Adding more flexibility to the lens ball

I’ve had lots of fun with my lens ball (or crystal ball, or glass ball, whatever you like to call it) the last few months. And while I love how it works to use existing natural spots to put it, like the ones seen below, I often found myself frustrated.

I don’t love the look of a hand held lens ball, and I couldn’t always find a good spot to put the ball. And then, I was at Yellowstone and there were many places I wanted to use it but there wasn’t a good spot. Lots of frustration! Towards the end of the trip, I ended up stranded at White Dome Geyser for about 30 minutes. This is a geyser that erupts every 10 minutes or so and is a nice tall plume. I wanted to use my ball! In the absence of any railings, rocks, tree stumps or branches….I had to try and figure out something! I had my tripod with me, and I used a few random things from my camera bag, covered by the microfiber sack I carry my ball in, and managed this:

It’s not great, but it worked! I started thinking about how I could make something more attractive – and stable! – to sit on top of my tripod and support the crystal ball.

Initially, I started thinking about finding a way to drill 1/4 inch holes that could screw into the tripod screw. Abandoned that idea as too complicated. Thought about a couple other options, but finally settled on one that would be easy on/off and would still allow the ball support to be used on a flat surface. The answer was simple: magnets!

I purchased a set of two small nut adapters that were 1/4 inch and would screw onto the tripod screw. I also bought some flat magnets an inch and a half in diameter. Some superglue attached the magnet to the adapter. Then I shopped around several thrift stores, and picked up some short candle holders, a napkin ring, and a wooden shape of unknown purpose. Glued other magnets to those items, being careful to keep the polarity so they would attract and not repel.

It made a good strong connection between the two, while still being able to easily take the ball support off and on my tripod. You can see the magnet is strong enough to keep this candle holder attached at an angle.

You can see the whole range of ball supports I have so far here:

And some pullbacks of them in use with the final images:

I don’t want my babies to grow up!

“I wish my babies would stay little!”

“They’re growing up so fast it makes me cry!”

“My kids just need to STOP IT. I can’t take this whole growing up thing!”

“Before I know it they’re going to be the dreaded TEENAGERS”

It’s almost back to school time, and my FB feed is peppered with comments like this. And it breaks my heart. Because the message it sends to the kids is that they are not as valuable any more as they grow! Every time a child hears “I wish my babies would stay little” they wonder if growing up and doing new things makes them less loved. If growing up fast makes mommy cry, they must have done a bad thing. Truth is, they can’t just STOP IT. Growing up and moving into new phases of life is exactly what they are supposed to do!

When we mourn the normal growth and development of our children, what message does that send? How could it impact their opinions of themselves?

For some reason, our society has no trouble telling new parents to “enjoy every moment!” but somehow as they grow it changes into a communal complaining about kids?

I’m not going to tell you to enjoy every single moment (because it’s totally unrealistic) but I would like to recommend a shift from mourning their growth into living in the moment with our kids. Sure, babyhood is great, we miss the little voices and the small hands in ours, but the enthusiasm and learning and accomplishments of later childhood are definitely to be celebrated! This becomes so vitally important as they enter the teen years. You don’t want your kids to think that you hate teenagers on principle, because that means you hate them and their friends!

Monthly-ish Miscellanea

Miscellanea Header

So I find this really funny: Every year, there is a “Dance Your PhD” competition, where people record dance videos explaining their dissertation.

Here’s a very niche wedding business I had never heard of before!

Some gorgeous drone photos of colors, line and shape in the Earth’s geography.

Turns out you can scientifically prove that Kansas is, indeed, flatter than a pancake.

This race is my kinda race, and I seriously admire the way the fundraiser appealed to a whole new demographic!

Monthly-ish Miscellanea

Miscellanea Header

Anyone want to pay me to travel and take photos with your stuffed animal? I promise good pictures!

Speaking of photos…One of mine was featured by Lensbaby this month!

The comedy wildlife photography competition always makes me laugh!

And I always love seeing the amazing work in the National Geographic contest, too.

I have a hard time imagining this will ever be a practical method for making furniture, but I am fascinated by this chair farmer.

Crystal Ball Photography tips and tricks

My October creativity project was crystal ball photography, and it was an interesting experiment into what works and what did not. Most of my shots were with the 24-70, as it has the versatility of some close shots and some wide shots. Some things I learned:

Compositionally, you can shoot tightly around the ball, or more wide:

Crystal Ball composition-1 Crystal Ball composition-2

Sometimes it is nice to line up horizon lines:

Crystal Ball View-1

And sometimes you can completely ignore them:

Autumn on the Alpine Loop-1

I personally think either a match or complete mismatch looks better than an almost-but-not-quite match:

Tibble Fork-2

The aperture you choose will make for very different images! You can go for a more abstract background shooting wide open:

Fall Crystal Ball-2

Or a more defined background with a smaller aperture:

Autumn on the Alpine Loop-5

Either way, I find it looks better if the edges of the ball are in focus, and that often takes an aperture of at least f/4 with my camera/lens combo. Here’s one where I didn’t get that and I think it doesn’t look as good:

Crystal Ball Missed edges-1
Focus on the refraction in the ball rather than the background. Here’s one where I tried it the other way around, and I consider it a flop.

Crystal Ball focus flop-1

Sometimes it looks better to flip the image vertically so the glass ball is at the top. I did it with this image, because the background looked more abstract and the refraction makes more sense right side up:

Crystal Ball Vertical flip-1

But this one I chose not to, because there is enough of the background in focus that it made sense to leave it, and I felt my hand looked weird upside down.


Sometimes it makes sense to flip it horizontally, too. In these images, you can see that flipping horizontally makes the words more readable:

City Library-2
City Library-1

Sometimes holding the ball is the only way to get the composition and refraction you want. But I have found I much prefer images without my hand in them. I haven’t tried using someone else’s hand, but I know I don’t like MY hand in the images as much! I just know that I played with a bunch of different ways of holding my hand and I am not really loving any of them!


The thing about spheres is that they like to roll. Often they’ll roll away from you. It helps to find a small crack, divot or corner to put it in:

Mountain Stream-2


Or you can create your own on smooth surfaces. I’ve brought clear washers, buttons, a key ring, and sometimes just put some dirt or sand underneath it to prop it in place.

Crystal Ball crack-1 Crystal Ball sand-1 Crystal Ball keyring-1


Make sure you polish the ball and don’t leave fingerprints! Sadly, I didn’t notice this one until I got home.

oops Fingerprint-1

And last but certainly not least: The ball can make nice starbursts and flares, but it can also set fire to things! Right after I took this shot, I smelled smoke and realized the wooden handrail was burning! It you look closely there are a few wisps of smoke! Thankfully moving the ball made it stop and I dumped some water on it just in case, no real harm done.


Have fun shooting with your crystal ball and don’t set fire to anything!