We all love crisp, sharp, landscape images. Let’s face it, so does our social media following with all of those likes, hearts, and new followers. In this article I want to encourage you to be brave, try something new, stretch yourself photographically through new technical aspects and also through compositions you may have never tried before.
During a recent road trip along the historic Route 66 I felt the need to stretch myself and photograph this place in a way that honors the ghosts of what was. I grabbed my keys, my Lensbaby lens, my camera and headed out. Here is the best advice I can share from that adventure.
I have always had a love for alternative cameras and lenses in my film days, so when I was able to try my hand at the Lensbaby in 2010, it was a welcome challenge. I really enjoy capturing scenes that are different, with unique perspectives and finding ways to turn the mundane into extraordinary. Trying anything new or different can be frustrating in the beginning, especially when you can see the image in your head, but it might not come to you quickly.
I had to really work that lens and get to know it, in order to finally get the look I was after. Once I nailed it, it was then much easier to replicate. The satisfaction from mastering a Lensbaby is very rewarding. This is the beauty of it; you develop a unique look and style for each lens you get accustomed to, and the results will never look quite like any other photographer's results. Your images will always hold your individual mark on them. There is a sense of discovery and satisfaction that comes attached to each Lensbaby. It is a challenging yet very rewarding journey.
Change the way you see
Don’t be afraid to change the way you see the world. You may find that by doing so will also change how you communicate through your art and the way you photograph.
Sometimes we can become obsessed with achieving technical perfection in this digital camera age. Although technical perfection is important, exercising your creative vision is part of being an artist.
I try and approach places with a sense of wonder when I am photographing them. When you have the creative capacity – whether through the equipment you use or a composition style all your own – there are feelings of magic and mystery awaiting you. Approaching photography with this sense of play, experimentation, trying new filters, lenses and ways of seeing will expand your tools and challenge you to be a better artist.
Let go, have fun, explore
The biggest piece of advice I can offer in regard to photographing with Lensbaby lenses or any new lens is to let go. So many people get easily frustrated when they start out with manual focus because they come from a background of auto focus.
With trial, error and learning curve, there may not be the instant gratification from society that you have become accustomed to in your primary work. Be ready to really have to work for your images, but take time to delight in this process. Once you realize that it’s ok to experiment, have some fun, and engage with your new lens, the magic starts to happen and the 'letting go' will provide you with freedom to create. It will make you a better photographer in the end, both creatively and technically.
There is mystery in the unknown
This past year I went on a road trip along Route 66. When I think of road tripping I think of freedom and of letting go, so it makes perfect sense that I used my Lensbaby almost 100% of the time. I have always felt that it conjures up a sense of nostalgia for me. There is something in the manual focus, the hazy blur, the feeling of the unknown. There is quite a lot to be said for not knowing what kind of magic might unfold. This parallels the road trip for me in general, but especially so of Route 66. I was able to capture this disappearing American roadway in a way that honors the memory of this legacy. The images were also able to replicate the feelings I had along this journey, as if they had exposed a little imprint of my soul on each picture. Lensbaby captured the ghosts for me, as we passed through, as we let go, and we tried to take a little bit of that magic back with us.