Ontario-based community member Leslie (also known as @frontoparietal) has previously shared her LomoChrome Turquoise shots with us. Regularly taking trips out to the countryside, she's back today to share some shots amidst the flora and fauna using the New Petzval 80.5 f/1.9 MKII Bokeh Control Art Lens as well as giving us her thoughts on the experience of shooting alone in nature.
Hi Leslie, welcome back to Lomography Magazine! What have you been up to since your last feature?
I've been learning everything I can about double and multiple-exposure photography. I did a swap with a photographer in Thailand a couple years ago and we created a roll of double exposures together, which was a lot of fun, but I've been inspired by what I've been seeing on Lomography to go about it from a more technical and intentional approach.
What was your first impression of the New Petzval 80.5 mm f/1.9 MKII SLR Art Lens?
I bought the lens to use for portraits, which I was starting to get into, very different from the candid street photography I'd cut my teeth on. Then COVID hit, and I had this wonderful lens and no ability to get close to other people (besides my partner, who does not like being photographed!) I tried it a bit for street photography, and was pleased with images I took of street art and graffiti, but you just can't be subtle around people with that size of lens, so I took it out to the country and had animals as my models instead. Some have that portrait look, others are a little dreamy, and I had to give up a lot of control because sheep and horses don't stand still!
How do you feel the lens compliments your work?
The lens surprised me with how well it worked in settings besides portraiture. Even with all of the elements of the shot at a similar distance from the camera, turning up the swirl effect ripples and blurs out the edges. And when the center is still sharp and in focus, the whole thing is reminiscent of what we see in dreams, maybe closer to a fever dream. I could take a subject that would otherwise be anodyne— a green woodland in summer, a child's bicycle leaning up against a tree on a sunny day in a park— and bring in a sense of confusion and disorientation. It also can create a sense of motion, which I tried out on the side of a road. I set the focus to infinity, opened up the aperture, and turned up the swirl effect, and with the visual clues of the road and its signs, tried to evoke the feeling of speeding in a car.
I've also grabbed the lens simply because it was the longest one I had and I knew I wouldn't be able to get extremely close to my subject (galloping horses). I turned down the swirl to the minimum to try to shoot more "traditional" images and I was quite happy with the results. I'm still fairly new to film photography and don't have a ton of equipment, so I try to select what's going to be the most appropriate and make it work. It's a great way to get to know the capabilities and limitations of your gear.
Do you have a favorite shot taken with the lens?
The shot with my horse surrounded by wildflowers, facing me, is my favourite shot. We get this beautiful mix of white, yellow, and purple flowers in Ontario in late summer, and I thought it would go really well with the white of her coat. Even though she's very nearly overexposed, the swirl on the edges keeps it soft and dreamy. It was ridiculous trying to get this shot, my horse is extremely friendly and loves to follow people, so I was walking backwards, almost running, and trying to keep her in focus with this wide open aperture as she was trying to come towards me. The wildflowers were chest high and I nearly fell a couple of times. But because she was in motion, you get a totally different look than if she'd been standing still— her tail is curved as it was swishing through the flowers, and her body is slightly bent as she pivots to step towards me.
What's your favorite feature of the lens?
The lens really shines in the "portrait" setting, with your subject relatively close and the background far away. Even without exaggerating the "swirl" effect, opening up the aperture gives you this bokeh that's almost luminous, just so soft. Add the swirl and it's truly something special and totally unlike any other lens out there.
Any tips or tricks for shooting with the Petzval lens?
Be aware of where the focus starts to blur when you turn up the swirl/bokeh— you might want your subject completely sharp but it’s also a striking effect to have one side of their face swept up in the blur. If you're going to be outdoors in bright light and plan to really open up the aperture, go for a slower speed film. I found the Lomo Color Negative 100 just on the verge of overexposure even at 1/4000 when I was in bright sunlight with a light subject.
What's your usual kit that you use with the lens (film, camera, accessories?)
I used my Nikon FM3A for all of these images. It's the camera I use the most often and know the best, so it's ideal when I'm trying out a new lens since there are not too many unknown variables in play. I really liked the result of using this lens with Kodak Portra, the colors are so bold and punchy I had to check and make sure I hadn't actually grabbed Ektar from my fridge instead!
Do you feel like your approach to shooting has changed between during quarantine and now that everything is somewhat back to "normal"?
I don't think things are really back to normal. I'm in healthcare and the long term impacts of COVID, especially repeat infection, have kept me shooting mostly outside, alone, and at a distance. I do plan to start doing some outdoor portraits so I can finally use the lens for its intended purpose, and am excited to use the apertures plates to create stars and other shapes with the bokeh of background lights.
If you could take the Petzval lens anywhere in the world, where would it be?
I'm hoping to go to my university reunion at Wellesley College in Massachusetts next year and take portraits of fellow alumnae. It's this gorgeous campus, with an arboretum, a lake and geological features that were formed in the last Ice Age. We get a lot of older people who come back for their 40th, 50th reunions, and I'd love to shoot them with this lens. I got the idea from the last time I was there, and I spotted a woman in her 70s sitting quietly in a scenic spot by the lake, with a canopy of green leaves above her, looking out pensively, and I regretted not having a camera with me! I'd love to capture these women in their later years in this magical place of their youth, contrasting sharp focus on their faces with soft and rippled vignetting, hopefully evoking a sense of memory and dream.
Anything else you'd like to share?
Have fun and experiment— even if you’re a very intentional shooter, the beauty of Lomography is to push limits and be unconventional.