Taken with the the Lensbaby Velvet 56

Taken with the the Lensbaby Velvet 56

“Ever since I was a little girl, I have always been creating things,” photographer Amy Kalbasz says. As a adult and a parent to two children of her own, she’s continued this legacy. It all started with the seemingly simple desire to document her children as they grew, to remember their adventures in the pages of a scrapbook. But with time, chasing light became her life’s passion. Over the past two years alone, she’s used her camera each and every day, building an archive of thousands of sun-drenched pictures. She understands light when it’s streaming through her kitchen windows, when it’s spread out across a snowy field, and when it’s illuminating the morning dewdrops.

Over the last fifteen years, the Nebraska photographer has graduated from her old film camera to digital cameras with floppy disks to sleek, sophisticated, and modern cameras outfitted with her signature Lensbaby lenses. She keeps a blog, The Little House on Clear Lake, where she chronicles her personal growth and offers insight to her peers. On Instagram, she’s become part of a large and flourishing community of parents who are driven to capture the fleeting moments of their children’s lives in ways that are entirely unique. We asked her about finding her voice, honing her skills, and discovering inspiration in unusual places.

You make a point of taking pictures every single day. How has this helped shape your progression as an artist?
“Shooting daily has definitely made me the artist that I am today. I just completed my second Project 365, and I have learned so much from this project. Shooting daily has taught me a lot about manipulating my camera, and it’s also taught me about my capabilities as an artist. I have learned to shoot in nearly any type of light and situation. I have tried different perspectives and compositions to create daily images that are unique and different from day-to-day. I have also learned about thinking outside of the box and experimenting with different photography lenses and techniques.

But what I have gained the most from this daily project is confidence in myself. I am more confident in who I am as an artist. I know more about what I love to shoot and what I want to shoot. I also slowly started to see my style emerge, which was huge for me. I always wanted to create images that were recognizable to my name.”

Taken with the the Lensbaby Velvet 56

What makes natural light so appealing to you? What advice would you give to other photographers about using more natural light?
“When I set out to learn photography, I made a choice that I was only going to use natural light. You can take five images at the exact same time of day in the exact same location, and if you’re using natural light, each and every image will always be different. I absolutely love that. I also love how natural light can be a subject in and of itself. You can have a subject to photograph, but the light and shadows shape the image. I love all sorts of natural light, but I would have to say that I am definitely more attracted to pockets of light and dappled light, as well as low light images.

Taken with the the Lensbaby Velvet 56

“My advice to any aspiring photographer is to turn off the flash, and just look for the light. It’s all around you if you are willing to open your eyes. It may not always be obvious, but it will be there. You just have to take the time to see it. When you do, your images will take on a whole new life of their own.”

Taken with the the Lensbaby Velvet 56

What do you love most about working with children? In what ways do kids inspire you and challenge you as a photographer?
“Children are some of my favorite subjects to photograph. I just love the honesty and real emotions that they create in an image. It feels so timeless to me. They inspire me because with the way they view the big world. They are just tiny pieces in this big puzzle of a universe, but they are so real and honest, and they are so important. They live in a world where there is no worries, and everything that they see and experience is magical to them. They are pleased with the simple things in life… how can one not be inspired by that viewpoint?”

What makes Lincoln, Nebraska a great place to make pictures?
“Although I wish I lived in another, more gorgeous place, Lincoln is my home and always will be. A long time ago I accepted that fact. I knew it wasn’t going to change, and I had to learn to enjoy the beauty around me. Quite truthfully, I shoot indoors most of the time, so I wouldn’t say that it necessarily has shaped many of my images; however, I am currently excited to begin working on a project called Pioneer Girl. I felt like I wanted to do a project that encompassed the beauty of the midwest. I am definitely excited to begin working on this project and see where it will take me.

Taken with the the Lensbaby Velvet 56

In addition to being a photographer, you’re an author, and you maintain a blog. Why is it important to you to foster this sense of community with other artists? What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned from one of your peers?
“I originally created my blog to showcase to myself the progression that I was making as an artist. To me, it was nice to have my daily images in one place. I liked how I could look back and see the progress that I was making on this journey. I eventually started to recognize that others out there might be on the same journey as me, and they might want to see where I started at and where I am today. I know I did! I dreamed of taking beautiful images, and I had always wished that those photographers that I loved to follow would have shared some of their early images. Photography is a process that requires practice and dedication. We can’t all just start out fabulous. It’s a journey, and everyone has a starting point. I feel like my blog allows aspiring photographers, who are on the same journey as me, to simply recognize that we all start somewhere. I hope my images also can foster some inspiration to others.

“My biggest lesson that I have learned from my peers is to just keep shooting. Even when I don’t feel like picking up the camera, or when I feel like I have absolutely no inspiration. Doing this pushes me creatively. And in the end, I am very thankful that I’ve done it.”

Taken with the the Lensbaby Velvet 56

You have described your style as “ever-changing”. Did anything change for you when you started using Lensbaby lenses? How have they transformed your work?
“Yes, I definitely consider my style to be ‘ever-changing.’ I don’t know if I will ever have a particular style, since I like to push the boundaries and try new things all the time. But I definitely feel like I am finding some consistency in my work. I love how the Lensbaby lenses really capture and handle the light. I tend to focus all of my images around the light, and the Lensbaby lenses have allowed me to find my artistic voice. To create unique and beautiful images.”

Do you remember the first time you picked up a Lensbaby lens? What was different about shooting with this lens?
“My first Lensbaby lens I purchased was the Spark. I was looking for something different to challenge myself with, and using the Spark is challenging at first because you have to squish and squeeze the lens. I’m not going to lie- it was really difficult in the beginning to achieve a focus with that lens, but the more I practiced it, the better I got. I eventually was able to find that center of focus, and I really started to fall in love with some of the images I was creating. I liked how I was able to create meaningful images with this lens, and from there, I was definitely inspired to get more Lensbaby lenses.”

Taken with the the Lensbaby Velvet 56

What is your number one lens, and what do you like about it?
The Lensbaby Velvet 56 is hands down my absolute favorite lens. I love the dreamy, hazy look that it creates. You can create so many different images with it. From soft to sharp images, it truly never disappoints.”

How do Lensbaby lenses help you achieve the look you’re going for?
“I was originally drawn to the Lensbaby lines because I loved the soft, dreamy effect they give off, and I loved how the background just fades into the image. As I mentioned, I also love to experiment with light, and I found that with this line of lenses, I was able to achieve a cool sun flair when shooting wide open. I have never had a lens that had this capability. For someone like me, who documents the light, these lenses handle the light incredibly.”

Why is it important that photographers not get too fixed in their ways? What makes experimentation so crucial to an artist’s growth?
“I love this question. As an artist, I feel as though you should never be complacent in the work that you are producing. Over time, your work could become boring, stagnant, and less meaningful to you. You should always be willing to challenge yourself. Without risks, you will never truly know your capabilities as an artist. You might fail on some things you try, but you might soar on others. Finding new things can shape you into the artist you want to be. I don’t believe that there will ever be a time when you can’t learn something new.”

All images © Amy Kalbasz

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