Doug and Roxanne Sahlin are enthusiastic photographers, long time Lensbaby shooters, and the catalysts behind the active Facebook group called Lensbaby Artistry. We had the opportunity to ask them some questions about their history, business, interests, and some of their plans for the future. Check out the interview and their photos below.
Can you tell us a little bit about how you got started with photography, and how it fits into your lives now?
Doug: I started photography at a very young age. My mother gave me a film box camera as a gift, and I used it to create images of things that intrigued me, as well as the people and places I loved. I graduated to a 35mm rangefinder when I was a teen. Eventually I worked my way up to a 35mm SLR. I went kicking and screaming into the world of digital photography when my favorite zoom lens broke, but quickly became a digital devotee when I realized the power of the digital darkroom known as Photoshop.
Eventually I co-authored a book on Photoshop. When my publisher saw my images, he contracted me to write a book on digital photography. Then I formed a wedding and event photography company. I had the greatest job in the world, being an author and photographer. Then I moved to the west coast of Florida.
During the move, I became acquainted with a local photographer named Roxanne.
Roxanne: I also got started many years ago dabbling with film cameras, but at that time I was a commercial artist. Despite the strong attraction, my time was spent furthering my art career. I never lost the desire to pursue photography, and after a few years of using point and shoot cameras I got into DSLRs and became an avid bird photographer with APS-C (crop sensor) cameras for the extra reach with the lens.
Then I met Doug. Doug is sneaky. He does not appear to be sneaky, but let me tell you that he is! He is a die-hard landscape photographer and I was devoted to tromping through the Florida terrain in search of birds. Se we would go on shoots together and I’d lose the light for birding and he’d hand over a lens and he would toss out a casual aside “here, play with this and see how you like it!”
Somewhere along the line I went completely over to a full frame DSLR and my interests expanded to encompass a much wider range of photographic subjects.
Photography is a passion that Doug and I share and it is an integral part of our lives. We became partners in business when we started Doug Plus Rox Photography. We became partners in life when we got married after that. So photography is both a serious pursuit and what we do for fun and relaxation. We both have a difficult time leaving the house without some sort of camera by our side and I cannot imagine that ever changing.
When did you discover Lensbaby? Was it love at first tilt? How do you like to use it in your work?
Doug: My Lensbaby journey started at an NAPP (National Association of Photoshop Professionals) seminar in Tampa, Florida. During a break I visited the B&H booth and noticed some photographers gawking over this strange little device that looked like a cross between a vacuum cleaner and spare parts from R2D2. The B&H salesman let me try one and I ordered one on the spot. When it was delivered, I went out on my first Lensbaby walkabout. The rest as they say is history.
I’ve used every Lensbaby created — even the Control Freak — and all of the optics. Now I use the Composer Pro, which is my most used lens. I also use the Scout with the Fisheye and Soft Focus optics. I love the soft dreamy look you get when you create an image with a Lensbaby. It suits me well for the types of photography I love to do: landscape, portrait, and macro. I’ve even used it when photographing weddings.
People sometimes give me strange looks and ask questions when I shoot with a Lensbaby. I remember photographing a one-of-a-kind racing Jaguar in an exhibit at the 12 Hours of Sebring Auto Race. I asked the Jaguar rep questions about the car and he asked me about the lens. When he saw the pictures I created of the Jaguar XK-13 with the Lensbaby, he was intrigued and said he would buy a Lensbaby. This is one of many Lensbaby lenses Roxanne and I have sold due to our enthusiasm for Lensbaby photography.
Roxanne: My Lensbaby obsession was Doug’s fault! Early in our relationship we were dating and going on photo shoots together. Doug was new to the area and I was introducing him to my nature haunts and he was introducing me to the delights of shooting Le Mans racing, street photography, and landscapes. He came over one day and said he had something for me and handed me a strange little lens. In Lensbaby years it is an antique of sorts as it was pre-Composer and is labeled Lensbabies.com and looks like a concept product for the Muse…without the magnetic apertures. This one has apertures that were seated in with a rubber washer that you snugged into place and removed with the handle of the aperture case. It was given with such a generous spirit that I had to al least make an effort to take it on shoots and give the appearance of using it. My gosh, I was a bird photographer, what was I supposed to do with that odd lens?
I hate letting something get the best of me and darn if this was going to beat me. It tantalized me and it rather terrified me at times and I had more images in the trash than I kept. But somehow the keepers became more numerous and instead of trying to best it I found that somehow without knowing how, I was enjoying it.
