On behalf of Tammy, Mary Lou, Julie and myself, we want to thank all of you who made our 2010 Virtual Photowalk such a wonderful adventure!   We had a wonderful group of dedicated virtual photowalkers that shared a wide variety of creative and inspiring images throughout the year.  I was really inspired by some of the images that graced the pages of your blogs. 

I know that several of this year’s photowalkers are already signed up over at Elements Village for next year’s classic-style 365 Challenge.  If you’re not already signed up we hope you’ll be joining us.  You can find the details HERE.   We’ll be keeping this blog available for awhile so you can reference the various tutorials and links if the desire strikes, but we won’t be maintaining it for next year’s journey.  The activities surrounding the 365 challenge for 2011 will take place over on Elements Village.  We hope to see you there!


December Themes

Coming down the home stretch! One last month to explore new themes on our year-long Photowalk. I hope you’ve all found it fun and rewarding as well as finding your photography skills improved. Here’s the December List – your final group of inspirational themes.

Far From Home
Happiness Is…
Looking Up

Have you been wondering about a challenge for 2011?  Wonder no more – check out this thread over at Elements Village.  We’re scaling back and getting back to basics for next year and we’re hoping that everyone continues the journey with us.

December is just around the corner and we’re approaching the end of our 2010 Virtual Photowalk.  What are your thoughts on your photographic journey over the past year?  Looking forward, what are your thoughts and plans for your photography next year?

Plans are being made for next year too – you can join in the conversation over at Elements Village at this link here.

November Themes

We’re almost at the end of our trek – just two more months to go.  The holidays will be keeping us all busy this month and next so here’s your November list to help keep you engaged in the final months of our Photowalk.

Many or Multiple

Blogging Group Addition

Please add Val to your list of bloggers. She will be in Group A.

Listed below are the November/December Blogging Groups. Please remember there are some bloggers who are not in a group. If you have some time to comment on their blogs I’m sure it will be appreciated. Also, don’t forget to keep your Readers and Discussion Group Lists up to date.

Everyone is doing a great job!! While I am not posting anymore I am still enjoying everyone’s photographs. Hang in there…you’re almost to the finish line!!

Group A
Karen S.

Group B

Show & Tell

It’s time once again for Show & Tell!! Choose a favorite image from your September posts and share it with everyone via Mr. Linky. If you would like you can repost your photo in a new post and add why it’s your favorite.

1. Esther Farnstrom 2. Jens

Powered by… Mister Linky’s Magical Widgets.

Click here to add your link:

Blogging Group Signup

Can you believe it, we have almost completed another year of blogging!! Let’s finish the year with some more wonderful images. Be sure to signup for the November/December Discussion Groups. If you want to remain in a discussion group please indicate in the comment section below by writing “discussion group” and if you no longer wish to be in a discussion group please write “opt out”. If you decide to “opt out” and want to “opt in” at a later date you can do so during the next signup period.

Please respond in the comment section by October 20th.

The new groups will post on October 29th. Please remember to comment within your group at least once a week, more if possible and commenting outside of your group is always appreciated.

Pat Beaudoin is an amateur photographer living in beautiful Northwestern Ontario, Canada.  She took up photography with retirement and credits her involvement with Elements Village as well as the friendships arising from our annual blogging challenges with keeping her motivated and learning.  A visit to her blog, PatB Photo Impressions, will reveal her talent and affinity for landscapes and macro florals, as well as natural light portraiture.  Pat has embraced the Lensbaby as a tool to express her creativity and we’re lucky to have her share her experiences and suggestions in this guest post.   Thank you, Pat!


Getting Started With Your Lensbaby

Having enjoyed these Guest Blogger articles a great deal over the past months, I appreciate the opportunity to give back to this talented group and share my Lensbaby experiences.  I am by no means an expert with the Lensbaby but hopefully I can help someone get started with a creative and fun diversion from our usual quest to capture the technically perfect photograph.

That’s the great thing about a Lensbaby lens… using it encourages you to put aside the technicalities and the “shoulds”  and be a little more free-form.   Lensbaby images tend to be less literal, which is a great thing to help left-brainers like myself to unwittingly switch to the more creative right-brain in the process.

