India through a new lens

A photographic adventure along India’s tourist trail and a Lensbaby Edge 50 Optic review. The lens was provided to us by Lensbaby, but all photos, thoughts, and derpy moments are most definitely our own.

 

Every year, more than 8 million tourists visit India. And that’s just foreigners—there are millions more domestic tourists traveling all over the country.

Many of those millions flock to the same sights. The mausoleums of Delhi. The Taj Mahal in Agra. The palaces of Rajasthan. The ghats of Varanasi.

Lensbaby Edge 50 optic review - The Hawa Mahal in Jaipur, Rajasthan, India - Lost With Purpose

The Hawa Mahal in Jaipur, Rajasthan

Virtually every one of them, myself included, comes armed with camera, ready to snap photos of everything from towering, ornate havelis to elusive Bengal tigers. That’s in addition to all of the postcard-perfect images of these sights already in circulation.

Over the past three weeks, we followed the flow of the other tourists, traveling along the well-beaten Indian tourist track through Delhi, Agra, Bundi, Udaipur, Jaipur, and Varanasi. After being spoiled by all of the tourist-free destinations of our past year of travel, I was daunted by the challenge of photographing India’s tourist trail.

How the hell am I supposed to come up with anything original short of hiring a helicopter or praying to the weather gods for epic AF sunrises and sunsets?

Luckily, a solution was literally handed to me. Right when our tourist trek began, I got my hands on a new creative lens: the Lensbaby Edge 50 Optic.

Lensbaby Edge 50 Optic review - First test shots with the Lensbaby Edge 50 Optic and Composer Pro II - Lost With Purpose

 

Photographing India's tourist trail in a unique way can be a daunting challenge. Click through to learn about how we viewed Delhi, Udaipur, Jaipur, and Varanasi in a whole new way, thanks to our Lensbaby Edge 50 Optic creative lens.

 

What the heck does a Lensbaby Edge 50 Optic actually do?

“Creative lens” might be a new term for you—no big deal. Though the term might be new, many of you are already familiar with the Edge 50’s effect.

You know that Instagram filter where you can selectively blur out part of the image, and leave a linear or circular area in focus? That filter was inspired by Lensbaby. But whereas the Instagram filter is purely digital, with Lensbaby, the effect is real.

Lensbaby Edge 50 Optic review - Humayun's tomb in New Delhi, India shot with a Lensbaby - Lost With Purpose

Humayun’s tomb in New Delhi

The lens is mounted on a bit of hardware called the Comproser Pro II, which allows it to rotate and tilt on a ball axis. The more you tilt it, the narrower the band of focus, and the direction of tilt changes the direction of the focus band.

A rough start

I was stoked to get the lens, but my first shots with it were bland at best. Partly because I’m a control freak, and partly because I’m absolute shit at following directions. (Hey, at least I’m honest.)

Dude, loosen up

If you’ve ever scrolled through our Instagram, you might have noticed a trend. Carefully composed shots. Plenty of symmetry. Sharp focus, straight lines, popping details, you get the idea.

I’m not sure if it’s because I’m a designer in love with clean lines, or because I need to have some semblance of order in our otherwise chaotic lives, but whatever the reason, I’m OCD behind the lens. And that sure as hell doesn’t work with the Edge 50.

Lensbaby Edge 50 Optic review - The Taj Mahal in Agra, India via the Lensbaby Edge 50 Optic - Lost With Purpose
Lensbaby Edge 50 Optic review - Taj Mahal front via the Lensbaby Edge 50 Optic in Agra, India - Lost With Purpose
Lensbaby Edge 50 Optic review - Taj Mahal in Agra, India via a Lensbaby Edge 50 Optic - Lost With Purpose

With the soft focus comes unpredictability. I tried to adapt it to my rigid photography style, only to emerge with mediocre photos. Instead of seeking out new angles or opportunities, I was driving myself crazy deciding what to focus on, and agonizing over poorly focused shots. Which leads me to my second point…

Follow the damned instructions

One of the first instructions with the lens is to make sure your camera’s diopter is properly adjusted before doing anything else.

So, obviously, I didn’t.

The diopter on a Nikon D7100 DSLR camera

The diopter on your camera focuses the view in the viewfinder

I hate adjusting the diopter—it’s so hard to see if the view is in focus on my Nikon D7100. (Also, my viewfinder is so dusty, I’m never sure what I’m looking at anyway.) With a mental shrug, I assumed that, since my photos had all been coming out clear, the diopter was *probably* on the right setting.

Surprise surprise: it wasn’t.

Lensbaby Edge 50 Optic review - Unfocused shot of a boat on a lake in Udaipur, India with the Lensbaby Edge 50 Optic - Lost With Purpose

Look at this beautiful shot of…. the boat’s reflections? Damn it.

A slightly unfocused diopter isn’t an issue when you’re shooting with a normal lens on autofocus. But there’s no autofocus with Lensbaby lenses, and given I was shooting on super wide apertures, my depth of focus left absolutely no room for error. Oops.

