Polina Plotnikova & Trio 28’s In-Between Magic

With a background in modern art, UK based photographer Polina Plotnikova typically specializes in still life and flower portraiture. She always thought that creating the picture she sees in her mind was only possible in the studio – until she got her first Lensbaby. The Trio 28 is now a staple on her camera and using its hidden in-between magic feature she makes these unique altering reality in-camera creations.

When and why did you start taking photos?

I became interested in photography in my early teens; my grandfather was a photography enthusiast, and I ended up helping him develop films in his darkroom and watching him skilfully use a nylon stocking stretched across the lens of the enlarger to achieve an effect that these days we use Photoshop for.

I started taking pictures when I was in high school and was addicted to alternative creative techniques – multiple exposure, intentional camera movement etc. All this led me to several photography-related jobs in museums, galleries and image libraries. This lasted for over 15 years; I was fortunate to have worked with the highest-class photography, absorbing a lot in the process, before eventually developing my own creative style – which has been a very daunting process.

What does creativity mean to you?

I love creating pictures in my head and then working towards taking the perfect shot. They say that a photographer is either a picture taker or a picture maker. I am firmly in the picture makers club. While fully appreciating the “what you see is what you get” approach, I am much more interested in chasing an ever-elusive image that appears in my minds eye, an image that conveys my feelings and emotions, rather than remains a mere statement of fact.

How were you first introduced to Lensbaby?

I used to smudge Vaseline over my filters to get a dreamy, selective focus look. When I saw images taken with Lensbaby Sweet 35 I was immediately hooked. Lensbaby for me was truly “love at first sight” – in that I loved the way in which the world could be seen through my viewfinder. Creative focusing and partial blurring are wonderful tools for highlighting areas of my image that I want to draw a viewer’s attention to.

How is the experience shooting with a Lensbaby different to shooting with other lenses?

As someone not striving to record life as it is, but rather to capture the mood and the atmosphere, I absolutely love that Lensbaby gives me the chance to do it “in camera”.

What about the results of shooting with Lensbaby lenses do you love?

Visually, Lensbaby optics allow me to introduce a translucent, dreamlike quality, which is often exactly how I feel about things, places and people that I photograph.

What about the process of shooting with Lensbaby lenses do you enjoy?

I don’t find that shooting with Lensbaby is any different from shooting with any other lens: you always need to consider what your optic can and cannot do. I do love that it makes me think in even more detail about my composition and focusing. It is a shame when Lensbaby is used for merely gimmicky effects rather than for its full creative potential.

You’ve shot a number of photos with the Trio 28. What is it you love about that particular lens?

By the time I got my Trio 28 I already had, and used extensively, a lot of other Lensbaby optics. To be honest, I didn’t expect anything spectacular to start with, but then quickly realised that I was wrong. Having fixed aperture may sound restrictive, but I find that it helps me concentrate more on a certain image style. Having three effects in one lens is a great feature and, combined with wide angle, it gives me a really good range of photographic subjects to chase with it.

How do you use the Trio 28?

It now lives permanently on my general purpose camera body – Canon M5 – which I carry with me all the time. I use this setup as an artist would use a sketch pad – constantly making quick sketches and drawings, not necessarily particularly accurate, not trying to make them true to life, but rather mixing reality with my own imagination.

How do you use Trio’s special hidden feature?

I love shooting in-between settings to create multiple exposure-like images. In order for this to work, an image has to have a solid thought-through composition, so this does require pre-visualisation and a good sense of the result that you are trying to achieve. I usually shoot between sweet and velvet optics. Trio 28 also has the best flare I have ever seen. When shooting on sweet settings it produces an amazing “serrated” flare when the sun is partly obscured by something.

To access Trio’s hidden feature simply rotate the front dial and leave it halfway between a set of optics. This will create an intriguing in-camera single exposure with a double image. Learn more about how to use Trio in our Step-by Step guide.

All images shot with Trio 28.

Check out more of Polina’s work on her website and Instagram.

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