About the Lensbaby

When I first purchased my Lensbaby, I had no idea what the lens was all about…

The Lensbabies are actual SLR lenses, which means you need a camera with interchangeable lenses to use one.  You cannot fit a Lensbaby to a point and shoot camera, nor will it attach to an existing lens.   Lensbaby offers mounts for Canon and Nikon, as well as mount options for several other popular SLR cameras.

The lenses are without electronics, therefore, there is no digital connection to your camera.  Focusing is performed manually.  F-stops cannot be set from the camera but instead take the form of magnetic aperture disks which are placed onto the front of the lens itself.

Automatic light metering in aperture priority mode is available for almost all digital and film SLR cameras except for a few certain Nikon bodies.  Manual mode is also available to set your shutter speed for metering.

The focal length of a Lensbaby is approximately 50mm on a full frame camera, which equates to about 80 mm on a 1.6 crop sensor camera.

Lensbaby currently offers three versions of the lens – which model is right for you depends on your personal taste and the type of results you are looking for. Rather than list all of the options and accessories available, visit the official Lensbaby site for a more definitive description than I can give here.  There is also a great chart which compares the different optics, here .

Of the three lens models, the Composer is the easiest to use and my Lensbaby of choice for that reason.  Designed with a ball and socket rather than the tubing of the other two lenses,  the front element stays put where you aim it and focusing is achieved simply by twisting a standard focusing ring.

My Composer lens came with a set of Aperture Rings and case, the Double Glass Optic (the sharpest optic) and that cute little cleaning square you see in green.   I must admit I fell for the cutsie “baby” packaging.

I added the Macro Filters very quickly as I knew I would be photographing flowers, followed by the Single Glass Optic that is a little softer for portraits.  Next came the Telescopic and Wide Angle accessories, but I have to say that they don’t get used – I tend to use my regular lenses for these types of shots.  Only recently have I purchased the Soft Focus Optic, hoping to enhance my floral work.

Lensbaby Basics – Getting Started
The Lensbaby can be frustrating to use at first but with practice you will very quickly get the hang of it.  The lens is very much about selective focus and your goal is to have your subject in focus within the sharp “sweet-spot” and surrounded by the unique graduated blur of the Lensbaby.   You accomplish this by moving the focus from the middle of your image onto your desired point of focus or “tilting” the lens (unless your focus point is intentionally in the middle of the frame of course) and then fine-tuning the focus.

Step 1
For the first week or so I would suggest that you only practice manually focusing with the focusing ring on the lens.  Aim to get a centred subject in focus.   Most of us have depended on the camera to tell us when our subject is in focus and you will find it surprisingly tricky to judge on your own.  Take this initial time to retrain your eye, I found this to be my biggest hurdle.

  1. Attach your Lensbaby to your camera and set the camera to either Aperture Priority or Manual Mode.  Use your normal metering setting.
  2. Keep the lens in the centre position (straight ahead, not tilted).  You are able to lock it into that position if you’d like.
  3. Insert the f/4 aperture ring with the magnetic tool provided.  F/4 is a good aperture to use while  you are learning – it will give you plenty of blur and a large enough sweet-spot to recognize.
  4. Frame your subject in the centre of your viewfinder using the centre focus guide.  Turn the focusing ring until the centre of your subject comes into clear focus.  Concentrate on the small area within the circle of the viewfinder’s centre focus guide.  You may also find it helpful to adjust your camera’s diopter on the viewfinder.
  5. Snap that shot!    Take a lot of shots, refocusing each time.

My centred practice with f/4  – sooooo many deletions, very few keepers!

Step 2
Now that you have mastered manually focusing with your Lensbaby, it’s time to start tilting or “moving” your lens.

Assume that the focal point of interest, which you want to be in sharpest focus, is not in the centre of your composition.  What you will be doing is moving the sweet spot of focus, from the centre to your desired focal point.  The confusing part at first, is that nothing changes in your viewfinder; the camera’s centre focus guide does not actually move in the viewfinder and your “relocated”  focus point becomes more visible only after you have fine-tuned the focus.

