Lensbaby Sol 45 Lens

Lensbaby Sol 45 lens. Image from Lensbaby's website.

So let me start by saying this lens isn’t for everyone. If you are looking for the sharpest, most perfect lens with autofocus and all of the latest bells and whistles – this isn’t it. But if you are looking for something fun that may push you into shooting differently, then read on.

I’ve never owned a Lensbaby lens until now. I’ve always wanted to try one out, and I’m not afraid of crazy bokeh or different looks from different lenses. I own and have shot extensively with the 58mm Helios M44-7 and M44-2 lenses with their crazy swirly bokeh, and the older Nikon NIKKOR-S 50mm f/1.4 with its somewhat distracting odd-shaped bokeh. So when the new Lensbaby Sol 45 was announced, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on one.

Thistle at Twin Creek Metropark - Nikon D750 w/Lensbaby Sol 45 lens

Now that I’ve had a few weeks to shoot with it I can say that I have really enjoyed shooting with it. I’ve shot it on a D500 (crop), A D750 (full), and an F5 (35mm film). All have given different yet similar looks. Note that on the D500 you lose some of the out-of focus area due to the crop, but the flip side is that you can get the in-focus area nearly all the way to the edge.

Mushrooms at Cox Arboretum MetroPark - Nikon D750 w/Lensbaby Sol 45 lens

As mentioned before, the lens is manual focus. If you are a Nikon shooter like me, then you can take advantage of the small in-focus dot in the view finder along with the arrows that tell you which way to turn the focus ring. Note that this is a non-native lens, ie not Nikon, and the arrows are backwards in regards to what direction you need to turn the focus ring. Don’t worry, you get used to it. Be certain you also have your diopter set correctly for your eyesight so that you can also visually tell that you are in focus. I shoot a lot of older medium format film cameras so I feel right at home with manual focus. 

Speaking of focus; the out-of-focus areas are nice and not too busy, and the DOF isn’t bad for f/3.5. Its also very liberating to shoot with – no worrying about f-stops since its fixed at f/3.5. I just set the camera to A-Priority and set the min shutter speed and go, only worrying about composition and what’s in/out of focus. The lens, in the areas where it’s not bokeh’d out, is surprisingly sharp.

Also, I’ve read where some call this a tilt-shift lens; let’s get this clear - its not. It has tilt, but no shift. So you can’t re-correct your buildings to be straight. If that’s what you are looking for, better off spending some big $$ on a proper tilt-shift lens.

Unknown Flower at Cox Arboretum - Nikon D750 w/Lensbaby Sol 45 lens

As it is, the lens is nearly all metal and feels good in the hands. No cheap rubber focusing ring – just glorious knurled metal. It has a nice heft to it, but is fairly small on the camera so it doesn’t take up much room if you throw your camera in your bag with the lens on it.

It should be obvious by now that I really like this lens. It’s made me get out of my comfort zone while at the same time allowing me to look at some of the things I’ve shot many times before in a different way. I really want to do some more portrait photography with this lens and will keep it in my bag to have when I need something “different”. I also like that the end of the lens is threaded, so that I can do some interesting long exposures with some ND filters.

Unknown Flowers at Cox Arboretum MetroPark - Nikon D750 w/Lensbaby Sol 45 lens

OK, what don’t I love about it?

I’m not really a fan of the “bokeh blades”. I think they make the bokeh very distracting and choppy. I probably won’t be using that feature very much. Someone mentioned to me that it may be interesting for architecture or maybe night imagery, so I might try it for that. We’ll see.

No Bokeh Blades

With Bokeh Blades

The outer ring on the tilt section is fairly wide, and on the F5 it strikes the part of the camera under the “NIKON” logo on the upper front, not allowing for full tilt upwards. But it works fine on the D750 and only interferes a little bit on the D500.

Lastly, the lens cap is fairly cheap and finicky – sometimes is hard to get clicked back on all the way and I know I am going to lose it. No worries, when that happens I’ll buy a better one.