Lensbaby Edge 50 Optic review - Elephant walking the streets of Udaipur, India - Lost With Purpose

An elephant on the streets of Udaipur at sunrise sounds like the perfect combination for the ultimate photo… then this focus fail happened.

Most of my photos were slightly off focus. Though frustrated and well-aware, I attempted to pass it off as ~*artistic license*~… and was called out on it.

Lensbaby Edge 50 Optic review - Called out on Instagram for my focus fail - Lost With Purpose

I don’t know, gargijoshi, I just don’t know.

 

Finding myself the sweet spot in India

And then, after endless slip ups, mistakes, and the occasional lucky shot, it all clicked. Pun unintended.

Early one morning, as the sun rose over the banks of the Ganges in the holy city of Varanasi, I figured things out. Perhaps it was divine intervention—Varanasi is the holiest Hindu city in India, after all—but more likely than not, I’d just stumbled upon the perfect mix of ingredients. And fixed my stupid mistake.

Lensbaby Edge 50 Optic review - Sunrise bath time in the Ganges on the ghats of Varanasi, India - Lost With Purpose

Sunrise bath time in the Ganges

After weeks of questioning the ability of my own eyeballs, I realized the focus issue could be resolved simply by properly focusing my viewfinder. Two minutes of fiddling later, the focus problem was fixed. Derp.

Lensbaby Edge 50 Optic review - Goats on the Ganges in Varanasi, India - Lost With Purpose

Goats on the Ganges

Technical issues resolved, I was free to focus on the world before me, and oh what a world it was. The warm glow of sunrise plays perfectly into the Edge 50’s effect. While my previous attempts at dreamy shots during the middle of the day fell flat, I was quickly lost in reverie shooting with the Edge 50 at sunrise.

Lensbaby Edge 50 Optic review - Boats on the Ganges at sunrise in Varanasi, India - Lost With Purpose

“Boat?” – Every single middle aged man on Varanasi’s ghats ever

I’d also noticed shots in busier environments were more striking, and this was quickly proven once more. The Lesnbaby’s effect helped to pull people and objects from the crowds on the ghat, capturing a moment within the madness.

If there’s any place in the world perfect for seeking moments in chaos, India is it, and Varanasi’s ghats are a shining example.

Lensbaby Edge 50 Optic review - Men and women waiting to take a boat ride on the Ganges in Varanasi, India - Lost With Purpose

Men and women waiting to take a morning boat ride

There’s still plenty to discover with the Edge 50, but for now, at least I’m finally off to a good start.

Where to get your own Lensbaby Edge 50 Optic

You can buy the Edge 50 Optic and Composer Pro II (necessary) from Lensbaby’s site for $399. Versions are available for all major digital camera brands, including Nikon, Canon, and Sony.

If you’re looking for an even wider range of special effects, there are plenty of other optics available from their site. Go wild!

Men doing laundry by the Ganges river in Varanasi, India at sunrise. Shot with a Lensbaby Edge 50 Optic.
Sunrise boat rides on the Ganges in Varanasi, India, shot with a Lensbaby Edge 50 Optic.
A tourist meditating on the ghats of Varanasi, India, shot with a Lensbaby Edge 50 optic.

Tips for using the Lensbaby Edge 50 Optic

  • Seek dramatic lighting. Think sunrise, sunset, or interesting lighting at night.
  • Travel photo-wise, busy scenes and repetition make good subjects.
  • For God’s sake, adjust your viewfinder before use. You’ll regret it if you don’t.
  • Don’t feel the need to tilt the lens to the extreme from the start.
  • Shoot in manual, and don’t forget to play with the aperture ring on the lens.

 

Photographing India's tourist trail in a unique way can be a daunting challenge. Click through to learn about how we viewed Delhi, Udaipur, Jaipur, and Varanasi in a whole new way, thanks to our Lensbaby Edge 50 Optic creative lens.

 

Still on the camera train? Don’t miss our post with my two favorite pieces of advice for beginner travel photographers.

Alex

American by birth, British by passport, Filipina by appearance. Addicted to ice cream. Enjoys climbing trees, dislikes falling out. Has great fondness for goats which is usually not reciprocated.

More about Alex

7 thoughts on “India through a new lens

    Sam Pardue says:

    Beautiful, beautiful photos!

    Interesting effect! It sounds and looks like a tricky art to getting it right, but when it works, it looks wonderful. Great review, and stunning shots – I really want to go back to India ❤

    Yes, the learning curve is quite steep, especially if you’re not used to manually focusing your lens. But the effect is pretty cool.

    robert says:

    Cool pics and lovely writing! I was in south India 10 years ago and i have other priorities..now i will re-schedule my travels and put india in my top 3 places to see!
    http://www.vivaguides.com/single-post/TRAVEL-BOOKS

    Hi Robert. Thanks for the comment. We have removed your link, as we don’t allow people to post irrelevant links in the comment section.

    robert says:

    If it was irrelevant i wouldn’t post it..peace!

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