  1. Continue with the f/4 aperture disk.
  2. Begin with the lens in the centred position on your camera (not tilted).
  3. Frame your composition with your subject or focal point of interest off centre or choose a smaller element of a larger, centred subject.
  4. Using the manual focus ring, bring the centre area, whatever is in view within that circular guide area on your viewfinder, into focus as you did in step one.
  5. Now, grasp the barrel of the lens, think about where you want the sharpest point of focus to be and move the barrel in the direction of your select focus point.  How much to move the barrel is basically guesswork at this point, so don’t be taken aback by that or think you are doing something wrong.
  6. Fine tune your new point of focus to it’s sharpest with the focus ring once again.
  7. Press the shutter.  That’s it, you’re on your way!

A small tilt of the lens goes a long way; experiment with small tilts and larger ones to see the effects.  It will seem awkward and cumbersome at first and you will miss your mark, but not for long.  Once you have put in some time and grown comfortable with the lens, placing your sweet-spot will become faster and more intuitive.  Continue on to experiment with all of the aperture disks from f/2.8 to 22.

Only a small tilt of the lens was needed to place the focal point on the rim and f/4.  (This is only a 2″ vase so I also needed the +4 macro to get close enough).

Whoops – I was aiming to place my focus point on the chipmunk’s head, instead landing on his body.  Focus looked fine on the camera’s LCD screen but not once it was displayed on the computer screen. (image cropped for example purposes)

A large tilt of the barrel here to place the sweet-spot on the head and draw the viewer’s attention to the inukshuk with the strong directional blur. 

 Lensbaby Tips  
  • Don’t delete your images until you see them on your computer.  The LCD panel makes it difficult to accurately judge the sharpness of your focus point or appreciate the blur effects.
  • Don’t take just one shot of a subject when shooting, especially in the beginning.  Stay away from moving subjects for awhile –  I still avoid them.
  • If your vision makes seeing the sweet-spot difficult, try adjusting or replacing your camera’s diopter magnification.  Others have had more success with matte and split-prism focusing screens.
  • The larger the aperture hole, the smaller your sweet-spot will be and the more blur effect you will  have  i.e., the least amount of focus to your image.  In contrast, the smaller apertures like f/11 and up, will result in more of the image in focus, as in a landscape.
  • Since you are using aperture rings, the camera’s metadata will not include the aperture size.  At the time of an aperture change, hold up an equivalent number of fingers to indicate the new size  and take a picture.  Or take a picture of the aperture disk itself to record the change.  This works when you change optics or add a filter as well.  Later on my computer, I record this info with the first image of the series and delete the indicator pictures.  Beats taking notes.
  • Having to manually focus is actually a good thing, it will slow you down.  Really look at your subject, decide which is the most important part and how you can use the sweet-spot and the blur to emphasize your viewpoint.
  • Do not obsess about the degree of sharpness in your chosen sweet-spot.  In my opinion, as long as your subject is in obvious focus a Lensbaby image will look fine.  Don’t set an expectation that it always stand up to 1:1 scrutiny.
  • Crop in-camera.  In this case, cropping your image during post-processing means you are throwing away at least part of the Lensbaby effect itself. 
  • PLAY with this lens…  it does wonderful things with highlights and you will often get surprise results that you will love!

An example of  the softer Single Glass Optic, f/5.6  &  1/160s, SOOC with a contrast adjustment

The Soft Focus Optic came with 3 of it’s own special Aperture Disks as well as the full standard set.  These create a sharp underlying image with a soft overlay.

Another example of the Soft Focus Optic but with the wider aperture disk.


I most enjoy creating photographs that have an impressionistic or ethereal lean to them – something I only realized through experiencing a more creative outlet in the Lensbaby.   My final tip and my preferred way to use the Lensbaby, is to use it wide-open, meaning without an aperture disk.  This gives you a very small sweet-spot at about f/2.0 and very little DOF.   Flowers are my favourite and I will often pair that with a macro filter.

© Pat Beaudoin 09/2010