14th. June 2021 – Polina Plotnikova (FRPS) – “Capturing the Mood”

Polina Plotnikova (FRPS) returned to SYPC with her second talk of 2021 “Capturing the Mood”. Whilst we saw another set of outstanding images most of these images made use of the Lensbaby range of optics for which Polina is an Ambassador. Polina made it known that Lensbaby was a “love at first sight”, and that she tries really hard to spread the joy of using these lenses. Something she achieved in spades last Monday evening.
We are hearing the word BOKEH in association with photography very regularly, indeed it was used on last Sunday’s Countryfile on BBC1 – what does it mean? It is a popular photographic technique which uses blur to focus the viewer’s attention on a specific area of an image. We are used to organising our backgrounds or working with appropriate depth of field to achieve this effect, bot Polina’s subject was the detailed explanation of how bokeh can enter our art through use of specialist lenses.
Lens based optics and their manipulation captures the mood and although there are vintage lenses available, which many people have experimented with, the Lensbaby range was brought to our attention. The different component model names to some extent describe the wonderful change that is brought about. The Composer Pro tilts like a ball and socket and adapted with lens called Sweet reveals a special effect, as shown to us with Bruge Church as the subject where the foreground flowers swirl and lead our eye to the distant spire. This lens can also bring out some remarkable changes when used with portraits. There are a range of Sweet models according to their focal length. Our speaker was keen to remind us that they are all manual focus lenses. We were shown the technique using H Optic where a slice of the image was in pin sharp focus and this method drew us to facial features or a horizon, a very creative bokeh. The lens used tiny silvery droplets from the background forming heart shaped droplets, used in Composer Pro.
The next choice in the Lensbaby range was called Twist (60) and forms part of a family with its own straight swirl effect, creating intensity to the background, it was shown to good effect with bluebells, giving a kind of down the rabbit hole effect. We were shown the entry level Lensbaby version called Sol 22 (& Sol 45). It is similar to Sweet and used with a wild cheetah image gave a startling result. This was followed with one of our speaker’s favourite models, known as Velvet (three models 85, 56, 28), it gave a soft focus with a unique organic quality, both bright and subtle. A particular shot of the shore on Harris and Lewes was a favourite of our speaker. Its use was, demonstrably, quite versatile often with flowers. We moved on to see the next type, known as Burnside 35 and comes in a range of prime focal lengths, it creates our well-known vignetting effect, similar to Twist with a wide angle and a swirly bokeh.
The following lens from the range was very exciting and is known as the Trio 28, it has three incorporated different effects, the sweet spot cannot be moved and always remains in the centre and is regularly in position on the author’s Canon M6 MK 11 camera, one image appeared to be a double exposure and would, undoubtedly, confused most judges. There is also an Omni creative filter system which can be used with this range to provide other wonderful styles, its magnetic attachment method gives it rapid, adaptable flexibility and can be used with Velvet, composer pro and H Optic.
The evening’s content now moved to suitable subjects for Lensbaby. It was clear that Polina was an exponent of flower photography and, using live view, she achieved wonders. The discovery of sparkly craft paper, as a background, brought “crazy bokeh” to her photographs. As eyes are the mirror of the soul these lenses could be very precise in manually focussed eyes. The many and varied effects that we were shown made us think of the artist’s magic wand and their range was only limited by your own imagination.
Many of us seek to demonstrate the seasons of the year in our work and here we have no exception as we started in Autumn, avoiding bright colours but very much seizing the mood, perhaps through use of snow (with Velvet) and never forgetting to point the camera upwards through the tree’s canopy. To catch the Winter chill, she used Burnside in the local cemetery and brought out a sinister air with careful vignetting. Spring gave the opportunity to revisit flowers, particularly using Sweet, then later on bluebells and magnolias with Twist, showing background swirls under an overcast sky and blossoms using Velvet. Summer is obviously Polina’s busy time attending Chelsea Flower Show, Kew and many venues to capture the splendour of the beauty of a wide range of flowers, even an old phone booth in a lavender field! Peonies, Irises, butterflies, using Sweet are all her targets, even some wildlife (which she claims not to favour). In an attempt to be absolutely unique, she is known to produce toy dinosaur models, cars to to cleverly introduce into her pictures often for surprise effect
It was particularly noteworthy that this very special artist always sought to do something different so that on her visit to the well-known, and much photographed, Dungeness she introduced Velvet or H in order to use the slice distortion effect to provide another very different view of that well known seascape. The same applied when using Trio on a bride to give a personal image that only she could create. Has she left anything out? We cannot think so as even the use of the Lensbaby series and a converted infra-red camera was pressed into service. Are there no limits to her imaginative talents?
Following this evening’s spectacular and thought-provoking talk many of us will be driven to further investigate both her web site and the Lensbaby optics range in order to add a number of strings to their bow – an unforgettable presentation.



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