Lensbaby Velvet 56

Cherry Blossoms 2019 - Washington DC by Todd Henson

Soft Cherry Blossoms. Washington, DC. March 30, 2019.

One of the early highlights of the spring season in the Washington DC area are the thousands of cherry trees that burst into bloom. There are many locations to see cherry blossoms in the area, but the most popular has to be along the Tidal Basin where you can view the cherry trees with the many monuments and memorials along the way.

Cherry Blossoms. Washington, DC. March 30, 2019.

This year I went into town with a goal of creating photographs of smaller, more intimate arrangements of blossoms. I was looking for details, trying to showcase the beauty of the cherry blossoms, excluding most of the background and throwing elements out of focus. I brought along my Lensbaby Velvet 56, a soft focus lens, to help create a more ethereal look to some of the images, to give them that soft, dream-like quality I had in mind.

We took the first train into town which arrived sometime around 8 am. By the time we walked from the station to the Tidal Basin the sun was up and, unfortunately, the clouds had departed. This type of situation usually results in strong contrast, harsh sunlight and deep shadows, which is fine for some types of photography, but not well suited to creating that softer, dream-like look. To work around this issue I looked for blossoms in shade, giving me a soft diffused light similar to what clouds would’ve provided.

After creating a couple of the very soft focus photographs of the fully open cherry blossoms, I began looking for the smaller, unopened buds. Many trees have these growing directly off the main trunk, something I always find fascinating. So I focused on a couple of these, in one case showing the unopened pink buds against the dark craggy bark of the tree trunk, and in another focusing on a smaller cluster of buds beginning to open.

Cherry Tree Buds. Washington, DC. March 30, 2019.

Bud to Bloom. Washington, DC. March 30, 2019.

At the end of the day I was very happy with the photographs I created. And, as so often happens, even if none of the photographs had turned out I still had a fantastic day walking the Tidal Basin with my brother.


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Good Evening Rose of Sharon by Todd Henson

A Rose of Sharon bud just beginning to open.

The day was winding to a close, the sun slowly setting and evening fast approaching. A few small rain drops fell, landing on leaves and petals. The Rose of Sharon was blooming, some fully open, some just beginning.

It was a beautiful evening. The light was soft, with just enough falling on the flowers to handhold my camera and capture a few frames. I used a Lensbaby Velvet 56 to create a nice soft feel to the edges of the young flower, keeping the central portion in focus but allowing it to quickly fall off to a pleasant blur.

I brought the lens in very close to the flower, filling the frame, and choosing an angle that would minimize any distractions in the background. Such a light and bright flower in an otherwise low light area resulted in a very dark background. It helped that the background was at a distance from the subject. This is very useful for isolating and focusing on a subject.

If you’d like to see more from the Lensbaby Velvet 56 you can read about my first impression of the lens, see a pair of Dianthus flowers photographed with the lens, and view a bumble bee sheltered inside an open Rose of Sharon.

The resources below contain affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links. This is at no extra cost to you.

I first learned about the Lensbaby Velvet line of lenses through Kathleen Clemons in her CreativeLive classes.


Dianthus Duo by Todd Henson

A pair of dianthus photographed with the Lensbaby Velvet 56.

My folks grow many beautiful flowers throughout the year. This year they have several variety of dianthus, such as those in the photograph above, with their deep and rich colors. I love the patterns in these flowers, and it’s always nice when there’s a little dew, or in this case a few rain drops on the petals (granted, they are very small).

I photographed these flowers with my Lensbaby Velvet 56, a lens I’ve been having a lot of fun with. It can create such nice and soft out of focus backgrounds. But it’s also capable of capturing sharp details in the subject. This photograph demonstrates both the sharpness and the soft blur.

If you’re curious about this lens check out a previous post where I shared more of my thoughts on the Lensbaby Velvet 56.

The resources below contain affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links. This is at no extra cost to you.