Freelensing or De-Lensing – take your pick

When I started learning more about photography, like so many I was mostly interested in gear, sharp images and the best lenses my bank balance could reasonably afford. But this quickly became boring. After all, what is a sharp image? What does it really mean? If, as light recordists, we’re slaves to the best gear and sharp glass, then what of those iconic photos of the past made with old cameras and slow grainy film? Clearly, photography is about much more than gear.

It serves market interest to remain obsessed with the latest and greatest, but when stripped back to basics, photography takes on a simpler shape for me: photography is the recording of light onto a medium via guided direction of that light through a hole in a box.

Forget lenses; forget the latest and greatest; forget all the complexity; this is light recording at its most essential. It is with this philosophy in mind that I approach a lot of my photography. This liberates me from the constraints of the sharpest photo, pixel peeping, or the best glass. I can approach each image on its own merits and accept that each configuration of gear options is just a tool. This also means that I can put just about anything in front of a recording medium to indulge in optical experiments; and so I now present a number of photos made recently that look a little different:

Freelensing

Freelensing with a Bell & Howell Lumax

This one looks like a tilt-shift photo doesn’t it? It’s actually the result of freelensing with an old C-Mount movie camera lens made by Bell & Howell; a Lumax f1.9 25mm (1 inch) lens, to be more specific. My copy arrived in excellent shape, but the focus ring was frozen stuck. With the application of some lubricant, the ring loosened up very nicely. And if you’ve never heard of freelensing, it’s where one hand-holds an unmounted lens in front of a digital sensor.

Freelensing for the win !

Optical experiments - Plano-convex lens

Optical experiments – Plano-convex lens

It’s not the sharpest image is it? But we’re not really worried about that. It was fun to make because I was using a home-made lens created out of very large plano-convex glass. I blu-tacked it to an adapter so I could use it on my Olympus Pen digital camera, and even made an aperture for it out of some black cardstock. Here’s what it looks like mounted:

Home-made lens

Home-made lens

Here’s another image I made with it:

Optical experiments

Optical experiments

And here’s one where I’d poked some extra holes in the aperture card to allow more light through to the sensor:

Home-made lens - candle flare

Home-made lens – candle flare

It’s a little different isn’t it? There’s certainly some satisfaction in trying out new ways to create images and stray from the beaten path. This approach also suits my personality, as I prefer not to be constrained to one way of doing things, or one way of seeing something.

 

 

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