Project Disrupt: Paul Wilkinson

Paul Wilkinson (AKA Mr. Twig) is one half of Twig’s Branch Photography. He is no stranger to stepping outside his comfort zone, but wanted to push those boundaries even further as part of Project Disrupt. Armed with the Sol 45, the Lume Cube Lighting Kit, and the Mountainsmith Camera Bag he took to the colorful streets of Birmingham, UK to create this striking urban ballet series.

Here at The Branch we are known for shaking things up, we’ve built our brand on being different and pushing boundaries. We are the unconventional conventionalists, the square pegs in round holes, we are lime to tequila – we bring the zing. So when we heard about Lensbaby’s Project Disrupt campaign, we wanted in.

Our initial idea was to take a trained ballet dancer out to the inner city streets of Birmingham’s Custard Factory, to juxtapose the movement and elegance of dance moves against a harsh urban backdrop.

As Mr Twig is generally more of a natural light photographer, incorporating anything involving led lighting, like the Lume Cube, was already going to push us out of our comfort zone. We are wedding and boudoir specialists, which often involves a large amount of portrait style photography, meaning the added element of a dancer moving continuously was going to throw another curveball into the mix.

But pushing us technically out of our norm wasn’t enough, we wanted the entire look and feel of the shoot, and resulting images, to feel like one big disruption. Being in the midst of wedding season, Mr Twig had little time to road test the Sol 45 and Lume Cube before the photo session, so shoot day was a real baptism of fire. In his own words, the Sol 45 quickly became Mr Twig’s ‘new favourite thing.’

The lens has a sharp centre point which gradually softens to a stunning blur towards the edges. The lens can be unlocked and moved in a way similar to a tilt shift lens, or Lensbaby’s composer pro if you are familiar, so you can control the point of focus. The Sol 45 also has two bokeh blades that can be pulled across the front of the lens, creating an incredible distorted pattern. The blades can be pulled across the entire lens for an extreme look,  or partially for a softer effect. The Sol 45 is an incredibly sharp piece of glass and is fairly easy to use. It only has one aperture (3.5) so all you need to concentrate on is shutter speed and focusing.

One thing that quickly became apparent was the need to take a few extra steps back away from the subject when shooting – a few early captures were lost due to the blur being incorrectly placed. However, once into the swing of things, the Sol 45 and Mr Twig became quickly acquainted, making for some stunningly artistic shots with the lower part of the frame artistically blurred.

When the time came to add the aforementioned angel wings, Mr Twig had a very specific look in mind which required our model to be backlit by an off-camera flash to create a celestial glow. It was then time to break out the Lume Cube to light the front of shot, and what job this little light did! The cube is an incredibly strong LED, portable light, that can be conveniently controlled via an app on your phone. It is perfect for adding an extra hit of light where needed and is a punchy piece of kit, especially considering its size.

Last, but not least, we should mention the third item we were so kindly gifted as part of this project – the Mountainsmith gear bag which was the perfect kitbag for the day as it was just the right size for a single camera/lens. The bag is well padded providing adequate protection and it looks pretty stylish too.

We really enjoyed road-testing these three bits of kit, all of which exceeded expectations. But the star of the show has to be the Sol 45, what an incredible lens, we love the subtle effect we’ve managed to capture in this selection of images. Huge thanks to Lensbaby for helping us achieve our vision for this project. We promise to continue disrupting the norm for as long as we’re in the game.

Check out more of Twig’s Branch Photography on their website, Instagram or Facebook.

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