Lensbaby Artists: Rich Ormanowski

Lensbaby Artists is a virtual exploration of a gallery featuring the work of talented Lensbaby photographers. Each short video celebrates the work and story of a different Lensbaby artist. Follow the series to get to know these inspiring shooters.
Meet Rich Ormanowski

Growing up, I would play with my grandfather’s cameras, one of which I still have today, a Zeiss Ikon Tenax c. 1953. He was an avid photographer, having served and photographed during his time as a medic in WWII– just candids though, not battles. I suppose that is how the photo bug got planted.

I never had any intention of being a photographer when I grew up, though I remember always having an interest in looking at photos… family photos, magazines, books, etc. An early favorite was Mathew Brady and his images of the Civil War. I liked seeing the history captured, and overall, I just liked the feel of the photos.

In 8th grade, I started taking photos, though I don’t remember why or how it started. I remember photographing with a camera my father won as a service prize. The camera was a Kodak VR35, a point-n-shoot, which I can still picture today (no pun intended!). I used that for the rest of 8th grade and on into high school, just photographing for myself, capturing memories. Never did I have the intention of being published in a yearbook or anything like that, I just wanted the memories of friends before we parted for college. In fact, the yearbooks just magically appeared each year in high school. I never knew anyone who worked on it, and I rarely saw a photographer for it. Now, karma I guess, that is exactly what I do professionally. I am a yearbook photographer for many, many schools. Maybe it’s payback for not knowing anything about it in high school?

As a communications major in college, one requirement was photography and darkroom. I caught on quickly and loved spending time in the darkroom developing, printing and experimenting.

Post-graduation, I sent resumes to many places including a photography company and a museum that was hiring for a photo printing job. The photography company interviewed me on a Monday in September. I think I started the following week and haven’t left. If you name it, I‘ve probably photographed it for a yearbook– sports, dances, graduations, class photos, architecture, portraits, etc. I received lots of on-the-job training, and I just got good at it. The job offers a lot of variety, and I don’t have to sit in an office. Now that digital is where it is today, my job is much easier. No more having to hope I got the photo, I can just look and know.

Lensbaby Artists Rich Ormanowski photo grid collage abandoned buildings old car barn train winter snow Burnside 35

With the freedom to travel for work, visiting both cityscapes and the countryside, I began to notice older buildings, older cars, antiques, etc. and started wondering about their history. Objects, buildings, and places have their own histories and I feel that, by photographing or capturing them in some way, I can help preserve their physical memory rather than seeing weathered buildings fall into nothing, becoming just another empty lot. I seem to be attracted to weathered, abandoned, rusted, broken subjects the most, although a flower now and then doesn’t hurt, nor does street photography.

Some things call for black & white, others for color and even some for infrared. I determine my style based on the mood of the subject and my mood as I set out to photograph. I also base my decision on the time of day for lighting (golden hour vs. high noon), bright sun vs. overcast (which I prefer the softer light). Rarely do I have a concept or a plan. I let things flow. I will pass up photos I see many, many times until I feel the mood of the photo is right and my mood is right.

As eBay progressed over the years, I was able to try many cameras: medium format, large format, Polaroid. If I don’t like it, back it goes on eBay for resale. Digital is here to stay, not only for quality but for convenience, and I’ve learned to love it because I can switch from color to black and white, see exactly what I have and get what I want.

I don’t over photograph a subject, but I will get enough of what I need until I feel happy– sometimes it’s 4 or 5 frames at different angles or exposures, sometimes it’s one frame if I’m lucky when I’m doing street photography. When I’m shooting street photography, not only am I people watching and trying to blend into the background to get that one great photo, I am also watching the light on the buildings, the chained up bikes and anything on the street. Many times it’s not just the subject of the photo, but the light on that subject. I can see something 100 times and not really notice it properly until the light is right.

Lensbaby Artists Rich Ormanowski photo grid collage abandoned buildings old car barn shirt graveyard Burnside 35
My photography subjects have varied widely in recent years, from people to still life and now to abandoned buildings. I fell into this passionately after hearing Matthew Christopher of Abandoned America speak about his experience photographing abandoned schools, hospitals, etc. and finding out he offered workshops with unbelievable access to places that don’t really or shouldn’t really exist anymore– an abandoned state hospital, former lace factory and a trolley graveyard just to name a few. Being able to access and capture places like this gives me a glimpse of the history, a history I try to pass on through my photos.

A few years ago, when I was flipping through a magazine, I saw a baseball stadium that looked miniaturized. This is when I became interested in Lensbaby. Until then, I tried 4×5 tilt-n-shift and even perspective control lenses with mixed results. There is nothing like a Lensbaby though. My main lenses are the Edge 50 & Edge 80 Optics and now the Burnside 35. The Edge Optics allow me to control what I want my viewer to see in my images, and they help to set the mood by allowing me to pinpoint my focus. I love the lenses wide-open for that narrow slit of focus and the blown out fore & backgrounds that still allow my mind and my viewers’ minds to fill in the details that should be there.

My Lensbaby lenses are great creative tools for architecture, still life, portraiture, and especially street photography as they help to isolate a single object out of the chaos of the street. These lenses help me to slow down, actually look around, and concentrate on something rather than just seeing, grabbing and moving on as digital is known for. Manual focus helps with this too. With the Burnside 35, the feel of the lens and its vignetting ability right in camera gives me the desire to photograph random things just to see how they will look– crisp, sharp, saturated color in the center with a subtle fall off in sharpness or well-contrasted black & white images right in camera with detail in the shadows and highlights.

I have a passion for photography that grows little by little every day as I travel and find new things to photograph. Digital imaging and Lensbaby have allowed me to create artistic images of ordinary things that many would not consider photographing.

Rich’s Kit

Lensbaby lenses and optics
Edge 50 Optic
Edge 80 Optic
Composer Pro
Scout with Single Glass Optic & off brand macro, wide & telephoto attachments

Cameras and the rest
Nikon D800
Nikon D500
Nikon D3
Nikon D7100
Nikon D300s (converted to Infrared)

Sigma 24-105 F4
Sigma 120-300 F2.8
Tokina 12-24 F4
Rokinon 16mm F3.5
Nikon 17-55 F2.8
Nikon 28-70 F2.8
Nikon 80-200 F2.8
Nikon 85 F1.8
Nikon 60 F2.8 Macro
Nikon 24-120 F3.5-5.6
Nikon SB800 (x4)
Alien Bees 1600s (x4)
Rouge Flash Benders (x2)
ThinkTank belt system with various lens/flash pouches
ThinkTank Airport Roller Bag (for storage)
ThinkTank rain gear

OrmoPhoto.com

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