Sunday in the Yard with Lensbaby

The transition from summer to fall is under way, with all its untidiness and subtle shifts of color. Looking around my new yard, which currently features brown grass, shriveling ferns and fallen leaves, I thought it was a good time for a session with the Lensbaby. I may regret the loss of early summer’s moist, bright greens, but there are other possibilities, right in front of me. I just need to think differently and work with the frizzle, not against it. Snapping on a lens that distorts the picture can be a good way to gently accept the changes.



























I hope you enjoy seeing through a different lens. I varied the amount of distortion and now I’m thinking that the most interesting images may be the ones with the least amount of “correct” focus. It was a good exercise. I should take the lens with me more often, when I go for walks in the woods.

If you’re not that familiar with Lensbaby, it’s a Portland, Oregon company that makes lenses which intentionally distort the scene. Typically, the lens has a “sweet spot” of clarity somewhere in the frame, and everything else is out of focus, to a greater or lesser degree.  The lenses have been around since 2004 and have gone through many iterations; these days you can buy one for your phone, too.

These lenses are not electronically connected to your camera. That means paying attention to exposure, aperture and focus, which must be set manually. For many photographers that’s nothing new, but for others it can be intimidating. Actually, it’s not a big deal after a few minutes of practice. Whatever time you may need to invest in learning a few new techniques, you will gain back in creative possibilities.

The Lensbaby I have, an older “Composer Pro with Sweet 35” is no longer made, and is a bit of an oddball. Bought on ebay, it’s made to fit a 4/3 DSLR camera, a system Olympus put out 15 years ago. That system faded away when micro 4/3 systems came into production. So my 4/3 mount lensbaby lens doesn’t fit my on camera (a micro 4/3 Olympus OM D1). Have I lost you yet?  An adapter solves the problem. They’re not too expensive, but they can make focusing a little harder if the fit isn’t perfect. The lensbaby look isn’t about super-accurate focus so I don’t lose sleep over the imperfections.

I find that because the lensbaby produces a distinct look, switching to that lens after not using it for a long time means I need to shift my perspective, i.e., see with lensbaby eyes. I might ask myself, “What subject doesn’t require tack-sharp focus and could look good with that smooth blur all around it?”  It’s about changing things up.

This little supergurrl lurking in a potted plant, she gets it.  🙂









  1. The colors in this collection look somehow different to me. Do you think they are? If yes, is that because of the Lensbaby? Anyway, I like them, Lynn. Lots. My favorite photo in this collection is #7, with #8 close behind. They’re so distorted that they’re almost abstract. I feel privileged to see your domestic spaces. Hope you show us more.

    • The colors looked a little different to me too, and I’m not sure why. A caveat: I processed a few, such as the last one, with film effects in Color efex, so that totally changes the colors. I’m not sure now which ones I used the Color efex modern film effects filter on, but #1, #2, #5, #9 and #10 were all only processed in LR, without film effects. (though I have film effects I imported from VSCO in LR too and I could have used them here and there) I think. :–) #7 is my favorite too, and I liked the way #8 came out. But I also liked the spontaneity of the birdcage photo. It can really be fun to use that lens. Thank you for the good words!

  2. That’s interesting, 7 & 8 are my favorites, too! Seven almost has almost a feverish or underwater feel, and eight has a nice pale, bleached-out ghostly feel to it. You probably won’t care for this comparison, but Lensbaby reminds me a lot of being in high school, when they gave us “drunk glasses” (a/k/a “alcohol impairment simulation goggles”). I already had a strong aversion to DWI, etc. but I really liked those goggles. Never got a chance to wear them in the cafeteria, though, which seemed like it would be interesting.

    • And I just replied to Linda that were mine, at least #7 is. So that’s good to hear. Those ferns were not quite blowing – they have a very crazy windblown look right now though, for some reason, and the lensbaby took that and ran. Your story is really funny. We didn’t have anything that elaborate, just a film or two I think. If you ever see a used lensbaby at a reasonable price, get it. They are really fun to work with.

