Good Things Come in Threes: The Lensbaby Trio 28

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.  


Grinter Sunflower Farm at sunset, using the Sweet optic on the Lensbaby Trio 28.

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.

Purple Coneflower; using the Twist optic on the Trio 28.

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).  

Kansas City Skyline; using the Sweet optic on the Trio 28.

The Look

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.  

Grinter Sunflower Farm; using the Velvet optic on the Trio 28.

The Feel

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.     

Warm autumn sunset; Velvet optic on the Trio 28.

The Performance

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.

Country sunset; Sweet optic on the Trio 28.

Creative Exploration

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....      












Top 10 of 2016 (#10)

I've been doing a version of this for the last couple of years, so wanted to continue the tradition. This year, I'm doing it a little differently in that there will be a countdown, starting at number 10 and going down to number 1, and my very favorite image for the year.  There will be one photo each day from now until December 31.  

These photos are not only what I consider some of my best, but also some of my favorites for this year.  It was very difficult narrowing it down to 10.  My initial list had close to 75, which was reduced to 25.  From there, it wasn't easy to get rid of 15 of my favorites to get it down to the final 10.  After much deliberation, this is what I've come up with.  Hope you like them as much as I do.

Each image has a story.  From that story and the process that goes into to making the image, an emotional connection is made.  I will share a little about each image for each day, including the process that went into making the capture.  Of course, the click of the shutter button is only the beginning of the creative process, so the post-production of the images will also be explored.  

Without further ado, here is image #10 for 2016: 

Late Summer Sunset

It's kind of ironic that a sunset image starts off my list for 2016.  If you have followed me for a while, you might remember that last year was filled with sunset images.  It wasn't a daily thing, but there were a lot of sunset images captured for 2015.  This year, the sunset image wasn't quite as ubiquitous, but there were still a few scattered about.  There's just something about that late evening golden light and the way it can make the landscape seem to glow.  

This image was taken at 7:08 PM on August 14.  The sun was right on the horizon, which gave me a great opportunity to practice one of my favorite techniques.  Stopping down the aperture (i.e. making the opening smaller) on the lens when the sun is just on the edge of something allows you to create this starburst effect.  You will notice that I do this quite a bit in my images.  Maybe too much, but hey, I like it.  

For those who like the technical details and camera settings, here they are: 

  • Focal length: 10 mm
  • Shutter speed: 1/20 of a second
  • Aperture: f/22
  • ISO: 200

Photographers would look at this image and note that many "rules" have been broken.  The horizon line is pretty much right in the middle.  The sun is dead center in the image.  But so be it. Rules are made to be broken, especially photography rules, and I'll do so when it works for an image.  I think it works here.  There happened to be some great clouds in the sky, so that would normally mean accentuate the sky.  However, I also liked the warm glow on the grasses in the foreground.  So I showed them both off as much as possible.  

In post-processing the image, I accentuated the great light as much as possible, and especially the glow of the seed heads on the grass.  The shadows were brought up and the highlights were dropped slightly to deal with the high dynamic range of the scene.  The colorful sky was accentuated with a boost to the vibrance and saturation.  Finally, a trip through Topaz Color Efex Pro gave the image the contrast and glow that I was looking for.  Hope you like it!



A Trip Through Capitol Reef National Park

In a few short days (Thursday, June 9 to be exact), my fifth article will be published on the Improve Photography website. The article will be titled "A Photographer's Guide to Capitol Reef National Park". You may not have been to, or even heard of Capitol Reef National Park, but take a look at this article. If you are travelling through Utah, take the time to stop at this amazing place. The history, geology, and just sheer beauty is worth the trip. I'll be posting more about this trip on my blog over the coming days and weeks as I get around to processing all the images. Here are a few to whet your appetite.

A Stroll Around the 'Neighborhood'

Although it has been two weeks since my last blog post, that doesn't mean I haven't been out shooting.  It's just been a little sparse and haven't had much to write about.  There is one project in the works that will some day make it into these pages, but that's going to be a while.  For now, I'm trying to find new and interesting things, although we are in the midst of winter.  This time of year can be a challenge, not only because of the cold temperatures, but also because there just isn't much color in the landscape.  Everything seems to be some shade of brown or gray (or white, due to the occasional snow).  However, that doesn't mean that good photos cannot be found.  Furthermore, shooting this time of year challenges me to work more on composition and to see and understand tonal differences in the scene.  

As with anything else in life, the more you challenge yourself at something, the better you will get at doing it.  That's the approach I've been taking with my photography.  There are so many beautiful places to travel to and photograph, and I've been blessed to go to some of them.  You've read about some of those places in this blog.  However, those trips are few and far between.  The rest of the time, photography has to be done right in my 'back yard', so to speak.  That can be quite the challenge, especially going to the same places over and over and trying to find new and interesting ways to express those places in an image.  But that's part of the growth and development as a photographer; part of the fun (well mostly it's fun); and part of what makes one become better.  At least I hope I am improving.  An honest assessment of one's self can be difficult to do.  

With all that said, if you see some of the same images showing up in my blog or elsewhere on this website, or on some of my social media pages, now you know why.  Some scenes I do shoot multiple times.  Each time, something is a little different.  The light is ever changing, and a scene can look completely different  from one time to the next.  Then of course, there is the changing of the seasons, giving each time out and each shot that is taken a different quality.  Finally, I'm changing and ever evolving as someone who likes to take pictures.  I like to try alternate perspectives or photographic techniques.  And sometimes, the post-processing techniques will change, giving each photo (even photos of the same scene) a distinct finished appearance.  I suppose the moral of this story is that you don't have to travel far and wide to get great photos.  Look in your own back yard or 'neighborhood' and you might see something that you haven't noticed before.  The opportunities are all around us.  We just have to keep our eyes (and minds) open to them.

A Walk in the Woods

Fuel for the Fire

Tree on a Hill

House on Fire Ruin

Wrapping up the trip on our last full day in Bluff, our goal was to make a visit to one more of the very popular and fantastic Anasazi ruins.  House on Fire ruin is one of many located in Mule Canyon on Cedar Mesa to the north of Bluff.  This is another very well preserved ruin and is located a short approximately one mile hike into the canyon.  

This ruin gets its name from the unusual erosional patterns in the sandstone roof that appear as flames when illuminated by reflected sunlight.  We arrived here in the late afternoon, but I'm thinking that the early to mid-morning might be a better time to get the best light for this effect. Nevertheless, as the sun ducked behind the ridge to our backs, this was still a spectacular scene.

The hike in was quite scenic, as the trail followed along a small stream.  Lots of wildflowers and other vegetation complemented the rock formations along the way.  Fall color was also apparent in some of the leaves along the trail.

If you look carefully, these handprints in the sandstone can be seen near the ruins.  Luckily, Bob knew just where to look.  Otherwise, we may have never noticed these.

One last look down at the trail before heading back to Bluff for our last night.  Our trip was almost over at this point.  I hope you have enjoyed reading along and seeing some of the images I captured along the way.  Check back for a final wrap-up and to see what's next...