That’s it.

For only $199 it’s a lot of fun and definitely worth adding to your bag of tricks. Yes some will argue that you can get the same effects by post-processing, but I would argue that the bokeh and look this lens creates isn’t exactly easy to reproduce. As new lenses go that’s a pretty cheap price, and based on what I’ve seen older Lensbaby lenses go for on the used market, you’d probably not lose much $$ if you bought one, used it for a while and then decided to sell it. But I bet you’ll keep it.

If you aren't looking for the tilt feature and are trying to keep the budget low, check out one of the Helios lenses I mentioned early on in this review. They can be had for less than $100 usually on ebay and have some very swirly out of focus bokeh.

If you are interested in learning more about the Sol 45, check out the Lensbaby website.

https://lensbaby.com/product/sol45mm/

Thanks for reading!

Jeremy

 

 

Art in the City and shooting Kodak TMAX P3200 film – Dayton, Ohio 8.3.2018

Last Friday was downtown Dayton’s Annual Art in the City along with also being a First Friday – this meant a lot of people out on the streets checking out artwork and local downtown businesses. For 2017’s event I had some artwork on display which meant I was mostly stationary, but this year I did not so I was able to walk around and enjoy the ambiance --- and also shoot a few images.

Kodak recently re-introduced their TMAX P3200 film so I took this opportunity to try out a roll in my trusty Nikon F5 coupled with a 50mm f/1.4 lens – to me the ideal combo for street film photography. I’ve never shot this film before it was discontinued the first go-round so I didn’t know quite what to expect. I know it was a favorite of concert shooters, street shooters, and photo-journalists on occasion. The “P” means “push” – it is nominally an 800 ISO film but is designed to be “pushed” to 3200 ISO. For those not wise in the ways of film this means you can shoot in 4x less light than it is rated and develop it longer (“push”) to the proper exposure. This generally results in a lot of grain for most films as they really aren’t designed for that, but this film is. Kodak says. “It is ideally suited for handheld street scene photography, night work, and in dimly lit venues where you can’t use flash.”

I developed the images in Ilfosol 3 at 20c for 10 minutes, then stop, fix, and photo-flo as usual. All were scanned on an Epson V600 scanner with minimal work in Photoshop to remove dust and add the white borders.

OK, enough technical stuff, here are a few shots from the roll with some commentary.

Chalk Artist in the Oregon District - Nikon F5 with 50mm f/1.4 lens at f/2.8 in A-Priority mode on Kodak TMAX P3200 film

The Pedal Wagon - Nikon F5 with 50mm f/1.4 lens at f/2.8 in A-Priority mode on Kodak TMAX P3200 film

Sidewalk DJ - Nikon F5 with 50mm f/1.4 lens at f/2.8 in A-Priority mode on Kodak TMAX P3200 film

Of course while out and about we had to stop at Toxic Brew.

 

 

Toxic- Nikon F5 with 50mm f/1.4 lens at f/2.8 in A-Priority mode on Kodak TMAX P3200 film

Skull and Taps in Toxic - Nikon F5 with 50mm f/1.4 lens at f/2.8 in A-Priority mode on Kodak TMAX P3200 film

Renee deep in thought - Nikon F5 with 50mm f/1.4 lens at f/2.8 in A-Priority mode on Kodak TMAX P3200 film

G&T at Toxic - Nikon F5 with 50mm f/1.4 lens at f/2.8 in A-Priority mode on Kodak TMAX P3200 film

This artist was awesome. His Gargoyle spit flames. We spent some money with him on some smaller items. To see more of his work check out www.kiggins-sculpture.com.

Flame-breathing Gargoyle - Nikon F5 with 50mm f/1.4 lens at f/2.8 in A-Priority mode on Kodak TMAX P3200 film

Renee and Flame-breathing Gargoyle - Nikon F5 with 50mm f/1.4 lens at f/2.8 in A-Priority mode on Kodak TMAX P3200 film

The "Scoon Squad" made an appearance in the Oregon District. They put on a great show for the crowd.

