Arts & Culture

Experimenting with freelensing photography

By angling the lens I adjusted the plane-of-focus to create just a sliver of focus where Ozzie's eye only falls on the s
By angling the lens I adjusted the plane-of-focus to create just a sliver of focus where Ozzie’s eye only falls on the skewed plane. Photographed in Walford on June 15. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
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A while back I was having a conversation with former KCRG newsie Justin Foss, now a strategic project manager with Alliant Energy while we waited for things to progress at a job site.

He asked if I have ever heard of freelensing. As he was explaining it, I did have memories of reversing my “fast 50” to take quick copy photos of other photos. But, what he explained was different. I was intrigued and locked it away in the photographic vault to revisit at a later time.

What better time the during a pandemic to explore a new technique.

Freelensing, often referred to as the poor man’s tilt-shift lens, is a technique used to manipulate the plane of focus of a lens by angling and offsetting an unattached lens as a photographer holds it close to the lens opening of the camera. The technique also has the added benefit of introducing artistic light leaks and lens flare into the picture.

Another cool thing is since there is no mechanical connection between the camera and lens, you could use any manufacturers’ lenses. I grabbed an old Nikkor 50 mm F1.4 off the bookshelf and tested it. The old-school manual focus lens has a smaller diameter than the EF mount of my Canon camera. The front of the lens, where the filter threads are, fits just inside the lens opening. Instant poor man’s macro lens.

Some considerations to keep in mind:

— A 50 mm lens seems to work best. It has a larger maximum aperture for beautiful bokeh and lens a larger image circle for lens vignetting.

— Turn on your camera’s live view display. It will give you a better indication of what will be in focus as well as any light leak or flare effects.

— Your image sensor may need to be cleaned more often since you’re exposing it to more dust and the elements than if a lens was attached.

— Some rear lens elements are more exposed than others. So, use caution to not scratch it.

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— There’s a lot to remember, with all of the tilting and shifting, contributing to the potential to drop your lens. Use a camera strap to remove that variable.

— Some cameras require a custom function be activated in order for them to operate while a lens is detached.

— Make sure whichever lens you use remains at it’s widest aperture when unattached from the camera. Some manufacturers’ lenses close down when removed from the camera.

— Try reversing the lens (so the front faces toward the camera) for higher magnification, close-up photos.

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