My Day: Through the Lensbaby / by Andrea Moffatt

Yesterday I blogged about how I found my center by freelensing all my photos for the day. I would've kept going, but today we went to the zoo. I've shot there so many times: I needed a challenge, but I wanted my lens securely attached to my camera-- not at the bottom of the lion pit! So I took a huge chance and packed only my Lensbaby with the Sweet 35 optic.

It's a tricky lens to reign in. It's entirely manual focus, and if that wasn't hard enough, you must also control where the focal point is by tilting the lens on a ball joint. Needless to say, I deleted a LOT of images from my computer today. After I deleted all the total duds, I realized I should save some outtakes to show you how many mistakes I made for each photo that worked. I posted some at the bottom, but keep in mind that it's just a fraction!

So, to the results. At the beginning of the day - the zoo trip - I got very, very few pictures in focus. Some of the ones I liked weren't in focus at all, but I still kept them (flamingos, I'm looking at you)...

We visited my parents after that, and by that point, I started getting a little better at manual focusing quickly. I was still following my normal mode of shooting, which is: no directing, posing, asking the subject to stand somewhere or do something again. A few times, I really wanted to do that! It's so hard to react in a timely manner with the Lensbaby. Still, in the evening, I got more keepers than the morning:

And just a fraction of the outtakes:

What did I learn from my little day-long experiment? If you know me, you know this list is condensed down! I learned so much!

1. It confirmed for me just how much your lens of choice controls the story you tell. This is apparent by looking at my zoo pictures. They are not your typical: first we saw the tigers, then we visited the lions, then we ate lunch. I couldn't nail those pictures if my life depended on it, so I stopped trying and started looking for details that still "felt" like the day.

2. It reminded me that there is value in sticking with a technique or a lens you've previously categorized as a lost cause. I've had the Lensbaby Composer since probably 2011 or 2012 and the 35 optic for at least 2 years and I've NEVER shot with it for more than about 45 minutes before giving up and saying "I didn't like the look." For shame! All the best things take time.

3. It demonstrated to me, just by seeing the images I was able to work up to in one day, that stopping now would be a failure on my part. As unreliable as this lens is, it is easy to put it away to save for less important moments. That's exactly why all my previous pictures with it are of flower petals and Christmas tree lights! I'm going to challenge myself to leave it on my camera body for one week and see where it leads me. (Maybe I'll figure out how to achieve focus in other parts of the frame besides the middle!)

I'm off to shoot a few more frames with this (lens)baby! I'll let you know how it goes. In the meantime, what new thing will you try today?