Astrophotography might not be the first subject that comes to mind when you pick up your Lensbaby. But one look at these incredible night sky scenes by Sweet 35
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I was born right after a pretty bad hurricane on the coast of Alabama. The story of my father racing to take my Mom to the hospital with chainsaw in-tow always made me smile.As a child, I loved looking at old family photos and seeing people I recognized from a time period I couldn't remember or wasn't even there for. Photos of my parents or grandparents captured as teenagers always blew me away. Realizing my grandmother wasn't always a grandmother even though that's all I knew her as. Those photos and memories are important to have. For my 13th birthday, I received my first camera and I have been trying to capture memories since.
When did you discover your passion for visual creation?
As a child, I would watch scenes from movies that made me feel something. I remember the rope bridge scene in the second Indiana Jones film always had me coming back for more. Rewinding, rewatching and repeating. The picture of Indiana holding his machete to the rope was so crystal clear and powerful to me. After that, I wanted to make movies. I was in film and video production for years and enjoyed it very much. I actually wanted to direct but went with my first love of photography since I could do that alone. I believe that visually small details are less important than the whole picture. I try to capture some kind of emotion in my photos and Lensbaby lenses seem to allow me to do that the most.
What are your favorite subjects/genres to shoot?
My favorite thing to do is go on a long road trip with no schedule. One summer it took me five days to drive the 27 hours from Chicago to Colorado because I was stopping along the way for photos - 3,500 photos. So landscapes, especially mountains make me feel so at peace just thinking of them. I've also been shooting more portraits lately. I noticed I wasn't doing as much photography when I wasn't traveling. I really need photography in my life, it takes me away from all the noise. So I started shooting portraits to interact with other people and I love it, especially with Lensbaby lenses. They seem to capture another level of something that I just can't put my finger on. A small fleeting moment and feeling. A mood and an emotion better than any other lens out there.
What is it about night skies that you really enjoy shooting?
I kinda forget that the stars are up there sometimes living in the city. So when I leave the city and day becomes night, I become small and insignificant in the scheme of the universe. The endless stars make my problems feel micro-sized compared to the endless universe. I hadn't seen too many Lensbaby astrophotos and had never really thought about trying it before, so I did it. I was very pleased with the results too. I can't wait to try it on my new Edge 35. The wider the better to capture the world around me.
What do you think about the idea that traditionally landscapes should have perfect edge-to-edge sharpness?
I used to be one of those pixel peepers - sharp, sharp, sharp but I grew out of that. Of course, I've spent a lot of money on pricey perfect auto-everything lenses. But a photo to me is less about how clear some small details are and more about the whole piece. About how it makes you feel as a whole.
How is the experience of shooting with a Lensbaby lens different than other lenses?
Using Lensbaby lenses, especially the Edge effect, gives me control over what's more is in focus and what isn't. Like a movie director, directing the viewer where to look. That’s pretty control-freakish but I'm fine with that. I also experiment more with them, taking chances that I wouldn't normally take with ordinary lenses. Usually, I end up pleased with the results of these often split-second choices.
What does creativity mean to you?
I suppose creativity would be doing things your own way and trying new styles of photography. Or creating photography that traditionally is very straight forward & putting your own twist on it. For various reasons I'm not going to get into, my life has been a little blurry. So when people talk about the blur of my photos I tell them that so is life and memories. And over time they become less clear and more blurry, but once captured they are with me for life, for better or worse.
Where do you find inspiration and motivation for your work?
Music. Always music. Landscapes mean getting lost in my headphones and portraits with my little Bose speaker. I really never take photos without music. I'm either exploring, lost in my headphones, or with a subject and a speaker. I've dealt with depression most of my life. The lack of motivation and hopelessness that brings is hard to break free from, so a lot of my work is darker. I've been told it's depressive photography. But there's so much photography that doesn't make me feel anything at all so if someone feels something from mine, that's enough to make me happy.
How do you continue to push yourself to grow & evolve as an artist?
I try to shoot new subjects I haven't yet, in ways I haven't yet. I recently shot a two-night burlesque festival with only the Edge 50 & 80. It was pretty challenging; manual aperture, riding the iso & shutter on the camera, and manually focusing a selective focus lens. I was doing all of this with beautiful dancing, moving subjects in darkness and in spotlights. It was difficult but fun and rewarding.