Anita Kram Explores the Magic of Nature with Lensbaby Lenses


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

Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark III; Lens: Lensbaby Sweet 50 Optic and macro converter; Exposure time: 1/200, ISO 100

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."

Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark III; Lens: Lensbaby Sweet 50 Optic and macro converter; Exposure time: 1/320, ISO 400

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.

Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark III; Lens: Lensbaby Twist 60; Exposure time: 1/200, ISO 200

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.

Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark III; Lens: Lensbaby Twist 60 with macro converter; Exposure time: 1/500, ISO 200

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."

Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark III; Lens: Lensbaby Sweet 35 Optic with 8mm macro converter; Exposure time: 1/100, ISO 200

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."

Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark III; Lens: Lensbaby Sweet 35 Optic with 16mm macro converter; Exposure time: 1/200, ISO 200


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Lovely images! Now I need the macro converters!!

Hi Delaney, and thank you from Anita for the compliment on her work. Macro converters are indeed a great investment if you're looking to do a lot of macro work. Thanks again for taking the time to post a comment, as well as for reading the Explora blog!

Dear Kram, your images are very, very beautiful!!! I don't know wich one I liked the most!

This is the best interview with information about the macro converters that I've found - the only place that mentions that the focusing range is limited. I've just bought the converters after being inspired by Anita's photography and initially I thought I was doing something wrong - now I know I'm not. Using the converters is definitely a learning curve, but I'm making progress - and I'm only on day two. Anita, your images are so beautiful.

Hi Karen, I'm so glad you found this story to be helpful, thanks so much for your compliment about the interview. While foreign language and different time zones made for an interesting interview process, Anita's scientific background really helped in drawing out key points to mention in this story. Here's wishing you much success in your own work with these whimsical converters ... Happy shooting!

Dear Karen, I just read your comment. In the beginning you have to get used to the converters and figuring out if you need one or two. You will get used to it. I often change while taking pictures, it has become and easy thing to do. And I so love the effect of these lenses. My normal macro lens is always on the shelf. 

Dear Anita, your photos are really beautiful. They capture the way nature feels, not just how it looks!

Dear Meryl, that is the best compliment you could give me. Thank you so much! 

Thank you for sharing your vision and lovely images.  I have enjoyed playing with the Lensbaby Velvet 56.  Now you've made me want to purchase the whole suite....

I know! It's so tempting because they are all different and it's fun to experiment! 

Beautiful images, Anita. Thanks for sharing.

Thanks for your comment Karen, as well for reading the Explora blog!

The first image, at the top of the article, with the grass and bubbles of raindrops, which lensbaby lens and other equipment was used, how was this done, it is just lovely, the only photo not described...thanks

Dear Virginia,

It was made with the Canon 5D Mark III, Composer pro and the Twist 60 optic with both converters (24 mm).

ISO 100, 1/1000s and F2.5 (wide open).

The light was bright and soft on that part of the grass. The backlight made the grass sparkle and therefore the bokeh circles are visible in the background.



Thanks for responding to Virginia's question and providing the image data, Anita. We currently do not have a way to include caption information for the top shot in the stories we publish, so your providing this information in a comment is much appreciated!

Dear Anita,

Greatly appreciate sharing your wonderful images.
I am deeply impressed.
Notwithstanding the interesting effect of those lenses, only your enthusiasm and efforts made your photo wonderful and creative, I believe. Thanks again for your sharing!

Thanks for adding your voice to this story JY. I second your comments about Anita's enthusiasm for her subject matter, and I am sure that she will be very touched by your compliment. Thanks as well for reading the blog!

Dear JY Ahn,

Thank you so much! I always feel you have to make an effort for a beautiful picture. But I love how these lenses add extra magic. Thanks again for leaving such a sweet comment!