  3. I love 5, 8 and 13 in particular.
    The apple looks so real, you feel like plucking it out of the image and taking a bite. I love the effect of the lens, but might find it too much work for my foggy brain myself.
    8 is like looking at some brown seaweed in a rock pool – very interesting effect.

    Anyway, it DOES look like a fun lens to carry on a walk – I assume it is lightweight?

    • That apple looks really fresh, doesn’t it? I suspect they’re not very good eating, but they haven’t ripened enough yet for us to test them. I think if you have a foggy brain, it could actually be good – just one or two things to adjust to, and then you’re free to be rather foggy with the world around you. 🙂 It’s not clear to me why #8 looks so wet – it’s very dry actually – but I thought the same thing, which was what I liked. Strange. If I didn’t have a foggy brain, I might know how to control and produce effects like that, but as it is, I shoot and then I discover what’s there later.
      The lenses are mostly pretty light. There is a range of them. You may be able to find a less expensive one on ebay or somewhere where you can get it used. Thanks Vicki!

    • Thanks so much, Dina. It’s fun to play with that lens – you never know quite what you’re going to get, but you usually get a few good ones. I actually took it out twice after that Sunday, because I wanted a few more pictures for the post.

    • That’s a pleasant surprise, Hien. I tried to keep the description as brief as possible. Let’s say that using the lens takes a little practice, and luck. You never know what you’re going to get, but that’s the fun of it. It opens up a new world.

  4. I love your use of the Lensbaby and #7 is particularly well suited to it. I still have one on my wishlist but I’ve not really decided which one would be the best for my use. But If I could get half of your proficiency with a Lensbaby, I know I would be happy. Nice work, Lynn.

    • There are so many choices, but I suspect you could adjust to and enjoy any one you might decide to get. I certainly don’t consider myself proficient with it. I never know what I’m going to get – sometimes I may have an idea that something’s going to work, but more often than not, I’m surprised, either by how distorted (in a good way) an image is, how distorted it is in a bad way, or by how “normal” it looks. So there, you see? I have no idea what I’m doing. 🙂

    • You like fall, right? I seem to remember that, and I think your choices reflect that. I like the season too, but at the beginning there is always some resistance. The lens can be frustrating at first, but once you get sued to it and open up your expectations (or don’t have too many!) then it’s fun.

      • I adore the fall, Lynn. It’s my favorite season by far and I can never wait for summer to come to an end! I feel no resistance at all to the season, and welcome every little sign of it. I probably would be technically challenged by the lens, as I am with most technical things! 🙂

  5. Love the photos (as usual). I think you said it best in the first paragraph. Always best to work with whatever nature dishes out instead of against it!

  6. Photos made with lensbabies are not my cup of tea, I admit. I cannot see the difference to some functions of Photoshop or NIK-filters I can use more intentionally. But I like the colours in your pictures.

    • That’s our ubiquitous native, the Sword fern. It grows everywhere and is evergreen. Right now it’s heavy with spores, and makes an even better subject than it normally does. I’m glad you liked that, Mr. A., thank you.

  7. I really appreciated the explanation of the lensbaby. I’ve never quite grasped what the lenses were all about, but now (somewhat ironically!) it’s more clear to me. It’s wonderful to see the colors of autumn, which can’t get here soon enough for me. I suppose I’d be happy enough to continue summer if it would moderate a bit, but it is August, and it is Texas, so we still have a bit of our ‘normal’ to deal with.

    I suspect it’s partly the clarity that makes the apple my favorite, since the colors of other photos are more appealing. There’s something about so much blur that makes me feel a little queasy — or even so queasy that I can’t look at them for more than a few seconds. It’s strange, because I’ve never had problems with seasickness, or vertigo, or issues like that, and I don’t have any other vision problems. I guess that means a lensbaby isn’t for me.

