California-based photographer Smiles Meyer is no stranger to our lenses, previously having crafted a creative shoot by combining our Petzval 80.5 f/1.9 MKII Bokeh Control Art Lens with the complexities of inkblot tests. Today they're back to tell us all about their shoot inspired by the 1999 film The Matrix with our new Nour Triplet Bokeh Control Art Lens.
Hi Smiles, welcome back to Lomography Magazine! Can you fill us in on what you've been up to since your last feature?
Hi, hey, hello. Feels like just yesterday I was shooting my project on the Petzval Lens (which I am still obsessed with). Since my exhibition I have been in a prolonged creatively crazed state. There has not been a single day in the past couple months where I have not created something (this is not a flex, I am painfully obsessive). Most nights I am up late, dilly dallying away on merch designs for bands, obsessing over the most minute pixel placements. I have also begun packing for Burning Man, which has been its own adventure seeing as how I never camp. Future Eyes and I will be in the desert for 10 days capturing the people, art installations and experiences. To say I am excited is a deep understatement.
What was your initial impression of shooting with the Nour Triplet Lens?
My initial response shooting the Nour Triplet Lens was, how the hell do I work this thing? The transition from settings is subtle, which made it hard to detect initially. However within a few shots I began to pick up on the variations and began to appreciate the subtlety of the shifts. It wasn’t until I uploaded the photos onto my laptop that I absolutely fell in love with the lens. The creative control over that thing is wild.
Can you tell us a bit about what you decided to shoot with the lens?
I arranged a shoot that was a hybrid of vintage film and The Matrix. I was thinking of the slogan “shoot film not guns” and thought it could be fun to inject that slogan into a classic action film. The motifs of this shoot were: vintage cameras used as guns, black leather, nightcrawler, alluring, mischievous, edgy, sharp and rebellious. When we arrived at our first destination for shooting it was 10 PM and we were actually removed from the location by police…seems like we took the rebellious theme a little too far. We relocated to an abandoned parking lot in downtown San Diego, which ended up being the most ideal setting for the shoot.
How did you make use of the soft focus in your work?
The soft focus was really ideal for the shoot I did. Whimsically morbid is a difficult aesthetic to capture and the soft focus added to the whimsical nature of the shot. It also had subtle dreamy effects on the portraits of the model. The soft focus created space for more artistic shooting, almost as if a filter set was built into the lens itself. The smooth transition from settings also allows for an immense amount of creative control. You see hacks on instagram for dreamy effects and filters for sale in camera shops that allow you to have soft focus on your photos, but to have a lens that has it built in is not only insanely effective, but also allows for more creative control while shooting.
In which situation would you recommend using this lens?
I really loved this lens for shooting in the city at night. Sometimes when shooting downtown the subject matter gets lost in all the business and bustle of a city environment. The soft focus and creative control allowed the subjects to pop and not be entirely engulfed by their surroundings. When comparing shots from the city shoot my mouth was physically agape at how the models extend out from their surroundings instead of drowning in them. The lens was perfect for shooting the city at night. The soft focused skyscrapers looming behind my sharp subjects created an overarching feel of outsiders loitering in a precarious society.
I would highly recommend this lens for any artistic portrait work. The lens allows for you to isolate subject matters with such versatility that it takes portraits into a whole new realm.
Do you have any tips or tricks for shooting with the lens?
I always recommend shooting with people you feel comfortable with when trying out new gear. The best way to master any new piece of equipment is to build a personal relationship with it. Which means you need time and patience to fiddle around. I would highly recommend dedicating a day to shooting where you shoot in various settings and at different times. I found this lens has a lot of curious effects on lighting and is fun to play with in various settings.
Personally I fell in love with how this lens isolated subjects from their surroundings in low light, shallow depths of field and a busy background. The soft focus during a day shoot vs during a night shoot had entirely different looks, which makes the options for creating vast and wide. Go experiment! This lens has an immense amount of control and endless possibilities. The only way to discover which ones call to you is to play artistic scientist and test it out!
This is not your typical full-frame mirrorless lens. What do you think of the Lomography Art Lenses range in general, and the idea of bringing historic references and character to the digital world?
Whether through creative filters or double exposing images, all of the effects on my images are done in camera. I think that is what I find most exciting and challenging about shooting film, the blind experimentation. In a lot of ways I found this lens to feel creatively challenging similarly to film. Instead of heavy post process editing, my creativity must come out while I am actually shooting with this lens.
Do you have a favorite shot that you captured with the Nour Triplet Lens?
This shot (above) is probably my favorite. Some of the themes for this shoot were edgy, rebellious, night crawler-esque and our original location was a boarded up, beautifully abandoned warehouse. We arrived shortly after 10 PM, parked in the empty lot and began setting up our lighting gear. Just before we finished setting up the lighting, but before we could begin shooting, as I said earlier, the police arrived. They were initially very tense and demanding because they thought we were vandalizing the building. Once they found out it was for a photo shoot they seemed to relax, but still made us vacate the premise. We were bummed about our interruption, but determined to still create. We drove around downtown San Diego until we found a random parking lot behind McDonalds, which is where this photo was taken. Moral of the story, with the right mindset anything can be a good photo backdrop.
What is your personality? Soft, classic or bubbly?
Much like the lens, I am immense in my expression. Late at night I am soft with my words and thoughts. My mornings I am classic with my black coffee and A.M. rituals. When I am creating with others I am bubbly, bursting with love and hoping to fill them with joy.
Anything else you'd like to share?
Go create with people you love. Immerse yourself with the joy of meaningful connections. Allow yourself to be inspired by everything.
If you're interested in keeping up with Smiles and their creative journey, don't forget to check out their Instagram.
You can now find our Nour Triplet V 2.0/64 Bokeh Control Art Lens on Kickstarter.