 

Scoon Squad in the Oregon District - Nikon F5 with 50mm f/1.4 lens at f/2.8 in A-Priority mode on Kodak TMAX P3200 film

The Scoon Squad in the Oregon District - Nikon F5 with 50mm f/1.4 lens at f/2.8 in A-Priority mode on Kodak TMAX P3200 film

Old Tech shooting New Tech shooting The Scoon Squad - Nikon F5 with 50mm f/1.4 lens at f/2.8 in A-Priority mode on Kodak TMAX P3200 film

It's a new day.............

It's a New Day in the Oregon District - Nikon F5 with 50mm f/1.4 lens at f/2.8 in A-Priority mode on Kodak TMAX P3200 film

 

The grain isn’t as bad as I thought it would be for a 35mm film pushed to 3200. Granted, it is grainy, but not in an overtly bad way. I like the “grittiness” that it has and think it’s a great look for street and certain types of photography. For those that shoot digital and like to edit in a grainy fashion, consider picking up a 35mm film camera and shooting a few rolls of this. It’s a look that’s hard to replicate and has its place in certain situations.

Final Thoughts – I think I’ll probably shoot more Kodak TMAX P3200 in the future. I generally don’t shoot a lot of 35mm film; most of my film work is in medium format anymore. But I must admit, I like the look and I also like the freedom of loading the camera, setting the ISO to 3200, and shooting on A-priority. All I need to worry about is capturing the moment, composition, and depth of field.

Thanks for reading! Please let me know if you have any questions, and get out there and shoot!

Shrek the Musical

On Thursday, July 26th I shot the Madison County Arts Council’s stage rehearsal of “Shrek the Musical” at London High School. For those of you who have seen the movie, the plotline is fairly similar. The show was a lot of fun and once again I was proven wrong --- animated movies do make great musicals! I know, I know………look at the Lion King and countless other productions. I also say that I don’t like fruit on my salads, but when I do have fruit on my salads I always like it. :) The set, wardrobe, and acting was first-rate!

As usual I had Renee with me as my second shooter. I shot with a Nikon D500, a D750, and Renee had a D3. Lighting was difficult for this show as it was darker than some of the other recent musicals that I’ve shot. Many of the shots were at 6400 and greater ISO but as usual modern cameras do a great job at such high ISO.

This time the cast wanted their group shot BEFORE the production, which to me was not the norm but in retrospect it was a brilliant idea as everyone’s make-up and wardrobe looked fresh and pristine. I will probably see if this is an option for productions I shoot in the future versus trying to corral everyone after the production….

Kudos to the entire cast for doing such a great job! I was super entertained and really enjoyed the show. To me it’s a sign of a great show when I forget that I am there to work and just have a great time while shooting.

For more on the Madison County Arts Council, please visit their facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/mcacohio/

Below are a few shots from the performance, enjoy!

The entire cast of Shrek the Musical

Shrek and Donkey on the way to Duloc

Farquaat

Donkey having a moment

Fiona and the Mice

Donkey in the Groove

Shrek

Donkey and the Dragon

Shrek

National Museum of the United States Air Force – 7.14.2018

I last visited the National Museum of the United States Air Force earlier this year in May for the Memphis Belle event. I mostly only shot outside that day, as the inside of the museum was PACKED and getting near the Belle was difficult. I have been wanting to come back now that things have somewhat calmed down to get some shots of it and some other planes in the museum, and given the heat and humidity of this past weekend I thought Saturday would make for a good day to do so.

Being as hot as it was outside, it seems that everyone else in the Tri-State area also decided to visit the museum that day – it was fairly busy. No worries – I brought my RB67 ProS film camera, a tripod, and some film with me to shoot some long exposures. Most exposures were around 4 minutes thanks to the low light in the museum and Ektar’s reciprocity failure rate – this meant that most of the people disappeared from the frame unless they stood still for a while.

