Doug Sahlin's Digital Photography Blog

Rants, raves and other delights!

Lensbaby – A Creative Toolset for Digital Photographers

The Lensbaby line of bodies and optics are ideal creative tools for photographers who want to create unique images. Lensbaby optics are not perfect. When you create a photo with a Lensbaby optic, parts of the image will be blurry. But that’s the beauty of the Lensbaby system. Creative photographers embrace the uniqueness of each optic and after they learn how to use them, they adapt them to their personal style of photography and “romance the blur.”

Lensbaby Composer, Composer Pro and Scout bodies!

When photographers use a Lensbaby body and optic for the first time, there is a bit of a learning curve. A Lensbaby body does not focus automatically and doesn’t communicate with the camera, which means you must set the aperture manually. On all optics except the Edge 80, Pinhole/Zone Plate, and Sweet 35, you manually insert a magnetic aperture disk into the body to determine the amount of light that enters the camera. You change the aperture with the Edge 80 and Sweet 35 optic by rotating the aperture ring at the end of the optic. The Pinhole/Zone Plate optic has a fixed aperture. Newer digital cameras will set the exposure automatically when you create photographs with a Lensbaby in Aperture Priority mode. However, with some older Nikons, you must manually set the exposure by choosing the the proper shutter speed based on the chosen aperture.

The Lensbaby Optic Swap System

Composition is also a challenge with the Lensbaby system. With all optics except the Fisheye, Soft Focus, and Pinhole/Zone Plate, you bend the Lensbaby body to determine which part of the image the Sweet Spot of Focus appears in. You change the Sweet Spot of Focus by bending the Lensbaby body. The Scout is the only Lensbaby body that doesn’t bend, and is therefore ideal for the Fisheye, Pinhole/Zone Plate and Soft Focus optics. After you place the Sweet Spot of Focus, you achieve focus by twisting the focus ring on the Lensbaby Composer, Composer Pro, or Scout, or by pulling the outer ring of the lens body toward you with the Muse and Control Freak. Needless to say, there is a learning curve when you photograph with the Lensbaby system.

The type of subject matter you can photograph with the Lensbaby system is only limited by your imagination. Photographers have used the Lensbaby system to photograph weddings, portraits, landscapes, cityscapes, and much more. In fact, most of the Lensbaby optics also do an awesome job when used to photograph small objects such as insects and flowers. The following slide show features some of my favorite images created with Lensbaby optics and accessories.

The Lensbaby system offers something for just about every photographer.  To find out more about the Lensbaby system, click here: Lensbaby website.

About the author: Doug Sahlin is a professional photographer and author living in Venice, Florida. His latest book shows photographers how to master the Lensbaby system and become more creative photographers. To learn more about the book, download a sample chapter, or to purchase  the book, click here: Mastering the Lensbaby: A step-by-step guide to mastering your Lensbaby and becoming a more creative photographer.

To Post Process or Not To Post Process

Photography is an art form. The ability to translate something that piques your curiosity into an image that conveys a message or tells a story to viewers comes with years of practice, knowing your equipment, and creativity. It also involves knowing what to do with images after you download them to your computer. Beginning photographers snap lots of pictures of things that interest them, but the resulting images rarely hold the interest of people who view them. An image taken by an accomplished photographer holds the viewer’s interest. The viewer’s eye dances around the image, but is drawn back to a specific area of the image, the focal point as determined by the photographer, the area of the subject matter or scene that caused the photographer to stop and take a picture.

A good photographer has the ability to envision an image in his mind’s eye before he brings the camera to his eye. He looks through the viewfinder, which in essence is his canvas, and determines how best to tell a story or convey a message with the elements he sees in the viewfinder. The message can be the beauty of the scene or subject matter; it can be joy or it can be sadness. The artistic photographer looks in the viewfinder and determines which items will convey the message to viewers, and then zooms in until the only those items remain in the viewfinder. He then chooses what he deems is the ideal vantage point, composes the image, and takes the picture.

