrise to come, or that might never come, given the fog layer. So the tripod and camera at hand were grabbed immediately, as sunrise shots can fade quickly. This was shot using a Canon 5D Mark lll, with the L-series 24-105 f:4 lens.

Stepping out onto the balcony, the palmetto tree in the image was the best choice of foreground subjects, so the camera was set up to capture that, plus the sky to one side of it. A five second exposure at f:4 and ISO 200 seemed to offer a good balance, but five seconds was long enough to let the lightest of breezes blur all the palm frond tips. The camera was set to “two squeeze mode” where pressing the shutter the first time raises the mirror, eliminating mirror shake in the actual exposure, and the shot does not occur until the second time the shutter is squeezed. A remote trigger tool would have been appropriate, but there was not one available, so a light touch was used, along with many exposures. The multiple exposures were also shot in an attempt to catch a frame between breaths of wind. Of all the frames taken, there was one where nearly all the tips were still.

The sunrise gradient is from rather unusual lighting circumstances. The lights from the town are below where this shot was taken. The gradient is caused by the sunrise colors diffused through the fog above, with the town lights glowing below, and adding a yellow tint. There is no “sky” involved anywhere, its all gradated colored mist. To the naked eye, the scene was a black silhouetted palmetto with no detail, against a dim tinted mist.

The capture was processed in Lightroom 4, which offers significantly improved functionality for adjusting dynamic range in the various elements of an image over earlier versions. The global saturation was increased considerably, but the hues were not changed, and no type of artificial gradient was applied to the image.

This shot was a challenge for the 24-105 lens on a full frame sensor, given the very diffuse, even light field involved, which made the darkening at the corners of the frame very apparent. Even after applying Lightroom’s lens corrections for the lens, and increasing the vignette removal amount, it was still necessary to clone the very corners, just slightly, to keep them from being dark. It required very subtle work, with reduced opacity, heavy feathering, and just a tiny move, to keep from showing further out. Corner correction was the only localized adjustment performed; all other adjustments were global LR4 corrections.

Credits: C. David Tobie, Copyright 2012.   Website: CDTobie.com   Return to Blog’s Main Page