I shot three rolls of film: 2 rolls of Kodak Ektar 100 – 1 roll in 120 format and 1 roll of 35mm format in a modified 220 back to give super 70mm wide images. The third roll I shot was a roll of 120 Cinestill 800. All 3 rolls were developed in UniColor C41 chems and scanned on an Epson V600 scanner.

The museum is open daily 9am to 5pm. It’s amazing having something like this near me that is free to visit. To really see everything it would take days, so plan your visit accordingly. 

I really appreciate that the museum allows for tripod use. Many such places have rules against tripods, so it was refreshing not being harassed about having a big camera on a tripod. Using such a big, older film camera did attract a lot of attention from both visitors and museum employees alike. It was nice chatting with so many people who were interested in what I was doing.

For more information on the museum and its exhibits, visit: http://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/

Thanks!

Here’s a few images, enjoy!

 

Doolittle Raiders  –  Mamiya RB67 ProS w/50mm f/4.5 lens on 120 Ektar. 240 seconds @ f/16

Memphis Belle  A – Mamiya RB67 ProS w/50mm f/4.5 lens on 35mm Ektar in a 220 back. 240 seconds @ f/16

Memphis Belle B  – Mamiya RB67 ProS w/50mm f/4.5 lens on 35mm Ektar in a 220 back. 240 seconds @ f/16

Memphis Belle C  – Mamiya RB67 ProS w/50mm f/4.5 lens on 35mm Ektar in a 220 back. 240 seconds @ f/16

C-124  – Mamiya RB67 ProS w/50mm f/4.5 lens on 35mm Ektar in a 220 back. 240 seconds @ f/16

Into the Mouth of the C-124   –  Mamiya RB67 ProS w/50mm f/4.5 lens on 120 Ektar. 240 seconds @ f/16

Cold War Area  – Mamiya RB67 ProS w/50mm f/4.5 lens on 35mm Ektar in a 220 back. 240 seconds @ f/16

Tailgunner - Mamiya RB67 ProS w/90mm lens on 120 Cinestill 800T. 4 seconds @ f/8

German Tri-Plane   –  Mamiya RB67 ProS w/90mm lens on 120 Cinestill 800T. 4 seconds @ f/8

Welcome to Fallsville, Ohio - Population: 0

Fallsville Waterfalls are located on Clear Creek in the Fallsville Wildlife area in Highland County, Ohio. In the early 1820’s a gentleman named John Timberlake built a stone house and grist mill next to the waterfalls. He platted Fallsville in 1848 with the hopes of attracting a railroad and more businesses; at that time in addition to the mill, the town had a few dozen houses and three streets. Sadly the railroad never came, and the town began to dwindle. Auburn Church was built in 1891 & the last official resident of Fallsville passed away in 1893 as it faded away into oblivion. The nearby church and the falls still remain, but there are not many other signs that a small town once was there.

I’ve been to Fallsville Falls twice in the past. They can be somewhat hard to find – the first time I went last year in the Fall, I drove around and parked at every little gravel lot I could find in the Wildlife Area and followed several trails that went nowhere. Eventually I found it but by then the light was bad; so only on my second visit a few weeks after that was I rewarded with some decent shots, but by then the leaves had fallen. That’s why I’m back this summer again.

The Falls sit in the middle of a hunting area; so if you go there during hunting season wear your orange. The hike from the small gravel lot to the falls is fairly short, but getting down to the falls to take images can be an adventure. If its rained recently you’ll be rewarded with great flow, but the doubled-edged sword is the fact that you basically have to pray for your life as you are trying to get down to the water level on a slipperly/mossy/rocky descent.

Once down, the best views of the falls are on the opposite side of the creek, so you’ll need to cross the water. Depending on flow and where you cross, it may only be a few inches or a foot or two. So bring waterproof boots or wellies.

On this visit I shot both digital and film. For color film I brought my trusty Kodak Ektar 100, and for B&W I brought some Kodak Tmax 100. This was my first time using Tmax 100 as part of my ongoing quest to find a film that may take the place of my beloved ACROS 100 when I finally run out of my stash.

