I am a huge fan of the Lensbaby optics. I have been shooting Lensbaby for nearly 9 years, using the Composer Pro and just about every optic available for that base. I find that when shooting flowers and other macro subjects, Lensbaby is my go-to lens system, with effects created by the optics lending themselves very nicely to these subjects. I also find that I pick up the Lensbaby when I am in a creative slump and I get inspired again. Their marketing slogan is “see in a new way” and their lens systems do just that.
For the longest time my favorite Lensbaby optic was the Sweet 35. I loved the effect this optic gave when shooting abandoned factories. Instead of a very crisp grungy shot that is typical for that type of environment, the results were a soft colorful type of grunge that I found appealing. As amazing as the Sweet 35 is, Lensbaby is always thinking of new ways to inspire photographers. With the development of the Velvet 56, another great tool has been added to their arsenal of creativity.
Lensbaby advertises that the Velvet 56 as a “classic portrait lens that gives you a velvety, ethereal start with a smooth finish”. The optic is both sharp and soft at the same time, letting the subject shine while gradually moving the viewer’s eye into the image. I am not really a portrait photographer, so I did not expect to add this lens to my collection until I saw some flower images taken with this lens. The results were stunning and I knew I had to have it.
My first outing with the Velvet 56 was to photograph Virginia Blue Bells and I was tremendously pleased with the results. After that I decided to experiment some more during one of our Meetups in a tulip field. During the event, I shared the Velvet 56 with one of the group participants and she was so thrilled with her results that she ordered one the next day. But do not think this optic is limited to flower and portrait photography, because that simply is not the case. As noted above, one of my favorite subjects is all things abandoned: cars, houses, industrial sites, you name it. To see how the Velvet 56 stood up against the Sweet 35 in this environment, I decided to try it out during our Meetup at the Lonaconing Silk Mill. Again the results were exciting and different. The soft lead into a sharp subject resulted in totally unique images, which can be a challenge for me in an environment where I have been shooting for years. Again, the Lensbaby system has reawakened my vision. The effects of the Velvet 56 are so unique that it is clear this optic could be used for all sorts of subjects.
Don Rosenberger is co-owner of Road Runner Photographer Tours (RRPT), offering national and international photo tours. RRPT also hosts a Meetup group in the Mid-Atlantic with events in PA, DC, VA, and WV.