Capturing the essence

We were visiting family again earlier this week, and, as always, I brought my camera along. I had a new lens, the Sigma 12-24 f.4 Art lens. This lens has a very wide angle of view, and is great for landscape images. I also brought another relatively new lens, the Lensbaby Soft-Focus II. Lensbaby lenses let the user choose where the sharp part of the image will be. I have three of these lenses now. Along with the Soft-Focus II, I have the Velvet 56 and the Spark. The last of these, the Spark, is the most difficult to use, but in some ways the most rewarding. Let’s start with it first.

We had a birthday to celebrate (my daughter’s), and a game of Apples to Apples that was played, and the images made story-telling easy. For example, guess who won this game?

For more of these family shots with selective focus, go here.

The Sigma wide-angle lens does a great job capturing the big picture. On the relatively flat land of Ohio farm country, you want to give a sense of the immensity of the sky over that land. Paul Johnson, in his Art: A New History, pointed out that the landscape paintings of the 19th Century were about the skies as much as about the land. The same is true of photography: cloud patterns in the sky can make or break an image.

I used the Soft-Focus II lens as well, sometimes indoors (as in the Vespers service shot below) and sometimes outside, with a close-up of apple or pear blossoms, and of a swollen stream. With landscape images, the Soft-Focus gives an odd feeling of immediacy, as though you could reach out and touch the parts of the image that are in focus. A tilt-shift lens sometimes gives the same impression. It is as though you are looking at a model or replica of the real thing, and it is within reach. For more images like these, go to the same gallery as linked above, and scroll down.

Blossoms in soft-focus
Soft-Focus II lens captures warm light at church
A stream in eastern Ohio, after heavy rains