The image the photographer envisions in his mind’s eye may be a far cry from what the camera is capable of delivering. The image your camera displays on the LCD monitor has been processed as a JPEG image, and may look perfectly acceptable. However, the image you download to your computer, especially if you used your camera’s RAW format to capture the image, is a watered down version of what you envisioned and what you reviewed on your camera LCD monitor. Therefore you’ll have to do some post processing to breathe some life into the image.

Some photographers would argue that post processing is not needed if you capture the image in your camera’s JPEG format. And some photographers think that post processing is cheating. I am a proponent of getting it right in the camera, but I also know that without post-processing, my images would be bland and lifeless. All of the great photographers like Ansel Adams knew this and did their post processing in the darkroom with chemicals and papers that were toxic. Fortunately, we can achieve the same results, and in some instances better results in our digital darkroom.

If you shoot in JPEG format, the JPEG image your camera delivers is compressed during processing. Even though your camera’s RAW image, which in essence is a digital negative, may pale in comparison when you first download it to your computer, you have more data to work with and with a bit of judicious post processing will be able to deliver an image that looks like what you envisioned when you stopped to take a picture. The image below is a RAW capture from my Canon EOS 5D MKll. The image is flat and lifeless, even though it was an absolutely breathtaking afternoon in beautiful Myakka State Park.

When I saw the image in Lightroom, I knew I had my work cut out for me. The image lacked contrast, and was very bland, a far cry from what I saw. With a bit of basic processing, tweaking the tone curve and using split toning in Lightroom, I was able to bring the image to life. The following image is the end result of my processing in Lightroom. But I often use other filters and processing in Photoshop to achieve the images I envision in my mind’s eye. This will be the subject of my next blog post.

Awesome Firmware for Canon Photographers

I’ve often thought that the camera manufacturers were holding out on us. They come out with so many new models, yet I’ve always thought that many issues could be addresses and features could be added with firmware updates. After all, firmware updates are used to fix things like wonky focus. Surely the brain trust of major camera manufacturers like Canon, Nikon and Sony can figure ways to make good cameras better with firmware updates. Well, today my theory was proven true. Roxanne saw some exciting information about a company called Magic Lantern that created firmware for many Canon cameras including our beloved 5Ds. The firmware update was trouble free and now we’re able to shoot HDR with multiple images, create time lapse photography in camera and much more. Today we just chipped away at the tip of the iceberg. The firmware addresses audio, video, shooting and much more.

The firmware was created by a group of geniuses at Magic Lantern. Magic Lantern firmware was designed for filmmakers, but also has some powerful additions for photographers such as enhanced HDR bracketing, macro focus stacking, and much more. The firmware works with the following Canon cameras: EOS5D MKII, EOS 50D, EOS 60D, EOS 500D, EOS 550D, EOS 600D, Rebel TII, Rebel T2I and. Rebel T3I, To find out more about Magic Lantern Firmware and download a free copy for your camera, click the following link: Magic Lantern
One of the people who contributed to this incredible firmware, which by the way is free, was a videographer named Tom Lowe who created a wonderful video called Timescapes. Play the video in this post and you’ll get an idea of the power of this firmware.

TimeScapes 4K from Tom Lowe on Vimeo.

Welcome to My Digital Photography Blog

Hi! I’m Doug Sahlin, a best-selling author of digital photography books, and a professional photographer. I’ve had a love affair with photography that spans five decades. I feel more alive when I have a camera in my hands, and I’m more observant as well. In this blog I’ll post information about new products, my books, tips and tricks, and I’ll also share resources and my latest images. Please feel free to leave comments about my blog posts.

You Tube and the Photographer

Wouldn’t it be great if you could put a slideshow of your most recent images in your blog? Embedding a video in a blog would involve quite a bit of sophisticated HTML. Another disadvantage is bandwidth. If your blog gets a lot of visitors, downoading a large video file is going to take its toll on your monthly bandwidth allotment. You can however, post a video slideshow at YouTube.com. All you need to do is create a free account and upload some videos. Once you have the video uploaded, it’s a simple matter of playing the video on YouTube, and copying the code from the Embed text field and then pasting it into your blog. Embedding a YouTube video in a blog post is a great way to showcase your work. The following is a slide show that is hosted at YouTube.

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