Holga Lens – working with light in a different way

Holga Lens – working with light in a different way

I’ve always been intrigued about the Holga camera because I like its effects – the shadowiness, softness, vignetting and slightly dreamlike quality.  I hadn’t ventured to buy one mainly because it was film and also because I got the impression it was techie, tricky to use and unpredictable – you didn’t really know what you were going to get until the film was developed. A lot of the excitement seemed to be in self-processing. I’d also not had too much success using a Lensbaby optic so I’d put them both in the same category of ‘like the effect but difficult to use’.

My interest in Holga didn’t really go away though and so I was interested to read an OCA discussion at the beginning of the year regarding lenses which had been made to fit DSLRs  http://www.weareoca.com/photography/plastic-fantastic/.  The lens didn’t seem expensive so I bought myself one –  60mm with f/8 aperture.

Here are my first three – taken at a time when I was quite caught up in flower photography:-


The Holga lens seems more friendly to me and I enjoy searching around with the camera until I can see part of the scene in clear view.  I used it when I was doing the exercises for Part 5 and went geocaching on the Common (see earlier posts) because I liked the slightly surreal/unreal atmosphere it produces. The light has to be right – best when the light is behind the camera and ISO 400 seems to work especially well.

Its surreal effect intrigued me and I decided to take some photographs of a doll I’d acquired from a charity shop. I had some interested comments when I posted on Flickr and encouragement to do more. I started to think of different scenarios and ideas built up in my head of props/characters I could use.


Looking for love


                       Babes in the Wood                                                                 She wanted them

It’s now developing into a series based around the doll which  takes a slightly bizarre look at some fairy tales.  I have more ideas and even took her onto the Common with me the other day, where she went down a rabbit hole.







The other interesting aspect of the Holga lens is the way it blurs the distinction between human and not.


I’m still working on it and would like to produce a book. The sequence and format needs to be carefully worked out. I think I’ll use a Blurb book as a try out but I would really like to do a handmade book.

March 31st 2012

14 Comments on “Holga Lens – working with light in a different way”

  1. guylejeune says:

    Lovely images, I always wanted to experiment with this way of capturing. All the iPhone apps in the world don’t get close to this Lewis Carroll world

    • Catherine says:

      Thanks Guy. I forgot to mention the Hipstamatic app on the iphone.I got that first but it didn’t get the effect I wanted. Red Riding Hood is going to wander into the book as well. I think I’m regressing!!

  2. bmhana says:

    HI Catherine,
    The holga lens seems to produce some interesting effects. I especially like the wolf image. It’s like something from a fantasy movie. I might see if I can pick one up over here if they’re not too pricey.

    All the best,

    • Catherine says:

      Yes. I like the ‘wolf’ as well. It was good to use a real animal rather than obtain a photograph of a wolf. I got the lens from eBay. It’s a genuine Holga lens and cost me around £38. You can get copies quite a bit cheaper though.

  3. Saadia says:

    Hi Catherine

    I like the holga affect a lot as well. I love the third image with orange flowers. You have really good ideas as well. Very orginal. I am looking forward to checking out your book once you have completed it.

  4. CliveW says:

    You’ve got some good ones there I haven’t seen before Catherine. I think this is your strongest body of work to date. You’ve found a way to connect your subconscious to your shutter finger, something all photographers should aim for in my opinion.

    Good work!

  5. John Umney says:

    I think what I like most about this set is the counter intuitive nature of the images. Some of the nastiest stories ever written were assembled by the brothers Grimm, in the original those fairy tales are very nasty, recounting nightmares of adults and children alike. Often these stories started in “normality” before quickly descending into something very bad and sometimes unredeemed. These images are all bright and sunny, with the exception of the wolf which is obviously a nasty character, and yet there is a feeling of disquiet that pricks our imagination; plucking our memories at something that we would rather forget. I think this series has “legs” – lets hope they don’t get bitten off! :))

    • Catherine says:

      Yes – our imagination can so often take us to places we don’t really want to go. The trick is to recognise the energy behind it and turn it to advantage. I watched the first episode of the latest Game of Thrones series last night – I think the writers must be descendants of the Grimm brothers! Beautiful, fair maidens give birth to dragons and wolves guard humans.
      My series is beginning to find its feet.

  6. Hi Catherine. Love these pictures and look forward to seeing them all together. I hope t oadd the book to my growing collection one day.
    PS: Have you chanegd the comments section? I seem to need to log in to comment and so am using my Twitter account as it won’t accept just me. I may be doing something wrong but can’t see what.

    • Catherine says:

      Hi Eileen. Sorry you’ve been having trouble making comments. I checked my settings and there doesn’t seem to be anything there which would prevent you. Strangely enough, I’ve had problems quite often making comments on blogs using Blogger – although less so when I log into my wordpress blog. Goodness knows what’s going on!
      Glad you like the pictures. I’m putting them together at the moment.

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