Dana T. is an analogue photographer whose work has a feminine and delicate air to it. Recently becoming more interested in self-portraiture and enamored by the swirly bokeh, she tested out the Petzval 80.5 f/1.9 MKII Art Lens. Let's take a look at her results and hear all about her process.
Hi Dana, welcome to Lomography Magazine! Can you please tell us a bit about yourself and your work?
Hi! I’m a photographer based in the Midwest, United States. I’ve been shooting film for around three years now. In the last year or so I’ve been experimenting more with self-
portraits. I really love taking photos of just about everything, but self-portraiture is so fun to me. I like playing around with different themes, incorporating my surroundings
and nature, and trying to capture an emotion.
What made you pick up the Petzval lens as opposed to our other lenses?
I wanted to try the Petzval lens for that crazy swirly bokeh effect! I really wanted to try to nail a self-portrait with that effect in the background. I love the atmospheric, dreamy effect it has and how it really makes the subject pop.
What did you decide to shoot with the Petzval Lens?
Unfortunately, it is January and, in the Midwest, not only is the scenery very brown and dead, but I was unlucky with bad weather, and very little sunlight. I created a few still life set ups, experimented with lighting, took self-portraits in my bedroom and in the snow, and shot a few photos of my friends in the woods. I also took a trip to an indoor botanical garden and shot some plants and fruit, which gave me some much-needed colors and warmth.
What was your first impression of the lens?
The lens is beautifully made, it’s so easy to change aperture because the aperture ring is so smooth, and it has an outermost ring with 7 settings to change the intensity of
bokeh. As someone who has rarely shot with anything other than a 50 mm, it was a bit of a learning curve for me to get used to the zoomed in 80.5 mm format, especially attempting to take self-portraits with a shallow depth of field. It was so fun to try, though, and exciting to scan my film to see which ones I nailed it on, which ones I
missed focus, and learn from my mistakes.
What was your favorite feature of the lens?
I think the versatility of this lens is so impressive. Even without using the bokeh effects, it takes beautiful quality pictures. And when using the different bokeh settings, it can
make your subject pop and give the picture an entirely different, dreamy quality.
Do you have a favorite photo that you took with the lens? Is there a story behind it?
I think my favorite is from a set of pictures I took on a snowy day. I made this flower crown and painstakingly attached strawberries to it with floral wire. I feel like that picture really shows off the beautiful bokeh the lens can create, and I love how much the strawberries stand out a lot against the snow.
There isn’t much of a personal story behind these besides experimenting with the lens, and trying to keep up with a “fruit” theme in my photos. When there’s no flowers in the winter, fruits are a great still life subject — they’re colorful, have unique textures, and they have so many symbolic meanings in mythology, culture, and religion (the Greek myth of Persephone and the pomegranate seeds, the poison apple in Snow White, the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden…I could go on.) Most often fruit is used as a symbol of abundance, spring, and rebirth. I’ve had fun trying to create different still life works and portraits incorporating them.
Any tips or tricks for using the lens?
My tip would be to slow down. Meter your scene or your subject, and if you want to try to get that intense bokeh effect, make sure you have a shallow enough depth of field (f1.9/f5.6.) This was challenging for me to do with self-portraits, but I put an object in the frame where I wanted to stand, focused on it, and used a self-timer.
If you could shoot anything with the Petzval lens, what would it be?
I would love to do more self-portraits in the summertime, with more colorful, natural backgrounds and natural sunlight. I’d also love to take more portraits of other people with it, as it’s really a great portrait lens!
Do you have any upcoming projects or work that you can share with us?
Since I started developing film at home, I bought a developing reel that fits 110 film, so I have been shooting that more. I really love the small format and the low-resolution, grainy look. I don’t have any projects planned at the moment, but I am hoping sometime in the next year to make a zine, and to travel more. Otherwise, I’m just waiting for the weather to warm up to shoot outdoors again!
Anything else you'd like to share?
Just some advice for other photographers or artists out there: I sometimes become unmotivated and uninspired, especially in winter months. Try something out of your comfort zone like shooting in a new place, following a theme, or using a new lens or film. Sometimes it can open your mind to new ideas. Just a reminder that we are always learning and sometimes the best part about creating is the process, even if the results don’t always come out as expected.