Anita Kram has an eye for detail. This is hardly surprising, given her work as a scientist in the fields of cell biology and microscopy, yet it is a trait that serves her equally well as an avid photographer who loves to explore the magic of nature.
She spent many years photographing with a standard macro lens, but felt creatively stuck by the lack of atmosphere she could achieve with her regular gear. Then she discovered Lensbaby, and realized that these specialty lenses would allow her to dial-in just the right effects to bring out her vision.
Photographs © Anita Kram
Kram started working with a Lensbaby Sweet 50 Optic and Composer Pro during visits to a botanical garden. "I let the light guide me to the right subject matter," she says. "This can be flowers, leaves, or almost anything else in nature. It doesn’t matter, as long as I can play with the light."
Since her photography practice is generally limited to weekends, it took Kram a while to perfect her technique for exposure and focus. "Since these are manual lenses, you have to pay attention to the light and adjust shutter speed accordingly," she explains.
With Lensbaby Sweet Optics, image sharpness is isolated to a sweet spot of focus, which can be varied by bending the Composer Pro to highlight the desired picture element. She adds, "In the beginning, I also needed to learn what the range was when using the macro converters, since my standard macro lens covers everything from macro to infinity."
Kram spent several months switching back and forth between the Lensbaby and her regular macro, until she had a breakthrough when concentrating on just working with the Sweet 50. "There is a learning curve to working with these lenses. Take the time to get the hang of them," she advises. "Once you get hooked, you’ll want to try them all."
After mastering her first Lensbaby optic, Kram tried out the Lensbaby Sweet 35 and Lensbaby Twist 60. "The Twist 60 was my favorite lens for several months, especially in combination with the 8mm and 16mm macro converters," she notes. "I spent many early mornings taking pictures of spider webs and dewy grass. I love the light after a fresh night, when everything is wet with dew."
Intended for use on full-frame cameras, the Twist 60 is available as a non-tilting lens that mounts directly on your camera, and as a loose optic for use with the Composer Pro. When used in this setup, keep the lens pointed straight ahead for best results.
With the 8mm converter, Kram finds that her lenses still have quite a good range, while also attaining a close minimum focusing distance. Use the 16mm converter or combine both converters to increase the macro effect, while also adding extra softness. "I love getting close to my subject," says Kram. "That’s why I almost always use macro converters, which are basically extension tubes. I prefer to use ISO 100 and the largest aperture for macro work," she adds. "Then I adjust the shutter speed to get the proper lighting conditions."
When working with macro subjects, Kram advises against the shutter speed becoming too slow when not using a tripod, "Unless you are looking for intentional camera movement," she says.
Kram’s current favorite is Lensbaby’s Sweet 35 optic, which has bokeh that she finds almost reminiscent of the soap-bubble effect one can get from a Meyer Optik Görlitz Trioplan lens, yet costing much less.
"This is a bold comparison, and a bit hard to describe," says Kram, "but the effect of a Sweet 35 is almost like an explosion of bokeh, with a blur that’s not soft, but defined. I love to play with this effect by tilting the lens," she adds. "The background always adds to the image."
An unexpected advantage to most Lensbaby lenses is their light weight. "Carrying a heavy camera and a macro lens is just too much for some people," she says. "But with a Lensbaby attached, I can hold my camera with one hand now, which sometimes helps me to get into strange corners."
Kram now revels in recreating her favorite subjects using Lensbaby lenses and macro converters. "It allows me to see in a new way," she explains.
"It’s already fun to see the effect of the lens when looking through your camera, so be aware of what the light does to your image and play with it," she suggests. "Let go of the idea that everything has to be sharp. Don’t overthink things, go with your gut feeling. Experiment. Have fun. These lenses let you be creative with every subject."
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