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Gear Up! Lensbaby Composer Pro Review

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Everything you need to know about this creative secret weapon. Plus! Five tips to help you master the Composer Pro!

Why follow the rules of photography, when it’s so much more fun to break them? Lensbaby has the perfect range of tools for any photographer looking to break the artistic boundaries of the photographic world. For giving scenes that added edge of creativity, look no further than the Lensbaby Composer Pro.

Lensbaby optics are perfect for really putting a creative spin on things. With the ability to swap interchangeable optics in a lens, such as Soft Focus, Pinhole, and Plastic, the possibilities for creating unique scenes is endless. The Composer Pro is specifically built for creative photograhers who really like to make scenes their own with their own expressions.

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We’ve given the Composer Pro with the standard Double Glass optic a place in our gear bag to see just how well this lens really works. Much like a Fisheye or Macro lens, the Composer Pro gives photographers a whole new perspective with which to view the world.

Who is it for?

The Composer Pro is perfect for photographers who love to have fun with their work. The lens appeals to those who love to change their perspective, snap unique captures, and see how far they can take their creative freedom. Whether you are professional, hobbyist, or anything in between, you can definitely enjoy the Composer Pro.

HARDWARE

The Composer Pro feels sturdy in hand, as the plastic body feels solid, and the two focal and locking rings are a nice, grippy rubber that makes adjustments easy to make. The focusing action, though strictly manual, is smooth. There may be a minute amount of fidgeting towards the nearest focusing distance and infinity, but this depends on the optic being used, and never posed any sort of issue for us.

The 2nd ring on the Composer Pro locks the focal plane into place. After unlocking the ring, the lens can be shifted and tilted in all directions. Tightening the ring will lock the lens in its position.

The Composer Pro, with metal mount, fits our Nikon D90 like a glove. The reference dot for lining up the lens is on the bottom of the Composer Pro, right on the metal mount. There are no reference points on the sides of the lens, which can make mounting the lens a bit difficult sometimes. The trade-off for this is that the Composer Pro does look more sleek and streamlined once it is mounted to the camera, as it is free of any extraneous markings and labels.

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Lensbaby Optics make use of a specialized tool to change manual aperture rings. This may be a nuisance at first glance, but is actually one of Lensbaby’s strongest assets.

Lensbaby Optics use their own unique lens caps. These caps are solid, springy, and feel quite tough once they are in place. This is a blessing, since replacing a lost cap won’t be as easy as it would be for a standard cap.

Changing optics is actually quite easy, and with a few minutes practice, can be done in a just a few seconds. The Optics contain the glass through which the image passes, while the Composer Pro is the outer shell that mounts the Optic to the camera body. There are many Optics to play with, and many of those Optics allow the use of Creative Aperture Filters. We’ll cover more on that shortly!

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How To Use Colored Light Filters

Take your photos through rose colored lenses! Read how to use Colored Light Filters!

Off-camera flash can be a great way to spread your creative wings when taking photos. However, photographers can take their game to the next level by using colored light filters. Follow these tips to turn your photographic scenes into your  own coloring canvass.

What You’ll Need –

At least 2 Off-Camera Flash Guns

If you’re working with only one flash gun, you are severely limiting your creative freedom. Most colour changes to the scene can be made via White Balance, or even in post production on the computer. However, having more than one light source, each with a different color, is something that cannot be replicated in post production.

Many flash guns have a built in honeycomb filter that slides out and snaps down into position. These are perfect for holding a color gel filter in place. These particular filters have been cut to fit.

Triggers for each Flash Gun (Wireless works best)

Many flashguns can use a “slave mode,” that allow them to fire at the same moment other flashes go off, without the need for wireless or wired triggers. However, this is not recommended. Slave mode works perfectly in most situations, but when using color filters, “slave mode” can often fail to trigger the flash.

A Set of Color Gel Filters

Having a wide range of colors really helps! Check out your local retail photo shops. However, these can often be difficult to track down. A set of about 20 or 30 different colours can be found on eBay for usually around $20 USD. They most likely will need to be cut to shape to fit your flash guns!

Tripods or stands for the Flash Guns

Having a bit of experience with Off-Camera Flash Guns really helps. The sport of photography revolves around using light to create exposures. Without light, we cannot take photos. When we use off-camera flash, we have to be acutely aware of a few things!

Reducing or eliminating ambient light is key to controlling the tone and temperature of a scene or model.

First off, all scenes have Ambient Light. It is vital for a photographer to fully understand the nature of the Ambient Light in a scene. What temperature is the Ambient Light? Is it cold or warm? Is it soft or harsh? What direction is the light coming from?

For example, if a photographer is standing on a beach at noon on a sunny, cloudless day, then the Ambient Light is most likely to be warm and harsh. However, if the photographer is sitting in a dining room at mid day with a few windows open, the light might be soft and cold.

The ambient light here is soft, thanks to the diffusion from the clouds, and cold in temperature. There are no other point light sources. Continue reading


7 Tips to Master Your Fisheye Lens

Beauty lies in the fisheye of the beholder. Follow these tips to get the most out of your fisheye lens!

