Photography is a journey.
It is a journey that follows many different paths. At times, it is a simple road where the intersection of inspiration and creativity is easy to find. Many other times, the path is a meandering one with many obstacles, and inspiration is much more difficult, if not seemingly nonexistent.
I believe that most all photographers encounter this difficult road at some point(s) along their creative journey. This is all part of the process and is, quite frankly, really necessary for growth. Some may call it a photographic rut, burn-out, or maybe even photographer's block. The important thing is not necessarily how one gets into these situations, but rather how one gets themselves out.
Maybe Gear Does Matter
I'm not sure how many times I've heard the statement, "It's not about the gear." I understand the gist of that statement and believe it to be mostly true. However, there may be times that gear really does matter. For instance, if a new piece of photography gear gets me outside and shooting more, then that's a very good thing. That gear doesn't instantly make me a better photographer, but practicing the art sure does help. Whether it's a new camera, lens, tripod, filter, or something else, if that new piece of gear provides some motivation and inspiration, then it certainly does matter.
Lensbaby Trio 28
Although I had heard much about Lensbaby and had been curious about their products for some time, I had never tried one of their lenses. That changed about three months ago when I received the new Lensbaby Trio 28. I had ordered the lens for my Fuji X-T1 camera and was excited to try it out and push myself and my creativity.
About the Trio 28
The Trio 28 is a lens made specifically for mirrorless camera users, particularly for Sony E mount, Fuji X mount, and micro 4/3rds cameras. It has a fixed 28mm focal length as well as a fixed f/3.5 aperture. The lens is also manual focus only. The most unique thing about the lens, however, is the trio of selective focus optics. It's like having three lenses in one (hence the name).
The Trio 28 is one funky looking lens. It is rather small, extending just under 1.5-inches off the front of my Fuji mirrorless camera. The unique thing about it is the small rotating element protruding from the front that is used to select between the three different optics: "Sweet," "Velvet," and "Twist". These optics are nothing new for Lensbaby, as they offer several lenses that offer one or the other of these options. The Trio 28, however, has all three in this small package, providing for a lot of creative flexibility.
One of the first very noticeable things about the Lensbaby Trio 28 is the size and weight. It is quite a small, and light, lens. In fact, when UPS delivered the box, I wondered if there was really anything in it since it was so light! The Trio 28 weighs in at just under 5 ounces and is 2-inches long by 2.75-inches in diameter. It is easily my smallest lens, and that's a good thing. More compact means that it is more likely to be carried with me to more places.
Despite being relatively small and light, the Trio 28 feels like a quality lens. Although it does appear to use a fair amount of plastic bits for the internals, the mount and outer body is all metal. The metal focus ring has a nice, smooth feel and has a distance scale in feet and meters. Selecting the desired optic is as simple as rotating the dial on the front of the lens. Each selectable optic has a nice detent, which positively and securely locks into place. My one gripe about this feature is that the rotating dial is fairly thin and is smooth, so it can be somewhat difficult to grip in certain conditions.
The Trio 28 was a joy to use. It does take some time to figure out the effects of each of the optics and how to best utilize them, but that's part of the fun. Using a manual focus lens may seem tedious, but with the focus assist features available on mirrorless cameras, it's a breeze. One advantage to a manual lens such as this one is that it causes you to slow down. This is a benefit, as it causes you to concentrate more on composition and shoot more deliberately. Speed is really not a necessity for landscape and nature photography anyway.
I enjoyed using the trio of optics to see how each one performed and the effects they had on my images. That's where this lens really shines and really gets the creative juices going. It's also what makes it so much fun to use. The different effects are generally defined as follows:
- Sweet allows you to get the center part of the image (the sweet spot) in sharp focus while the rest of the image fades into a pleasing blur.
- Velvet creates kind of a dreamy effect, where the image has a subtle glow.
- Twist has a sharp central area of the image while the surrounding area takes on a swirling bokeh.
The Sweet effect was by far my favorite of the three. So much so that I found myself leaving it on this setting most of the time. It worked great for nature shots where I wanted to really draw attention to a particular subject. For certain situations, particularly an urban setting, it has a miniature effect on the buildings and cars if you are shooting from a high perspective. Pretty cool.
Velvet was my second favorite. I quite like that dreamy or surreal look for certain images. This is particularly true for images of flowers. The soft focus effect works nicely to complement the delicate nature of some blooms.
Twist just didn't quite do it for me. For the style of shooting I do, the swirling effect wasn't very noticeable. Admittedly, I need more practice to find situations where that effect would be more apparent and add interest to an image. I will continue to experiment and see what I come up with.
There is nothing quite as exciting as venturing out in a new place or with some new photography gear to capture images. The desire to create kicks into high gear as you become keenly aware of every nuance of light and shadow. This is creative exploration at its finest, and the Lensbaby Trio 28 is an excellent companion to bring along for the journey.
Creative exploration is important, and even necessary, for photographers of all skill levels. It is vital for growth, not only as a way for us to continually improve, but also as a means to find our visual voice. The voice that brings not only meaning, but feeling to our imagery. It's been said that a picture is worth a thousand words. While that may be true, I believe it to be important for those words to have significant meaning, which translates to powerful impact for the viewer of my images.
Personally, I feel that I'm still searching for my own visual voice. It's an arduous task and may be difficult to find in the world in which we live today. However, it is important to point out that it's not necessarily about the destination. It is more about each step along the way and the different paths that we choose to take. That's what is really important. That's what makes it so much fun.
Photography is a journey....