Here’s a few of the Ektar and Tmax 100 shots  – I’ll get to my thoughts on Tmax at the end after I give some location info and tips on Fallsville.

Fallsville Falls – Mamiya RB67 ProS w/90mm lens, polarizer, and 4-stop ND filter on Kodak Ektar 100 film @ f/16, 90 seconds

Fallsville Falls – Mamiya RB67 ProS w/50mm lens, polarizer, and 4-stop ND filter @ f/16, 90 seconds

Fallsville Falls – Mamiya RB67 ProS w/90mm lens, polarizer, and 4-stop ND filter on Kodak Ektar 100 film @ f/16, 90 seconds

Fallsville Falls – Mamiya RB67 ProS w/50mm lens, polarizer, and 4-stop ND filter on Kodak Tmax 100 film @ f/16, 45 seconds

Fallsville Falls – Mamiya RB67 ProS w/50mm lens, polarizer, and 4-stop ND filter on Kodak Tmax 100 film @ f/16, 60 seconds

Fallsville Falls – Mamiya RB67 ProS w/90mm lens, polarizer, and 4-stop ND filter on Kodak Tmax 100 film @ f/16, 45 seconds

 

If you want to visit Fallsville, the address is: Fallsville Wildlife Area, 10211 Careytown Rd, New Vienna, OH 45159. The parking lot is a very small gravel lot that maybe has enough room for 4 or 5 vehicles.

Fallsville Map.JPG

 

Once parked, head down the wide two-track gravel lane until it ends and becomes single-track trail. There will be the remnants of an old quarry on your right that is now filled with water. Follow the trail to the left, and by that point you will hear the falls. There is a vantage point to the right where you can see the top of them, but again the best views are from the lower area. There are several points to get down that are marked with letters. I can’t recall them now, but the 3rd or 4th point is the best if you are carrying a lot of gear. It’s less steep. The bad part is once down there you need to double back to get closer to the falls – to me that’s a good trade-off versus tumbling down a steep hill and breaking bones/gear.

Tmax 100.jpg

Regarding Tmax 100: I shot 2 rolls of Tmax on this outing. I used various lenses on my RB67 with a 4-stop ND filter and polarizer, and changed up compositions several times. I used a free reciprocity app to calculate exposure times. After developing the first roll and looking at the negs, some shots were over-exposed while others were under-exposed. In all cases of the over-exposed shots the highlights were completely blown out and there was no detail in the falls. I’m not certain if the app was off or not, but knowing that - for the second roll I Semi-Stand developed it in Rodinal 1:100. The second roll looked much better.

I think the Tmax looks more contrasty and less “flat” and “even” than ACROS. Not certain if I like that or not. That also could have been the result of the semi-stand development process. One notable plus is that the negatives dried totally flat with no curvature which made scanning super easy. Also, it seemed a little thicker than ACROS.

Ektar 100.jpg

The Ektar shots are my favorite - over and above even the digital shots that I didn't post here. I had to bracket my digital shots to get the same dynamic range I was able to get out of a single Ektar image. I will probably offer one or two of the Ektar images up for sale on the site, and will do a black and white edit from them versus using the Tmax.

So for me, the jury is still out on Tmax. I’m not certain if the free reciprocity app was a bust but I guess you do get what you pay for. I bought a 5-pack of Tmax so I will shoot the other three rolls and see how it goes. Look for more on this in the future. I also want to try some Ilford Delta 100, so I plan on picking up a few rolls and add that into the mix.

Thanks for reading!

Cedar Cliff Falls Revisited

In July 2017 I visited Cedar Cliff Falls near Cedarville Ohio with the hopes of getting some good waterfall images after several days of hard rain. Cedar Cliff is a 25-30ft man-made waterfall on the Massie Creek. It was originally constructed to power a mill which ceased operation in 1917 and was torn down.

