Welcome to the new Lensbaby Blog
Featuring: fantastic photos, creative tips, interviews, and giveaways
Starting with: a Lensbaby Composer Pro giveaway and an interview with Lensbaby Inventor and Chief Creative Officer Craig Strong!
Find out how Lensbaby grew out of Craig’s evolving photo style and enter to win a Composer Pro by telling us what your first camera was in the comments below!
Update: this giveaway is now closed and the Composer Pro was awarded to Carleigh Tea (congratulations Carleigh!).
Before inventing the first Lensbaby lens, what sort of photography were you doing?
Craig: As a photojournalist I aspired to take photos as candid and as honest as ones I’d seen in National Geographic as a child. National Geographic always amazed me – their photographs weren’t portraits: they were from a fly-on-the-wall viewpoint.
For years my goal was to make my style, my techniques, even myself as transparent as possible and just show the viewer what they may have seen if they were in the space I was when I took the picture. I didn’t want to influence the subject at all and I carried this idea from internships to newspaper assignments, magazine and agency work – through my entire career.
Wow, that’s not what I expected. I guess then, were there experiences within the attempt to be ‘transparent’ that led you to experiment with alternative lenses?
It wasn’t until I saw the work of Krista Gaylor who – we were sharing a studio – and she put up these 16×16 images that she had shot with a Diana camera.
I didn’t even know what a Diana Camera was! She’d cross-processed the film which I’d never seen before. The images were blurry with crazy saturated colors and high contrast…they were technically flawed yet emotionally they were some of the more powerful images I’d seen. I just felt really drawn into them and they were…just really powerful. That made me curious, like: ‘Ok, if my style were not so invisible how would I want to portray the world around me? How would I interject myself into the scene?’
That planted the seed but it wasn’t until a few years later when I first went digital that I started playing with non-traditional optics.
I found myself in New York City about 3 days after I got the d30 and due to that camera’s crop factor my 20mm lens wasn’t wide enough to shoot the buildings. So I got this little conversion lens to screw on to the front of my prime lens and it gave me these almost-fisheye photos that were blurred at the edges – a little bit like the images one would get today with the Lensbaby Super Wide conversion lens. The blurred edges and distortion reflected the energy and drama of New York. So when I returned to Portland I kept experimenting with various optics until I found something I really connected with: the Lensbaby Original.
Was that experimentation enjoyable, I mean, did you feel like you were developing new skills or improving your style in a fun way?
Learning something new is highly motivating for me and it’s something that just… I get excited about it!
If I grab a lens I’ve never used before I use the heck out of it – especially if it’s something we’re considering for our product line. I want to know, ‘is this something compelling?’ is this something I connect with?
I think every image I shot on vacation four years ago was shot with the zone plate. The zone plate isn’t the kind of thing you’d imagine vacation photos being taken with but they’re some of my favorite images. I look back on those shots and that experience and I go, ‘whoa, i wish I could discover the zone plate all over again.’
I like that – it makes the photographs more nostalgic. The optic’s effect is tied to a specific time period: similar to an artist choosing a specific color palate for a certain time period.
Right! My kid’s will look back on family photos and go, ‘Oh! That was 2008 – when dad was playing with that weird new lens!’
See more of Craig’s photos and adventures on the Lensbaby Forum.