Lensbaby Meets Burlesque -or- Double Take: Looking at something familiar in a new way (NSFW below the drop)

Last time out, I decided I wanted to try something a little different when photographing the Kiss Kiss Cabaret.  I brought out the lensbaby, a gimmick lens that has a small point of focus, but then gets gradually more and more blurry as you move away from it.  I've always liked the effect, but haven't found much practical use for it outside of the occasional portrait.

Using the Lensbaby in the studio, with Paris GreenIn a studio setting, the lens handles great.  You have to move the focus point manually around the frame by twisting the lens itself (as well as focusing the lens), so when you take your time to nail the focus you can get some really cool results.  But using the lens during a live performance is a lot riskier. There are so many intangibles to creating the shot (focus, exposure, composition,) that sometimes you just miss the moment.  Sometimes the focal point is just a hair off from where you'd like it to be.  Other times the focal point is in the right spot, but the image is so blurred that you miss the reason you took the shot.  I imagine it's like trying to fly a plane with walleye vision.

So why bother?

Because once in awhile you're photographing a subject matter and it becomes too familiar.  I've been photographing burlesque for some time now, and I've got that mental checklist I go through as I approach the work.  I've got a pretty good idea what shots I want to get and how to get them. But that's boring.  I felt like it was important to keep digging.  Finding a new way to look at the work and find new ways to voice my feelings about it.  And for me that came in the form of the Lensbaby.  It reminds me of something Jack White said:

I keep guitars that are, you know, the neck's a little bit bent and it's a little bit out of tune. I want to work and battle it and conquer it and make it express whatever attitude I have at that moment. I want it to be a struggle.  -- From It Might Get Loud

With the Lensbaby, you're forced to struggle.  Follow your instincts, follow that moment, and make quick decisions for better or worse.  As a result I feel that the images show something that I hadn't been expressing in my previous work.  And seeing that, I can hopefully bring out those themes in my more traditional work.  Or at the very least, make something look instragramy enough to trend.

Anyway, you can check out some results below (click below to expand), or check out the full gallery at http://www.greginda.com/live-gallery/burlesque-experimental/ .  Big thanks to Chris Biddle and the Kiss Kiss Cabaret for allowing me the freedom to try some stuff out.

Also, if you're interested in some more experimental burlesque photography, check out what my friend Brian C. Janes did compressing an entire act into a single image. 

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Pinup meet Lensbaby

Got to shoot with burlesque starlet Paris Green on Tuesday.  We did two different looks including a silly space girl and this cool candy striper.  This was really my first jump into the pinup genre, though I've been a fan for a long, long time.  It started when I was younger and I saw the work of pinup artist Gil Elvgren.  In a way, his work is like Norman Rockwell... but sexy.  I was always mystified by how he made the girls he drew so darn cute.  I would try for hours to draw like him.  It was the 90's when I was getting into him and the TV series Weird Science was sweeping the airwaves, and though crazy and adolescent, I was convinced that if I could draw one of Gil's girls, maybe she would leap off the page and be my girlfriend...  I would get tracing paper and spend hours trying to perfectly trace his work hoping I could replicate it.  Sadly, that girl never jumped off my page.

Anyways, lets talk photo.  I took this using my Lensbaby, and it represents one of my first attempts using the lens in a controlled studio environment.  I had to go through some calculations with my exposure and lights to make sure everything sync'd correctly, which I'm proud to say came out pretty nicely.

Both of Paris' costumes were perfect for a high key set up like this one.  In fact I think the seamless white does a great job keeping the mood light and fun in the image.  I love how the colorful lollipop pops.  Even though its partially blurred, I think we get enough of a sense to know what it is.

Lastly, I normally don't like to use any fancy Photoshop filters on my images.  Not that I'm opposed to them as a concept, it's just that I can leave that work to a designer.  But I still like to go through the filters in the final editing process, just to see how different things look.  When I came across the canvas texture I liked it so much I decided to leave it in this image.  I like the way it looks over the blurry edges of the photograph.  But, I still have the uncanvased version for as soon as a designer comes my way.

I'd love to hear your feedback,
Greg Inda

Caught in a tractor beam

This image was created using one image, four times.  When I was in high school this was one of our first digital photo assignments (back on photoshop 5.0) and I've always had a softspot for it.  The original image is a dutch angle view of the Field Museum's ceiling.  Then in photoshop (CS4!) I copied the original three times, flipping it around as needed.  Then I bumped the blue up a little bit to give it this nice "heading to the center of the death star" look.

One other thing you may notice, the focus drops off towards the center and at the edges.  That's because the original image was taken with the lensbaby.

As always I appreciate anyy comments or feedback you have.

Greg Inda

The Lensbaby strikes again!

So you may remember a few of the lensbaby pictures I posted earlier in my blog here.  Well since then I've been using it off and on, but never in what I'd consider ideal circumstances.  Usually I'll have it on in a dark bar or during a burlesque show.  I've been pleased with those results, but I've also felt a bit handcuffed by the big apertures and high ISO.  On Monday after Steph and I finished our headshot session, she was kind enough to let me try some lensbaby shots with her.  Let me tell you with light shining, a model, and time you can do some wonderful things with this lense.

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Would love to hear your thoughts.
Greg Inda

New Gear.


Pylons in Lake Michigan. Click to see a larger version.Well the day has come.  After a lot of researching and debate I've finally gotten a Canon 5D Mark II.  I'll spare you a lot of technical jargon and simply say it's a very nice camera.

So we've had such a lovely weekend here in Chicago that I've had a lot of time to try out the body as well as what is quickly becoming one of my favorite little lenses... the Lensbaby Composer.  This lens is what you'd call a "selective focus" lens.  That means you can select a single focus point in the image and from that point, everything blurs outward.  Some of you may be familiar with a Tilt-Shift lens which acts similarly.  However, a tilt shift lens will give you a line of focus, the lensbaby gives you a circle.

I took a lot of photos this weekend, three more you can see here after the break.

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