Doug’s next gift was a Composer and that was the turning point for me. Suddenly all of the pieces fell into place and I was totally in love. I started with the Double Glass Optic and quickly acquired more optics. I now use a Composer Pro and a Scout that I use primarily with my Fisheye Optic and I own all of the optics.
I use my Lensbaby for everything. Even when going to photo shoots that require the use of my regular lens, the Lensbaby is in the case and will get playtime. I love using it for portraits, pet photography, landscapes, street photography and it has travelled along to Le Mans racing events to shoot sleek race cars. It’s my favorite lens for shooting the pits in the dark pre-dawn hours as they are prepping the cars. I love the ability to place the sweet spot (or slice) of focus on the key element I want to highlight and to render the surrounding area in varying degrees of creamy blurs and wonderful bokeh. I’ve done portraits where I shot with my portrait lenses and then brought out my Lensbaby and did a session with those. I love when you show the photos to clients and they love the images, but I always save the Lensbaby images for last. Invariably there is a gasp of surprise and an awed “How did you make that so dreamy?”
Do you have a favorite lens and optic combination?
Doug: That’s a tough question. My most used optic is probably the Double Glass Optic, but I also enjoy creating photographs with the Sweet 35 and Edge 80. When I shoot with the Double Glass optic, I generally use the f/4.0 or f/2.8 aperture disk. The aperture I use with the Sweet 35 and Edge 80 depends on the subject matter. I rarely use an aperture smaller than f/5.6 with these optics, and lean toward the larger apertures most of the time. Lately I’ve been experimenting with the Soft Focus optic when shooting landscapes. I’ve been using the Plastic optic as well when it’s cloudy. I love the saturated colors you get with the Plastic optic.
Roxanne: Oh my gosh! That is like being asked which of your children you like the best. My Double Glass Optic is kind of my all-purpose do anything optic. I can do anything with that. But my favorite is based on the image I have in my mind when I see a scene. They each react to lighting conditions in their own unique way. Because they each handle it in such distinct ways I will often shoot a scene with 4 or 5 optics because I know they will each give me a totally different feel. I adore the Plastic and Single Glass Optic in the fog. The Zone Plate Optic gives me mystical looking seascapes in the right light. They all give me something rather magical and I cannot choose just one!
You started a very active Facebook Community called Lensbaby Artistry. We love looking at the posts, and we often find wonderful photos that we never would have seen otherwise. Can you tell us about the history of the group? Why did you start it? Did it go the direction that you thought it would? What’s your favorite part about the community?
Roxanne: We wanted to have a Lensbaby photography challenge and Doug and I sat in our office one night processing images and kicking “what ifs” back and forth on how we’d do it. At one point we turned to each other and exclaimed “we could do this!”
It was driven by a desire to find other Lensbaby photographers who wanted to push the limits of their creativity by participating in a monthly challenge. There were a lot of photo challenges online in various places but we could not find an organized Lensbaby photo challenge that was ongoing. What we hoped for was a group that would allow members to enter the challenge or just participate by posting on the timeline and we wanted an environment that welcomed the Lensbaby newbies as warmly as the seasoned pros.
Doug: We’ve done our best to create a friendly community where Lensbaby photographers can share their favorite images and favorite ways of using their Lensbaby gear. What’s great about the group is that it’s a vibrant community where beginners and seasoned Lensbaby photographers can share their enthusiasm and knowledge. We’re totally blown away by the creativity of our group members and the diversity of images that are posted.
Lensbaby Artistry began in March, 2013. We were ecstatic when 100 members joined our group, and now we’re over 1100 strong. We’d like to thank Lensbaby for their support as well as: Alien Skin Software, French Kiss Textures, Nik Collection by Google, OnOne Software, PhotoBert Cheat Sheets, Think Tank Photo, Topaz Labs Software, Totally Rad Software, and Wacom Technology.
What are your future plans and aspirations for your photo business, and for Lensbaby Artistry?
Roxanne: Lensbaby has become the heart of my personal work and I want to incorporate that into a more solid portion of our portrait/business photography.
We have plans in the works for the future of Lensbaby Artistry and growing it into something more accessible to all Lensbaby photographers for the monthly challenge while still maintaining our Facebook presence. There is a vital community of Lensbaby photographers in other communities like Google+ and Flickr, or those who operate solely via their websites. We want to open the doors a bit wider to the Lensbaby community and see what happens.