Every photographer strives to take the best photos he or she possibly can. Part of taking a great photo is being able to exercise creative freedom. When it comes to the Fisheye Lens, benefits such as low light shooting, wide angle perspective, and beautiful barrel distortion set it creatively apart from any other tool.

Like any other lens, the Fisheye Lens has its own unique strengths and uses.

Fisheye lenses allow us to see the world in a new perspective.

With a fisheye lens in hand, you can turn ordinary scenes into creative playgrounds, and turn beautiful scenes into works of art! Keep these tips in mind to really make the most of your fisheye lens:

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How To Train Your Photography

Improving Photography title

Shoot with purpose to shoot like a pro! Follow these simple steps to improve your photography skills.

For many people, taking pictures is just a fun way to share family memories and silly things on the street. For others, photography is a full time sport, or even a career. As with many sports or careers, photography requires rigorous training and regular practice to truly master.

Many experts simply tell enthusiasts to “get out there and shoot,” but that is about as helpful as a major league baseball player telling young aspiring athletes to “get out there and play.” In order to truly improve your photography, you must understand what you need to improve.


Photography Skills

One of the most important philosophies for photographers to follow is also one of the simplest:

When you are out for a photo shoot, don’t just take photos. Challenge yourself and think about how you can take better photos!

For this philosophy, when photography is compared to a sport, self-improvement becomes much clearer.

The Photographer Athlete

Photography AthleteIn the ever-intensifying world of photography, the line between photographer and athlete becomes more and more blurred.

By comparing a photographer to a sports athlete, we can analyze what skills we need to work on. This allows photographers to focus on one thing at a time and improve their photography.

Strength

How adept is a photographer at analyzing and understanding an environment? If a photographer steps out of the blistering desert sunlight and into spotted shade beneath a grove of wilted trees, will that photographer be able to understand the highlights, shadows, and handle the camera to take a winning exposure? How good is the photographer at setting up good composition of content in the shot? How about operating in tough environments such as a swaying ship out at sea, or even a chaotic city crowd?

The photographer’s strength comes from experience shooting in difficult or harsh environments. As the photographer’s strength increases, they will be able to handle taking photos in challenging environments, especially where there is minimal light or a dramatic range in lighting and shadows. Having a high level of strength makes shooting in less challenging environments much easier. This allows photographers to shoot a higher percentage of ‘keeper’ photos.

Photography Skills

A weary photographer reclines after a rigorous day of shooting.

Agility

How quickly and proficiently can a photographer handle his or her camera and other equipment? If that photographer is shooting a sunset and suddenly needs to mount that camera to a tripod and adjust settings for shooting in low light, how easily can they do that? What if that photographer needs to change lenses in a harsh environment? What about setting up a series of flashguns and wireless receivers for a semi-controlled environment?

The photographer’s agility improves with experience and painstaking attention to detail. As the photographer’s agility increases, they will be able to operate efficiently and capture split seconds of winning exposures. As agility increases, there will be far less photos lost due to wasted time fiddling with settings or changing a lens.

Ducks

Ducklings moving in and out of spotted shade make for difficult subjects to photograph, but offer great practice! Continue reading


5 Easy Tips to Improve Shooting a Long Lens

canon500mmA few small techniques can make the difference between a casual snapshot and a true keeper.

Shooting a long lens can seem daunting to those who have yet to try it, and even more so frustrating for photographers who have just started snapping shots from afar. Of course, nothing beats practice and understanding proper technique, but with a few little tricks, mastering the use of a long lens doesn’t have to be so frustrating.

Tip 1: Use proper tools for stability

It may seem common sense to shoot with a tripod, but there situations where the ground may not be so accommodating, or photographers must be on the constant move. In many instances, tripods are just too unwieldy and behemoth to carry around. The use of a sturdy monopod can make all the difference when a tripod just doesn’t fit the situation.  Monopods are small, easy to carry, and can be adjusted much more quickly than a tripod.

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Stedi-Stock camera stabalizer.

In rare cases when both a tripod and monopod are out of reach, and maximum mobility are of utmost importance, try shooting with a “Stedi-Stock”, which allows a photographer to use the upper torso for a convenient boost to stability. The shoulder-stock for the camera uses a standard, universal tripod-mounting system, can be easily stowed away, and is light weight.

Flexible Gorilla Tripod

Flexible Gorilla Tripod

When shooting in awkward positions or low to the ground, the use of a “Gorilla-Tripod” may be precisely what the doctor ordered. These flexible, lightweight tripods are quick and easy to manipulate, taking any shape you require. This tool is invaluable for stabilizing the camera in difficult situations.

Tip 2: Shoot like a Sniper; Breath and Trigger

A sniper shooting a rifle takes the utmost care with each shot, having strict technique when it comes to breathing and pulling the trigger. While photography is a completely different field than firearm shooting, great techniques can still be shared between the two sports.

When a sniper fires a rifle, he minimizes vibration and movement of the firearm using strict breathing technique. This valuable technique can be applied to photography as well. Before ‘pulling the trigger’, slow down your breathing, and take a deep inhale and exhale. Between inhaling and exhaling, there is a moment when body movements are minimal. Relaxation is the key to stabilizing movements. Within the ten second gap of inhaling and exhaling is the best time to take the shot.

Aerial Camera Gun

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