Victoria Hederer Bell is a photographer who lives in Wisconsin and takes breathtakingly beautiful photos of her children and her surroundings. Learn more about Victoria’s photographic process and inspiration, below.
When & how did you first discover your passion for photography?
I received a Minolta 35mm film camera and two lenses as a high school graduation gift. The idea of photography was appealing to me, but at the time I was entirely immersed in drawing and painting. I left for college in pursuit of “art” and used my camera casually, not willing to relinquish painting time to learn something new. Then a few years later I became a mom. Yup, it’s a common story for so many parents. My camera was always at the ready and I quickly began to also appreciate the artistic release photography provided. Now six kids later, my paint brushes are dusty, but not my camera!
How did you first discover Lensbaby? What was your first Lensbaby lens, and what lens or optic is currently your favorite?
I saw an ad in Popular Photography magazine. The name “Lensbaby” is what hooked my “mama-fied” brain and as I researched the product I discovered the photography of Salbjörg Rita Jónsdóttir. I was intrigued with her Lensbaby portraits, a blend of what appeared to me as photography and painting. I immediately bought a Composer with the double glass optic. My favorite at the moment is the Composer Pro/Edge80 combo. LOVE my Edge80!
You have a beautiful, very photogenic family which seems to provide endless, wonderful photo ops. How do your kids feel about being in front of the camera, and how much direction do you provide them when you’re photographing them?
Every one of my kids has had a lens pointed at them since birth. It is a given that Mom will be sprouting a camera at the merest hint of an event or milestone. (YOUR FIRST JELLY BEAN! click, click, click…) So, to a large extent, they’ve tuned me out. The groans can come when I have an “idea” which often involves props and muddy feet. (Oh no! Not the field again!) But they’re adventurous and creative and usually take my idea and totally own it. Mostly we just have a great time together.
Your style of photography is very colorful, vibrant, and full of life. Have you consciously cultivated a certain style or do you just shoot and edit in a way that feels natural for what you’re trying to capture and convey?
I have bad eyesight. I see mostly in light and shadow, color and form. Details such as leaves, blades of grass, print on a sign etc. are lost to me. This pared-down view gives me a strong awareness of light, color and shape that has certainly impacted my style. I guess I don’t consciously cultivate a style, but I do like to experiment and am always looking for ways to learn and improve.
What are your favorite Lensbaby images?
My youngest daughter, Charlotte, is as feminine as her name. She loves singing, dancing and all things girly. She is a natural model…loves being in front of a camera. I used the Composer Pro/Edge 80, angling the lens towards the sun to get some flare. I was lying in the grass to catch the beautiful swirls of light in her skirt.
My youngest, Roderick, was three when this was taken. At the time he was obsessed with wearing glasses. He asked me to take this picture so I could know what I looked like when I had my glasses on. I guess I must look pretty cute! Taken with Composer/Sweet 35 to emphasize Roderick’s extreme adorableness.
This image was made on my daughter Esther’s 14th birthday. She writes, films and stars in her own movies. After a long run of orphan-themed films, she was sweet enough to let me photograph her in costume before hanging up the old nightgown for more grownup pursuits. She’s also an amazing photographer. Here I used the Composer Pro/Edge 80 to focus on the almost-ready ears of corn.
You have everything from absolutely stunning Edge 80 portraits & landscapes to equally stunning and also hilarious fisheye images. How do you decide which Lensbaby lens/optic to pull out on a given shoot?
Thank you! I typically have two scenarios when it comes to choosing an optic. The most usual is that I have a vision for the image and I use the optic that fulfills it. The second one is more like, “Hmm, I’ll try the plastic and see what happens” or “I need to practice with the zoneplate so that’s all I will use today.” This second method is a perfect way to learn how the different optics perform and has helped me to understand why I would want a particular optic for a particular image.
I do have combos that I regularly use. The fisheye optic mounted on a dedicated Scout is a powerful tool for environmental portraits and landscapes. I like to place subjects near the center of the frame and far enough away from the lens to minimize distortion. Then I angle the front of the lens up a bit for a huge sky with a beautifully curved horizon or down to emulate the roundness of the earth and capture everything in sight for miles.
The fisheye is also great for kid and pet portraiture for a fun, silly look when the lens is placed close to the subject.
Another combination I love is the double glass optic with the macro filter kit and/or the macro converters. The Edge 80 alone also works great for macro with its built in extension, plus the macro converters can be added for greater magnification. The kids and I raise monarch butterflies from eggs every summer. I’ve gotten some amazing macros using Lensbaby gear.
Any tips for photographers new to Lensbaby, manual focus, etc.?
Put that ‘baby on your camera and use it! Do a mini-project and make some Lensbaby images every day for a month. Post your photos on the Lensbaby forum for feedback.
Don’t be intimidated by manual focus; a Lensbaby is just as much about blur as it is focus. A good exercise is to put your camera on a tripod and practice focusing on something stationary with words on it, like a stack of books or a can of soda. Use a medium-ish aperture such as f/5.6. Practice placing your sweet spot or slice. Bend, focus, bend, focus. Don’t move the camera, just the Lensbaby. Notice how the further you bend, the more your composition changes. Completely defocus and slowly refocus. Watch the blur. Do the same exercise with your camera pointed at a leafy sunlit tree.
If you have poor vision like I do, manually focusing through the viewfinder could be a problem. I use a magnified hood that fits over the LCD monitor on the back of my camera and then I focus using live view. I absolutely could not focus with any accuracy without this setup; it works really well for me.
Do you sell or show your work anywhere?
Photography is a great joy and helps fulfill my creative urges, but is only a hobby for now. However, I do license some of my images through Getty. If you’d like to see more of my photography you can visit my Flickr stream.