Roxanne Sahlin is a long-time Lensbaby photographer and the co-founder (along with her husband Doug) of the Facebook group Lensbaby Artistry. A talented artist and mentor to many, she holds a special place in the hearts of Lensbaby photographers everywhere. Two years ago, she was diagnosed with cancer. Roxanne made a conscious choice to live with the cancer, allowing her to find true joy and happiness in all that she does. “Life is good and Lensbaby has been a huge part of my ability to continue to to shoot here and there and to still find the magic in doing so.”
Read on below to learn more about Roxanne’s Lensbaby journey.
“I got started many years ago dabbling with film cameras, when I was deep into my career as a commercial artist. Despite the strong attraction, my time was spent furthering my art career. But 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 cameras.
Doug and I got together on that first photo shoot on May 24, 2009 at a nearby Florida Wildlife Management Area, where we discovered we were soul mates. 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, I’d lose the light for birding, and he’d hand over a lens and toss out a casual “here, play with this and see how you like it!”
Somewhere along the line I went to a full frame DSLR and my interests expanded to encompass a much wider range of photographic subjects. I became interested in Miksang Photography or Contemplative Photography (With our eye, mind, and heart fully unified and engaged in the present moment, we can see the world as it manifests to us and express the experience of seeing in this way with our camera.) The appeal of this photography style opened so many possibilities shooting with a regular lens or with a Lensbaby lens – it was a way of seeing deeper into the subject and to truly see with your heart and soul. But for the moment, I was still a birder at heart.
Photography is a passion 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, and partners in life when we got married. 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.
My first view of a Lensbaby was during our first outing. We were going down an empty road when Doug started saying “Oh, Oh, Oh!!!!” while digging like a demented gopher through his camera bag and suddenly did a lightening fast lens change to this odd little….well, was it really a lens? It looked like a tiny Michelin tire mounted to rotate in a circle. What in the world IS that? Before I could ask a word (and before I could stop the van!), he was tumbling out of the van and going at high speed toward…..a bush?
Had I really brought this man I don’t know out here with me? Should I be worried? I stopped the van, backed up and parked and watched to see what he was doing. He had head and shoulders buried in some of the odd shrubbery near a turn around area and seemed delighted at his find. I would not see the results of that outing for a few weeks and only discovered that the odd little lens and optic combo was called a Lensbaby that day.
I DID finally get to see the results of his quick departure from the van that day and my interest was piqued – here was a macro shot that had picked up the network of neon veined vines covering the bush. It was this wonderful little abstract shot that I love to this day.
They say misery loves company – my first personal experience with Lensbaby was more on the miserable side.
I was introducing Doug 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 one of those strange little Lensbaby lens.
In Lensbaby years it is an antique of sorts: it was pre-Composer, labeled Lensbabies.com, and looked like a concept product for the Muse got into a fight with a vacuum cleaner hose and lost…without the magnetic apertures. This one had apertures seated in with a rubber washer that you snugged into place and removed with the handle of the aperture case. At a point I picked my favorite aperture and just let it stay there!
It was given to me with such a generous spirit that I had to at 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, rather terrified me at times, and I had more images in the trash than I kept. But the keepers became more numerous and instead of trying to beat the optic, 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 use my Lensbaby for everything. Even during photo shoots that require the use of my regular lens, my 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 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 render the surrounding area in varying degrees of creamy blurs and wonderful, sparkling bokeh.
I’ve also fallen in love with the Velvet 56: it is the magic lens that can do nearly everything, soft and dreamy with a touch of detail that draws the eye. Stop it down and get more detail, like going through the layers of an onion. If you’re more about macro, with the minimum focusing distance of 5 inches you will not be disappointed. You cannot pin this lens down as a portrait lens because it does equally well for landscapes.
Contemplative (Miksang) Photography takes on a new look without destroying the concept of the shooting style. You can add ND filters and other filters behind the lens cap and let your creative powers run free.
I suppose it is because they are the first ones to come down the pike, but I still dearly love my Sweet 35 and Edge 80 optics. I guess it is because I cut my teeth on those, learned the optics, and then I was used what I learned with the Sweet 50 and Edge 50.
Every day I experience moments filled with beauty, moments with memories too special to leave behind. Lensbaby lenses help me create photos to capture the moment and history which allows me to revisit the moment and the emotion it evokes at any time.