How I Fell In Love With My Lensbaby Trio 28
Late last year I had a birthday, and asked my wife for the Lensbaby Trio 28 as a gift. She’s not a photographer, so asking her to “figure out something cool” (and photography related, of course) for a birthday gift is like asking me to read something in Welsh. Who can figure that out on their own? I had to be specific, and specific I was.
So she got me exactly what I asked for - the Lensbaby Trio 28 - and I thought “cool, this will be a fun little thing to play with”. I had seen example photos on the Lensbaby website but other than that, knew very little of the lens itself other than it seemed to be “different”. I wanted to try it out, and the lens is fairly priced (read: not expensive) so I figured it wasn't too big a deal to get. I knew that if I didn't like it, at least it wasn't a pricey mistake. I didn't really have any expectations about it, other than it was something new to experiment with.
But I was way off! I had no idea I would come to absolutely adore this lens in such short order.
You see, I have spent most of my photography life seeking those “perfect” pictures. Now to be fair, I don’t claim to have ever actually achieved anything near perfection (plus, perfection doesn't exist anyways), but that was the goal (as misguided a notion as that is). What I mean by that is that I wanted to always have nailed the focus, see limited to no noise in the finished image, have the light be well-balanced and have everything be sharp, crisp and essentially lovely all the way around. You know, perfect. :-)
So over the years I have found myself shooting lots of HDR and doing copious edits in post production to achieve my vision for a shot. And I’m still doing all that with my non-Lensbaby shots, by the way - and plan to continue. I haven’t abandoned my ship, so to speak.
But this lens has definitely opened my eyes a bit wider and given me a different (and I would argue) better perspective on things. It has taught me to think differently about my photographs.
From the initial frame taken with my Lensbaby, I knew I was in for something completely opposite of what I had always aspired to. This is not about perfection - it’s about creativity and fun. It’s about something almost whimsical, yet still beautiful. It's not about the pursuit of perfection but rather the pursuit of the simple joy of taking photographs, flaws and all. I'm hooked. I love it.
Sure, we all want to take amazing photos, and sadly that leaves many of us (myself included) disappointed when things "don't go our way" when out shooting. Maybe the light was crap, or the weather was crap, or whatever. I have had many outings where I return with plenty of images, but none of them end up being "great" shots. They don't feel creative or interesting, but rather just a picture that I took of something I saw. You know, to put it bluntly, they lack feeling.
With this Lensbaby, it just feels different when you are taking pictures with it. I absolutely adore the look of these shots, and the bokeh is just gorgeous to my eyes. Especially at night in a city when all the lights are twinkling, this lens just helps create very compelling images.
It's caused me to think about ALL the photographs I am taking, either with the Lensbaby or without it. The pursuit of perfection is a terrible thing, frankly, and I'm done with it. Now that doesn't mean I am giving up on capturing awesome photos. In fact, quite the opposite. I think you have to have the mindset that you are out to capture an awesome photo. But my definition of an awesome photo is very different now (and this is a change that has been coming for a long time, it's just that the Lensbaby tipped me over the edge, so to speak). Awesome doesn't have to mean technically perfect, it just has to have a depth of feeling and communicate a message that is greater than just "I saw this and took a picture of it".
I just returned from a trip to London (and all of these images are from that trip), and brought along this lens “just in case”. I had a lengthy list of spots in that gorgeous city that I planned to photograph with all my usual tactics - tripod, cable release, brackets a-firing, tightly controlled composition and framing - the works.
And while I did all of those things - in fact, I attacked them with vigor - I also started putting on the Lensbaby afterwards for something a little less “controlled”. And you know what? I had so much fun with this little lens! Generally speaking, I was using it in late afternoon and on into the evening (in other words, in low light since sunset is close to 4pm in London in the winter).
I wasn’t expecting much, to be honest, since I was shooting at a fixed Aperture of f/3.5 (which is how the lens operates, and an aperture I would rarely use) and was moving the ISO up fairly high (at least high compared to my normal ISO 100 setting). Plus it’s a manual focus lens and that often requires some quick work and anticipation. Again, contrary to my usual “plan it out, set up on the tripod” sort of thing.
But with this lens on my Sony I feel creative and inspired right away. You can take a mildly interesting spot and turn it into something beautiful in a single click. The lights look great, the center focus is really sharp and the gradually increasing blur just works for me.
My favorite subject matter is cityscapes and street scenes (hence the visit to London) and using this lens on the streets of London was absolutely perfect. The 28mm focal length is ideal for this type of shooting (and I have been using the Sony 28mm f/2 for several years, and love it for this subject matter too). The lens has 3 different optics which give off 3 different effects: Twist, Velvet, and Sweet Spot (and you can read about them in the specs description here). I have found that I mostly stay on the setting for Sweet Spot - it gives a crisp center area of focus with lovely bokeh emanating outwards from there. It’s gorgeous, frankly. I love the look.
So I am now convinced this is exactly the creative burst I needed in my photography. While I will continue my normal shooting techniques, I foresee bringing my Lensbaby with me all the time for some fun, whimsical yet still beautiful shots. It’s great to find a new creative outlet in photography!
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