Lensbaby Allure

California Poppy detail (Eschscholtzia californica), Antelope Valley, California
California Poppy detail (Eschscholtzia californica), Antelope Valley, California

Ever feel like you’re in a photographic rut? Like the images just aren’t flowing through the lens and onto the sensor as easily as they should? New and stunning scenery will always help inspire the creative juices, but what if travel isn’t in the cards right now? Sounds like the perfect time to try out a new perspective and a great tool for this is the Lensbaby.

There’s no question that this is the oddest thing you’ll ever attach to the front of your camera, and using it is definitely a throw-back to the dark ages of photography with its completely manual focus and exposure. What started out as a toy-like novelty with a plastic lens and bellows has evolved into a series of high-quality tools each with a slightly different slant (pun intended). Basically its a limited use selective focus lens that mimics the look of a Holga camera with the added ability to move the sweet spot of focus to any desired part of the frame and vary the depth of the out of focus areas. Mounts are available for all major DSLR models and a macro kit is also available.

This is a fun lens to use and creatively its application is unlimited. So the next time you find yourself in creative funk, give this little gem a try and see the world in a whole new light.


©Russ Bishop/All Rights Reserved

Upward Mobility

Climber on Wall Street along the Colorado River Gorge, Utah

Rock climbing is one of those sports in which the sum is definitely greater than the parts. Originally just one facet of mountaineering, it evolved into it’s own specific niche with the advancement of equipment and bold new techniques, which allowed the seemingly impossible to be conquered. But as any climber will tell you, the rewards are much more than just the satisfaction of getting to the top.

For many, climbing is as much a spiritual journey as a physical one. It’s often compared to ballet in the vertical in which a sequence of moves are carefully choreographed and the mind is sharply focused on the next position or placement of protection. And like a chess game, the participant must constantly adapt his or her thinking with each move as the climb progresses.

Because of this requirement of critical thinking it’s not surprising that climbing courses have been encouraged by large corporations across the country to help their employees develope not only trust and teamwork, but focus and attention to detail – disciplines which are critical to success in both endeavors. And of course, the more obvious byproducts of a day at the craigs is great physical conditioning and a memorable adventure with good friends.

Adding photography to the mix is a natural for those looking to capture high action in a natural setting. Whether you’re a participant or just an observer, rock climbers move at a slow enough pace that capturing the moments that define the sport is relatively easy. My favorite lens while climbing is a 16mm, which not only provides a wide field of view to include a good sense of place but has incredible depth of field to make sure everything from the rope in my hands to the distant mountains are sharp.

Horsetail Fall

Evening light on Horsetail Fall, El Capitan, Yosemite National Park, California
Evening light on Horsetail Fall, Yosemite National Park, California

Every February something special happens in Yosemite Valley if the conditions are right. At some point during the month the setting sun aligns perfectly with the canyon walls to the west for several evenings creating a longer than usual glow on the granite walls. And if the winter snowpack is substantial and the temperature warms enough to start the spring runoff, a wonderful cascade forms on the southeast side of El Capitan aptly named Horsetail Fall.

Of course all of this along with the rest of Yosemite’s splendor would be enough to satisfy anyone visiting the valley this time of year. But in addition (as if mother nature is trying to outdo herself) for only a few minutes each evening the alignment of the sun also illuminates the falls from behind creating a brief firefall that is truly amazing. When I made this image, the sky had been rather drab all day and as the magic time approached it looked as if nothing would happen. Then suddenly the clouds parted to the west, the falls began to glow and I had only moments to make a couple of exposures before the light was gone.

©Russ Bishop/All Rights Reserved