A Dreamy 19th Century Christmas

Using a special effect lens is always a great exercise in creativity. I love the extra challenge. Seeing the resulting photographs on the computer screen after the photo shoot is always a bit like opening a present. The Lensbaby Velvet 56 offers a new way of seeing and forces the photographer to let go of the notion of sharpness. The fun is in the experimentation with different levels of soft focus depending on the chosen aperture.

These photographs where taken on December 11 at The Landing, a historic village south of Minneapolis composed of authentic buildings designed to recreate 19th century life in the prairie. The buildings were all moved from various locations throughout the state. During the visit, re-enactors welcome the visitors into their ‘homes’ and talk about the hardship of life in the prairie during the winter months. For a few hours you travel from 1850 to the turn of the century, immersed in a different time period. Lucky for me, the snow storm had kept the crowds away that Sunday afternoon and I was able to collect quite a few images without ‘non historical’ people in the background.

I had never used the lens in low light situations and it was really difficult to know how the pictures would turn out from looking at the LCD on the back of the camera. I had to trust my instinct and hope for a few keepers. I was using the Fujifilm XPro2 in Acros and Classic Chrome film simulation bracketing. After a few shots, I knew that I would use the Classic Chrome, it was the perfect combination with the lens and subject matter.

I had so much fun exploring each building in search of adequate window light and interesting details of everyday life from the past. The actors were so authentic and so passionate about the time period they were reliving, I grabbed a few shots of them while they were talking with the visitors. Santa was as close to the real deal as one could ever imagine, and he took his role very seriously.

The challenge of manual focussing added another level of difficulty to the low light situation inside the buildings. I was very impressed with the performance of the lens. I don’t think one can ever master it completely. There will always be an element of surprise in the photographs it produces and that may just be the biggest appeal of the Lensbaby. The anticipation is somewhat reminiscent of shooting film.

Overall I am quite pleased with the results. The lens was the perfect companion for my time travel adventure. I can’t wait to use it again in a different era.














































Wishing you all a warm Holiday Season from snowy Minnesota! Please leave a comment below. 


40 thoughts on “A Dreamy 19th Century Christmas

  1. Pingback: Fun with the Lensbaby Composer Pro II with Sweet 35 Optic | Valérie Jardin's Blog

  2. These images and the play of light in the shadows from natural window light bring to mind the movie “The Village” by M Night Shyamalan, which I would recommend you view when you have time. This has a very Stephen King-like narrative and the director shows a photographer’s talent and as well as a cinematic story teller. It didn’t garner a lot of viewers at theaters but it was definitely a great rental. Love the Acros simulation look in your pictures here.


  3. Great shots… almost makes winter look cozy and warm.

    I love the Velvet. Because of its weight and size, I usually put it on my XPro2. But this year for Christmas, Santa gave me the new Lensbaby Trio 28… three lenses in one… including a “Velvet” variation. If you can live with the f/3.5 limitation, it’s super small and light… perfect lens for the more diminutive XT-10 (so I can have a flip up screen with a Velvet lens). Happy New Year!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Never been a fan of Lensbaby gear and, while your images are nice, I don’t see anything to change my mind. If you enjoyed what the lens provided to you, I am glad. We all see things differently and, for me, I will continue down the path I have already set for the new year.

    I enjoy your blog and hope you have a happy and prosperous New Year!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Owen. I find that most people either love the Lensbaby line or really dislike it. I didn’t care for the original ‘Composer’ and it took me a while to warm up to the Velvet. It is definitely a challenging lens to use and I think that’s the appeal for me. The results are not better or worse than with a regular prime lens, they are just very different. Letting go of the ‘sharp image’ concept is definitely not for everyone either. It’s a bit like shooting film and digital. Many find absolutely no reason to shoot film, others look at it as an exercise in limitation. I find that it is all good as it helps the photographer grow in his or her craft.

      Happy New Year to you as well!


      • Totally agree with your last sentence, Valerie! For me, after decades of using zooms as my primary lenses for work (newspaper/editorial), I have found just returning to prime lenses has been a challenge for me since retiring! In fact, the X100S is a major challenge to me these days as I relearn how to “see” photographically with a fixed focal length. Still not satisfied with most of my results but it is fun (and challenging) to give myself a project and then see what I can find out there….

        Liked by 1 person

      • I find that the best way to fully appreciate the x100 is to use it exclusively for several weeks or months. Many of my students have had the same problem getting used to it. It is limiting, but once it becomes an extension of your vision, it will become the best camera you’ve ever owned.


  5. I have enjoyed viewing all your images throughout the year, the lensbaby is a great temptation now I have some Christmas money in my pocket! Wishing you a Happy New Year Valérie.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Beautiful images… perfect location for a project with the lensbaby! I would agree with the thought that ‘mastery’ may not be attainable, but you seem to have a solid grasp of how to make winning images with it! ….I am still a work in progress with mine. Happy Holidays to you and yours!! xx

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Great blog entry Valerie! I’ve looked at all the photos you’ve posted here, and on facebook, using that LensBaby lens, and it really makes me want to spend my money. For now, it’s in my wish list on Amazon!

    Liked by 1 person

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