Sadly, my plans were dashed as the falls area was completely overgrown. Not only were the falls barely even visible from the footbridge, the ability to get a good image of the falls from the observation areas to the left and right was rendered impossible as it was obscured by trees/brush/honeysuckle. To say that I was disappointed would be an understatement. I shot one image from the bridge as a reference shot before I packed up and left.

Bronica S2A, 75mm f/2.8 lens on Fuji ACROS 100 @ f/8, 1 second

Fast-forward to now. A few weeks back I saw a news story about the Parks Service doing a massive clearing of the area – mainly in an attempt to keep teenagers from swimming/jumping into the water below the falls. With the area cleaned up and exposed, the theory was that it would make it harder to break the law in plain view of the parking lot. Bad for them, but good for all of us that wanted to finally get some good images.

smeagol.jpg

I showed up just after dawn with my Mamiya RB67 medium format film camera. With the recent announcement that Fuji is discontinuing my favorite B&W landscape film, ACROS 100, I decided to try out a new-to me film to see if it was a suitable replacement for ACROS when my huge stockpile finally runs out. I have 60 boxes of it now, which means I only have 3000 shots left before I’m out. Now I know how Gollum felt.

The film I was trying out this time was Ilford PanF 50. Allegedly it has smooth grain, but is not as easy to calculate reciprocity failure as ACROS, but nothing really is. That means that long exposures on waterfalls require some interesting math. I also have read a few reports of mysterious white dots showing up on some people’s images – reasons why were unknown but speculations were temperature issues during development, old developer, old fixer, fixing too long, etc. Knowing that I have good development habits and ensuring that I have fresh chems to develop, I thought I’d be OK.

Here’s one of the images from the roll. Notice how much more visible the falls are after the massive clean-up effort. This was shot from the same footbridge as the first shot I posted. This is a straight scan before any touch-up or dust-removal from the negative. Pretty good huh?

Mamiya RB67 ProS w/90mm lens on Ilford PanF 50 @ f/16, 2 minutes with a 4-stop ND filter

Well, not so fast. Here’s a zoom into the image. White dots everywhere. Too much to deal with in Photoshop and basically an image that can’t be printed.

100% crop. White dots everywhere. Ugh.

So I can cross PanF off of my list. I spend too much time getting into some of these areas, shooting, developing, scanning, and printing to worry about problems that are beyond my control.  In the near future I’ll try Kodak Tmax 100 to see how it does.

I went back and shot a roll of ACROS a few days later, along with several digital images from different vantage points. Here are some of the digital images. I have not had time yet to scan the ACRO shots but will soon. Enjoy!

Nikon D750 w/24-85mm lens @50mm, f/16, ISO 50, 3 seconds

Nikon D750 w/80mm-400mm lens @200mm, f/16, ISO 50, 3 seconds

Nikon D750 w/18-35mm lens @18mm, f/16, ISO 50, 3 seconds

Nikon D750 w/24-85mm lens @85mm, f/16, ISO 50, 60 seconds with 4-stop ND filter

If you are interested in visiting Cedar Cliff Falls, its only a short drive on US-42 just outside of Xenia, Ohio. It is part of Peterson Park and is located at 2750 US-42, Cedarville, OH 45314. The falls are visible from the parking lot, with only a short 2-3 minute walk from the parking lot to the footbridge. There is also a trail that leads from the falls area back to an old log cabin and an Indian mound. I suggest taking the upper trail out to the cabin and Indian mound, and then walking back on the lower trail that runs along the river and under a large rock outcrop that has some interesting remnants of a long-ago footbridge.

That’s it for now. Next blog will be a visit to Fallsville Falls to try out some Kodak Tmax100. Thanks for reading! If you have any questions please email me at Jeremy.mudd@gmail.com.

6/27/2018 UPDATE: I scanned one of the first shots from the roll of ACROS that I shot and as usual it looks great. I'm really going to be sad when this film is gone.

Cedar Cliff Falls - Mamiya RB67 ProS w/90mm lens @ f/16, 30 seconds with a polarizer and 4-stop ND filter on Fuji ACROS 100 film.