Every once in while an innovation comes along that changes the way photos are captured or displayed. One such innovation is the Lensbaby product line of lenses. You've probably heard of them in ads or magazine reviews. The Lensbaby I received as a Christmas gift was entirely not what I expected! I knew the lens was bendable and flexible, but for some reason I thought this bending and twisting would stay put once you got the right focus.
That's not how this thing works! To capture an image with the Lensbaby 'Spark', one must twist and bend the lens with fingers of both hands while adjusting the shutter speed dial and tripping the shutter with a thumb! It's a crazy feeling, but one that's fun to master. Since there is no data flowing from the lens (no autofocus or exposure readings), the camera is on full manual, with a fixed f/5.6 aperture.
The cool thing about this lens is the way it distorts everything except the sweet spot of the area being focused on. It's hard to explain how this works, but not only does the lens move in and out, it also moves in a circular motion. This gives you an unlimited amount of options for focusing on a particular subject.
In this photo, I was on a bridge overlooking Clear Creek near Sutliff, Iowa, and placed the camera on the guard rail for stability. I worked the Lensbaby up and down, in and out and twisted and contorted it many different ways before taking this photo. It seems that the more light there is, the easier it is to see what you're focusing on, and the better your photos will turn out. Since it's a fixed aperture lens, adjusting ISO or shutter speed are the options for getting the right exposure.
More practice is needed with this for landscape and nature photography, but I think the results can be unusual and entertaining. Lensbaby has filled a niche for the specialized lenses that give the photographer an artistic option to explore. At $80 for this lens, it's a great low risk investment that you may really enjoy! More information can be found at Lensbaby.com