Rico Del Sesto’s (PhotoSynthetix) creative photography of the deserts in Southwest USA is a welcomed change from the edge-to-edge sharpness of traditional landscape imagery. Shot with the Sol 45, he uses the sweet spot of focus to get creative and highlight the beautiful details that can otherwise sometimes get lost.
Math and science were always my strengths, and I continue to take advantage of that in my career as a scientist. When I was younger, I was tearing apart and rebuilding electronics for fun, and was never really interested in art and photography – art classes were just another way to apply technical details to something new. I started to get into photography once digital cameras were readily accessible because it allowed me to utilize a well-engineered device, adjust the settings one by one and carry out experiments, and to evaluate results instantaneously in order to plan the next experiment.
Since my exploration of photography began, landscapes have generally been my focus – to capture the scenes painted by the forces of nature. Early on, though, I felt that I had quickly reached a plateau in photography skills – my photos were acceptable from a technical standpoint, but not stunning from a creative or visual perspective. I became really familiar with the standard “rules” of thirds and leading lines, but there were (and are) so many photographers out there can do that exceptionally well and create amazingly sharp and visually stunning images. I was looking for something new and different, and the Lensbaby lenses drew me in.
My first experience was with one of the original Composer lenses that I took on a camping trip in the Colorado mountains. I was immediately drawn to the fully manual – essentially an analog – lens, that would create images to draw in the viewer with the selective focus, and in most cases adding an emotional aspect to the resulting image. Yes, it is like a tilt-shift lens, but the final images were different – not necessarily a plane of focus, but an area of focus.
For the last year, I’ve been using the Lensbaby Sol 45 while exploring the deserts of the Southwest USA. The fully manual lens has allowed me to disengage from most of the technical aspects of photography and allows the focus to primarily be creativity. Out here in the desert, the landscapes are vast yet still full of detail. There are plenty of photographers that have mastered capturing the beauty of the desert landscapes. Sometimes photos can end up having so much detail that the image gets lost in the noise, and so many details that are tossed through an image can seem chaotic without a specific focal point.
With the Sol 45, the noise is smoothed out at the edges, which frames the image in the color tones of the desert, while the focal area of the lens is still sharp with great depth of field. The net result of this lens is an image with a subject that stands out sharply against a silky matte that gives an accurate, yet moody and mysterious, portrayal of what the desert is like. Even something as simple as a sky full of stars becomes more interesting and engaging with the Sol 45.
More recently, I have added a strong ND filter on the Sol 45 (46mm filters fit on this lens including ND, polarizing, and step-up adapters) to blur movement – I have always enjoyed incorporating time as an element of photography, and this combination enhances the potential creativity. This works great for clouds and water, which seldom appear in the desert, to enhance the silky frame and background to smooth out the dynamic and vast desert.
There is a learning curve to using the Sol 45, mostly in learning how the tilt of the lens and the short-throw focus affect the image, but there are so many exciting opportunities to create with this lens that it is now on my camera more than other lenses. It’s great to see what others are doing with the Sol 45 as well, to inspire and help push the limits of what most of us are accustomed to.