Taking Photos Using a Lens Ball
Some people call it a crystal ball
About a year ago, I got a crystal ball, or lens ball (people use both terms, apparently interchangeably), to play with photographically, because I had seen so many amazing photos using them that I was jealous, and wanted to try my hand. They are available in a variety of places, including Amazon, so getting one was not hard at all.
After doing a bit of research, I determined that an 80 mm crystal ball would be the best size (not too big, but big enough to actually get an image in it) --at least to start with, and as it was only $9.99, I really couldn’t go wrong. I was so excited when it arrived, and could hardly wait to unpack the box and get started.
As might be expected, my first photos using the lens ball were, well, not good. I flailed quite a bit trying to frame a photo in any way that made sense, vacillated between focusing on the image in the sphere and the larger image outside it, and struggled to come up with a subject that was interesting to look at—with or without the lens ball.
Some things were too big to represented well through the crystal; others were too small. Some images didn’t seem to translate well at all.
Despite feeling discouraged, I persevered. I spent lots of time looking at other peoples’ crystal ball photos and practiced by trying to recreate their photos.
Gradually, through lots and lots of photos that were immediately discarded, I began to get a feel for how to use the lens ball, and started getting photos that weren’t horrible. This was enough to keep me going, and as with anything, practice made me and my photos better.
Which is not to say I still don’t take some real stinkers, and that some of my ideas just don’t seem to turn out how I imagined them, but I feel more confident, and therefore have more fun, and when the photos do turn out, it’s a wonderful feeling, and can be a thing of beauty.
I often take the crystal ball out of its box and walk around with it, looking through it at the world around me (mostly my house and back yard), to see if anything strikes me as a possible interesting subject.
I’ve taken my share of sunrise and sunset photos through the ball, and as expected, they are beautiful pictures, and satisfying. But it’s some of the other, less conventional photos that I’ve taken with the crystal ball that I’m most proud of.
I’ve taken photos through the lens ball of buttons, acorns, trees, and flowers. I put the lens ball on a mirror in the back yard and shot through that. Some of these ideas worked, some not, but the process was a lot of fun.
Most recently, as I was putting out seed for the birds in my back yard, I realized that all the different shapes, sizes, and colors of the seed might be a wonderful subject. I set up a shelf, covered it with black cloth, and poured a fairly big pile of seed on, before plopping the crystal down right in the middle of it all.
I was right, and the photos I got that day are among my favorites.
One of the things I love about photography is that it allows me to be really creative, and to share my vision with other people, who may see something in it other than what I saw. Using a crystal ball adds another layer to the creative process, and can give new life to subjects I may have felt were “used up” photographically. There always seems to be a new way to take a photo when a lens ball is part of the process. Sometimes trying to find it is as much fun as actually taking the photo.
If you don’t have a crystal ball (or lens ball, whatever you choose to call it), and are thinking of getting one, I have just one word of advice: make sure you get a stand. The lens ball I bought did not come with one, and after struggling for several months without one, and having the ball roll out of position numerous times , I went back to Amazon and got a set of 2 clear crystal stands for $10.99, so again, very affordable.
I love my lens ball, and can’t imagine ever really not having one around.