    • If people get tired of summer in August in the northeast, then surely you have reason to be tired of it in Texas! The apple is, I think, the least “lensbaby-ish” of them all, so I can see why it appeals more. If I were really proficient I’d be able to turn that degree of focus on and off more predictably. Making the aperture smaller keeps most of the picture more in focus, but the whole lens can be turned on a ball and socket type joint to point any way you want. But when you do that, more of the frame is out of focus. But hey, if it’s not your thing then it’s one less technical issue to ever have to think about. 🙂

  8. Love these images, Lynn! All very nice, but I like #8 the most. I’ve never used a Lensbaby lens but I now have two very old lenses from a factory in Eastern Germany and they work a bit the same way 🙂 They’re not the sharpest of lenses, but that’s also not the point. There’s just something in the pictures, perhaps the mix of sharp and soft, I don’t know what it is but I love it.

    • I’ve read about some of those old East German lenses, they sound really interesting. You put your finger right on it – we don’t know quite how to describe it, but there’s something in the mix of in and out of focus that can be compelling. Maybe especially because we are inundated with very sharp images most of the time.

  9. I applaud experimentation as you well know and there are some fascinating results in this collection. The challenge comes when deciding how a new ‘tool’ can truly enhance your established technical repertoire.

    • You’re right, that’s a challenge, and I’m not sure I use this lens to enhance what’s established, or to shake things up a little, which is also useful. 🙂 Thank you for your thoughts, Louis.

    • I don’t, but some people do. For me, the more intrigued I was, the more I looked at Lensbaby images, the less I ever had that queasy sensation, but I have felt it a few times so I know what you’re talking about. Well, next post we’ll be back to normal! 🙂

  10. I love the optimism with your philosophy “Snapping on a lens that distorts the picture can be a good way to gently accept the changes.” A great way to look at both photography and the seasons, it is good to every now and then to do something that makes you think a bit different ~ change is inevitable, so finding a way to embrace it should be fun and the Lensbaby does it perfectly. Great post, Lynn. Wishing you a great week.

    • Exactly, Randall, and I appreciate your thoughts on the matter. Now, is there a way to embrace the current changes we’re dealing with here? We have “unhealthy for everyone” (not just sensitive groups) air quality this week, due to an air mass from the northeast carrying smoke from BC fires to our area. It seems to be a good day to whine a little, and yell, “No!” Sometimes that “technique” works too, as long as you don’t get too invested in it. 😉

  11. I’ve always been interested in the Lensbaby look–I like it when you aren’t in control of most of what’s going on. I think you used it very well here–kind of a feeling that the image is speeding away from you around the edges.

    • It does have that effect, doesn’t it? At least this lens does. Talk about not in control! 😉 It’s nice of you to say I managed it OK. The adapter I have is a little loose, so that adds to the randomness. But it’s a good way to work, and honestly, it would be easier for me to accept having less control over the outcome than it would be to have to set up a tripod and try to make a particular kind of photograph.

  12. There’s another advantage to coming in late to your posts… I learn a bit from comments posted by others, as well as your replies. I think Ule nailed it for me this time, in that I find it more fun to play with this sort of blurring in NIK or Lightroom. I suppose it might be the degree of control, or perhaps the thought of yet another lens is beyond me. I DO love the freedom you’ve encouraged in me not worry about the technical details so much… the perfect focus or whatever. For me it comes down to a matter of play. If I have to work at it too hard, then I lose that element of play and joy. Speaking of which… I love:
    #2 -for what it did focus on
    #5 -I just want to bite into that apple
    #10 -the chair looks so inviting from this angle
    #11 -is that rose hips? how come mine never look that bright and shiny? 😀

    • I agree about the advantages of not being the first to see a new post. 🙂 I think using the lens, as opposed to making changes in processing, gives you such a different shooting experience, that that alone is worth it. Play is where it’s at, at least sometimes, isn’t it? I’m glad you like #2 – I was very happy with that one, and it was one of those moments when you’re pretty sure the shots’ going to look good later. The apple was more of a surprise. In #11 yes, that’s some kind of rose, I don’t know what. It’s on the edge of the strip of woods dividing us from a farm next door, and I’m not even sure if it’s native or was planted at some point. It will be fun to see the flowers next year!

  13. I love this series, Lynn (and your fun title). Each shot is a treasure and challenges the viewer to really see, wonder and appreciate the composition. Such beautiful gems. Also, excellent info about LensBaby — I’ve never dipped in but have researched them. Your final shot made me smile– you are a supergurrl! 😎 PS. Hope the smoke has cleared!

