Here is an effect that crystal ball has on other photographers:
Last week, when I took my crystal ball out to play (after what seems like years of neglecting it), after placing it carefully on a tree, to capture the beautiful cherry blossoms reflecting in it, another photographer quickly hovered over my right shoulder and before I even had the time to turn around to look at what was going on, he was already happily backing up after having snapped his picture of MY crystal ball.
Surprised, I just kept looking at him, probably frowning in utter disbelief.
What about the photographic courtesy of letting me get my first shot? What about common courtesy of asking or even staring from afar?
Nope! The shiny Crystal Ball called to his eager Shutterbug personality and he just had to get his shot.
Weird, it’s like Crystal Ball has some woo-doo powers that attract curious onlookers.
Table of Contents
What is a Crystal Ball?
Crystal Ball (also known as Glass Ball or a Lens Ball) is a popular accessory among any level of photographers, who are looking to learn and practice refraction photography. Not to be confused with reflection, refraction happens when light passes through a glass, or water object, bending the light and making the image on the other side an inversion. This magical phenomenon most commonly occurs in a glass of water, which too can be used for refraction photography.
Benefits of Photographing with a Crystal Ball
You can create very innovative images of typical scenes
Helps to focus the viewer’s attention
An inexpensive photographic accessory (in comparison to lenses, lights, tripods, triggers and other gadgets)
Crystal Ball forms a natural frame for your image
It’s very portable, allowing you to move it freely around your scene
With a large Aperture, bokeh can be created to make your photo feel more artistic and minimalistic
Cons to using the Crystal Ball
Crystal Balls are relatively heavy, especially when carrying other accessories like tripods and multiple lenses
There is distortion on the edge of the ball
It’s challenging to create an interesting composition when taking into account that the image inside the ball is upside down
It’s similarly challenging to photograph the inside of the ball in focus
It wants to roll away unless you find a safe way to place it
Its knicks and imperfections may become distracting and hard to focus
On a sunny day, the ball acts as a magnifying glass and can even burn a hole in your pants (I know!)
Cherry Tree inside the Crystal Ball
By placing the ball carefully on its plastic pedestal and putting that on top of a railing, I was able to capture this beautiful pink cherry tree in all its photogenic glory.
ISO 1250, F9, 1/80 SEC
The higher the Aperture number, the more of a depth of field you have to be able to capture through the ball and keep the object on the other side in focus. You can help yourself a little more in Post Processing.
Create a Composition to flip the image
Pay close attention to the image on the inside of the crystal ball. You want to have a point of interest that is filling the ball almost entirely. Bonus points if there are leading lines, to help create depth.
ISO 1250, F9, 1/100 SEC
It was getting dark, so I had to raise the ISO higher and higher in order to keep my Aperture at F9.
Bokeh circles appear when your Aperture is large, aka a low number and the light is filtering through towards the camera. This is a very dreamy and romantic effect that is easily achieved with the right camera settings and the right placement of the ball. Finding a safe branch or trunk of a tree with a photogenic background can be a challenge, but that is also why Crystal Ball has earned its keep in the Creative Photography category.
ISO 1000, F7.1, 1/160 sec
From the image above, you can notice that the larger the Aperture (the smaller its number F9 vs F7.1), the larger bokeh circles appear.
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I particularly enjoy this image because of the wavy lines created by the railing and as though connected to a wavy Cherry Blossom tree. For this shot, I’m hunched low on my knees on the ground, trying to avoid passing cyclists and pedestrians. At the peak of Cherry Blossoms season, each pretty spot is practically a war zone of selfie sticks, zoom lenses, Crystal Balls, leashed dogs, and others.
ISO 1250, F9, 1/100 SEC
I can’t wait to have this image printed to see what it looks like on a canvas or a metal print.
Cover up distractions
Cover up distractions, surrounding your crystal ball with a cherry blossoms branch and Voila!
This technique is helpful when due to your depth of field, anything close to your lens goes out of focus, keeping things inside your ball in focus. And because of Bokeh, discussed above, you get sexy circles, matching your already round Crystal Ball.
ISO 640, F7.1, 1/125 SEC
Endless Possibilities with the Crystal Ball
You can purchase your own ball from places like Amazon, where a 3 inch (80mm) crystal ball would run you around $20. Yes, there are different sizes out there, but remember, the weight will probably dissuade you from bringing the ball along. That would be a tragedy, because personally, owning a Crystal Ball has definitely helped to infuse my own photography with more motivation and creativity.
If you’re like most, after years and years of exploring different genres of photography, you’ll probably feel in a bit of a photographic rut, but picking up new tools, ideas, projects, accessories, and tips could be just the oomph you need to go out there and SHOOT!
Crystal Ball is a very multifaceted accessory in your camera bag and can help you create innovative images of landscapes, nightscapes, portraits, abstracts, macro photography, and others. You just gotta put on your thinking cap and get to work!
Link below for your own Crystal Ball photographs, I’d love to see your progress.
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