My lensbaby saved my life. Big statement? Ok maybe, but it has definitely played a big part in keeping me sane in 2020!
Faced with weeks at home in lockdown at the start of the pandemic, I knew I was going to need to lean on my photography to get me through – supervising home learning for five kids while simultaneously juggling a toddler was definitely NOT what I signed up for! But as the weeks wore on, I became increasingly frustrated and bored with taking the same old shots around the house day in and day out. It was time to mix it up!
Around the same time, we had a ‘Rainbow Reflections’ challenge in the Grads group, so I called on some of the tricks I’d learned in the ‘Exploring the Creative’ workshop a few months earlier and dug out an old CD to shoot thru. When I saw the amazing rainbow effects it added to my photos, I was hooked!
Lensbaby to the Rescue!
But juggling my camera and the CD while chasing the kids around the park soon became cumbersome! So I began looking for a more practical alternative which would give me similar creative effects. It didn’t take me long to stumble across the Lensbaby Omni Creative Filter System.
Lensbaby Omni is essentially a ring that screws onto your lens (including adapter rings so you can adjust it to fit different thread sizes), with magnets to which you can affix a number of different crystal wands and films to add creative effects to your photos…
Self portrait with the Lensbaby Omni affixed to my camera, f1.4,1/100, ISO 1000, 35mm
I ordered mine from Amazon, and when it arrived a few days later, I was eager to try it out! We headed to the park across the road at golden hour (our one allowable daily outing under local lockdown rules) and I got straight to experimenting…
The rainbow film, combined with the stretch glass crystal wand, makes for swirly bokeh with a hint of colour, f1.6, 1/160, ISO 400, 35mm
The crystal seahorse wand creates an effect similar to double/multiple exposure which adds a sense of movement to my images, f2.2, 1/320, ISO 800, 35mm
It didn’t take long before I was hooked. As well as being easier to use than the CD I’d been initially using, the effects were also more consistent and predictable. This meant it was easier to match up the vision I had in my head with what I captured in camera. Even so, the multitude of ways to adjust, pair and tilt the varying wands still made for plenty of scope to explore!
The rainbow film added a cool flare to the sun in this golden hour shot, f2.8, 1/1000, ISO 100, 35mm
More rainbow film, this time adding a subtle rainbow leak to this indoor portrait of my daughter, f2, 1/250, ISO 2000, 35mm
The crystal seahorse caught the sunlight and added creative bokeh in this outdoor portrait, f1.8, 1/500, ISO 100
Experimenting With Light Leaks
Lensbaby also sell two different expansion packs, a Color Expansion Pack and a Crystal Expansion Pack. A wee while after buying the original system, I added the Color pack to my collection. It comes with two different crystal wands and a range of colour films and gels to add coloured light leak effects. These have turned out to be my faves!
The colour films add a cool light leak effect to indoor portraits, f2, 1/200, ISO 320, 35mm
More coloured light leaks, this time outdoors in full sun, f2.5, 1/400, ISO 200, 35mm
The colour wands have a reflective effect, seen on the left of the frame in this self portrait I took peering in on my family through the kitchen window, f1.4, 1/160, ISO 200, 35mm
Some of my favourite images are ones where I have used a combination of the different wands and films…
The rainbow film and colour gels created cool effects when combined with the twinkle lights on the Christmas tree, f1.2, 1/160, ISO 400, 85mm
We spent a lot of time hanging out on this oval during lockdown, the colour wands and gels add a little bit of magic to the mundane, f5.6, 1/250, ISO 100, 35mm
The best thing for me about the Lensbaby Omni system is the creative freedom it gives me. Freedom to break all the rules (after all, Picasso did say art is about learning the rules so we can break them!). Freedom to lean into the process without focusing so much on the end result. And freedom to push the limits. Plus the intrigue of never being quite sure exactly how an image is going to turn out. Just like in the film days!
The crystal seahorse wand and the colour wands add a sense of movement and chaos here which pretty much sums up my toddler’s backyard waterplay perfectly! f2.5, 1/400, ISO 200, 35mm
My Top Three Omni Tips
Choose a prime lens. I have used my Omni system with my 24-70mm zoom lens, but it definitely gives better results with a prime. My fave lens to use with my Omni is my 35mm.
Use a wide aperture. I like to keep my aperture around 2.8 or wider so my subject is tack sharp and the background blur bleeds into the Omni effects.
Look for directional light. The crystal wands and colour gels give the most dramatic results when there’s lots of directional light to bounce off them. I love using mine at golden hour, in full sun, or near a window where the light coming in is quite strong.
Lensbaby Omni system outside your budget? Play around with some creative effects before you commit to the investment with these creative hacks you can try to mix up your images a bit…
A CD, reflective side facing towards your lens. Make sure not to let it touch your lens to avoid scratching the glass.
A ziplock bag around your lens (try spraying it with water droplets for cool peripheral water bokeh)
Twinkle lights hanging in front of your lens to add bokeh
Colored cellophane taped around your lens to create coloured light leaks
Most importantly, enjoy the process!
Emma Davis is a CLG Instructor, Advanced Grad, and an ex-pat Kiwi living in Sydney. She has a background in journalism and photography, and is mum to six gorgeous muses who indulge her love of hunting and capturing light.
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