    • We’re all supergurrls, Jane! 😉 And the smoke is finally clearing, whew! I can see definition in the clouds. It’s not just yellow ick up there. But I wouldn’t be surprised if it happens again this year….and our summer’s been the driest on record so far. Trees are stressed. Some day when you feel like doing something different, maybe get a used LB from ebay and play with it – that way you haven’t invested a lot of money. Thanks for the good words!

      • Good idea about the Lensbaby. Glad you are seeing some improvement…it’s in SF now…air quality reports are poor.
        Another result of the record dryness is the beetle that’s killing so many of the trees. It was shocking in Yosemite. Breathe easy this weekend, Lynn. 😄

    • The idea that the photos are down to earth and creative at the same time is a nice one. We’re having the driest summer on record, and you know our summers are dry anyway, so it’s beginning to look depressing. The cedar branches are showing rust-colored spots, and many leaves are coming down, so sad. All the more reason to blur the edges a little. 🙂

  14. Well Lynn, I think you already know how I feel about Lensbabies. I’ve been accused (by Lensbaby employees!) of being a Lensbaby evangelist. I take that to heart.

    Not to quibble, but I’ve heard the “But I can do that in post” argument so many times that I’m really rather tired of it. Two important things to note:
    1) Anybody that has looked at more than a few LB images can spot the differences between blur applied in post and the LB look right away. LB blur is graduated. It’s the optic that’s doing it and this is simply impossible (as of now, as far as I know) to mimic in post.
    2) With LB’s it’s done “in the moment”. It’s not calculated, it’s felt. And for this reason I have to take issue with what Ule and Gunta have said. And to me it’s rather funny how reversed the concepts are for me. The “in the moment” aspect of using a LB is precisely why for me it is more like play. It’s about letting go of control. It’s about being willing to take MANY crappy images (which reminds me of one of my favorite quotes…) in order to achieve (hopefully) ONE decent one. I started with the “lens-on-a-bellows” LB’s with which it is darn close to impossible to duplicate the same image twice. Talk about lack of control! (which reminds me of another new favorite quote!…I’ll tack them both on the end…)
    I also like coming into your post comments late. Because this way, hopefully nobody but you will witness my snarky side….

    That, said….
    2 – for the bokeh–nobody does bokeh like LB
    And yes, 7,8 & 9 but especially 7. I’d have to say that nobody does de-focusing like LB either.
    13 — because it’s Gautama…and he, of all people would appreciate the LB aesthetic, and your capture of him….

    So…quote time:

    1) “Failure is the key to success. Every mistake teaches us something.” –Morihei Ueshiba
    (to which I always append, “…if we’re paying attention.)

    2) “Be prepared to photograph what is, not what you hope will be.” — David Duchemin
    (He’s pretty incredible–and on IG, I follow him there)

    Lastly–I have something to drop in the mail to you! Finally!
    Shoot me your new address:


    • Here you are, returned intact from spamhell. Not sure why you landed there, but I’ve got to check it more often – I just deleted 40 lovely offers…. Anyway, thank you very, very much for this considered reply. Your defense of LB – the reasoning behind it – I agree! Thanks for noting #2, that was one I could tell was probably going to be good when I took it. Once in a while that happens. And 7, I thought those would work, too (I took a bunch). So glad you also noted 8 & 9….the B may be happier here; he’s got a lot more room and air around him. Address on the way, I can’t wait! (The quotes are appreciated. You are so right to amend the first one the way you did. I get a D. Duchemin letter and have generally really liked his approach. I can’t think what IG is).

  15. they feel beautiful to me… appreciated your lesnbaby explanation…so much to learn along the way…I also appreciate WP posts so I can re/visit and really see what people compose…I like the “slow and stodgy”…as some have told me…I also tire of the repeat of the same images on all platforms…I use IG for iPhone shots…but mostly I learn by looking so keep on looking…and of course practice…have snappy day Lynn…smiles hedy ☺️💫

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