Monday, June 26, 2017

Beach Session: Same Location, Two Different Lenses

Beach photography is a new frontier for me, and when my family and I drove down to Hilton Head, South Carolina I could not figure out which lenses to bring along. I wanted to pack lightly, but of course, the photographer in me wanted to bring every lens I owned, just in case. As it turns out, that’s exactly what I did. I decided for this journey to experiment with two specialty lenses that I don’t use nearly often as I should: my Lensbaby Sweet 35 and my Sigma 15mm Fisheye. So there I was, headed out around golden hour each day with a somewhat uncooperative toddler and a dutiful husband in tow. The first day I used the Sweet 35, which is an excellent lens, but nailing focus takes some practice. To increase my chances of getting my daughter in focus, I decreased my aperture (I usually shoot at around f2.8, but in these photos, I was at f5.6). The Lensbaby is manual focus only, so by decreasing my aperture I was compensating for my quick moving toddler. The Lensbaby also pivots three hundred and sixty-five degrees, allowing you to place creative blur where you want and in whatever quantity you want. Keeping the lens dead center lessens the tilt-shift effect, but it makes focusing easier. For my purposes, I stayed center focused. I chose my Sweet 35 because I wanted my images to look painterly. I was also motivated by all the free lensed images I’ve seen as of late, and since that’s a skill I’ve yet to master, I used my Lensbaby to accomplish similar effects.
The next day we had some amazing clouds! It had rained until it was almost dusk, so we trekked to the beach later than expected. I seriously love my fisheye lens. I chose it because I wanted to emphasize the sky and the smallness of my subject in relation to the environment. When photographing a human subject, it’s best to shoot from a good distance. The lens distortion is beautiful, but not when it lands on your subject’s face. I handed my husband the camera for a couple of photos (I wanted to get in the frame with my daughter), and he ended up way too close to us…suffice it to say, I will not be sharing those photos here! Another thing you want to keep in mind with a fisheye is that EVERYTHING will end up in the frame. Unless you are on a very private beach, you will most likely find random people or things in your photo. Be prepared to do some cloning in Photoshop. In processing, I used the warp tool to straighten out the horizon for a more polished look. Also, to emphasize the clouds, I burned the sky and dodged my subject and part of the foreground. I also increased the contrast to make sure the clouds popped. 
Now that summer is in full swing, and the forest behind our house is all green, I plan to take both lenses for another run in the near future.