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!




Monthly Project: More Lensbaby Fisheye!

I tried to move on to a new monthly project for August and September, I really did. But I was loving the fisheye so much I kept shooting with it!

As promised, more from my trip to California:

And on a trip to Utah State University, where I had time to wander around campus while my daughter interviewed for jobs. (She got one!)

But never fear, I promise I won’t be shooting fisheye forever. I spent the whole day yesterday starting my next creativity project, and it’s not fisheye!

Lensbaby Circular Fisheye

It’s an unconventional lens for sure (all the Lensbabies are!) but I really enjoy my Lensbaby Circular Fisheye. In my efforts to get out and shoot more, I have decided to choose a lens and focus on that lens for a month. In July, I have been taking my CFE out at least twice a week and have learned a lot about shooting with it!
Here are some recent favorites with this lens:

I took it downtown:

And to the aquarium:

And even on a short trip to California!

I haven’t finished editing the pictures from the California trip, so I may add another post with more of those at some point.

I have learned a lot this month! Would anyone like any tips for shooting with the Lensbaby Circular Fisheye?

And finally, one of my older fisheye images made it into the Lensbaby University video on that lens!



2016 Favorites

2016 was a year of big change and busyness for me, I did not get out to shoot for fun anywhere near as often as I would have liked. But I did get in some shooting! Here are my 12 favorites from 2016 – one for every month of the year!













It’s a Garage Sale!

When we moved this summer, I realized I have so many things that I don’t ever use. Time to clear out some space and get these things into the hands of those who will use them! All items are available for shipping to US addresses only. If you’re local to me (in Sandy UT) I will refund your shipping if the items are picked up within 24 hours of payment. Otherwise I keep the shipping and put it in the mail.

Think Tank Lily Deanne Tutto

I bought this bag, took the tissue paper off, loved it, but it’s been months and I keep finding reasons to not move into it, which tells me I’m just too attached to my old bag. Still has tags, original box, and is in perfect condition. Retails for $299, willing to sell it for $230 including shipping.

Tenba Shootout Small Backpack Olive/Black

• Water-repellent, dobby/diamond ripstop nylon shell – an optimum combination of light weight and durability.
• Special, YKK weather-sealed zippers keep the elements out.
• Compression straps prevent the load from shifting, and help keep the center of gravity as close to the body as possible.
• Jumbo, padded side pods can be used as separate accessory pockets or pass-through hatches for instant interior access.
• Exclusive, fully-adjustable, MSTC System securely accommodates all popular outdoor tripod types and sizes.

I used this for a few hikes and it’s very sturdy and the hip belt does a good job of helping support the load and keeping it from hurting the shoulders. I’ve since moved to a belt system and haven’t used this in years. It’s in great shape! Includes a CF wallet, phone pouch and has all the tripod accessories. This is an older model that I paid $180 for, selling this one for $115 including shipping.

Tamron 28-75 2.8

Full frame, constant aperture, mid range zoom for Nikon. Autofocus motor. This was my first full frame lens, and I used it until I got the Nikon 24-70. Kept it because it is much lighter for hiking, but haven’t used it much in years. In great shape, with the original box, front and rear lens caps, etc. Photos below include some sample images taken with the lens at both ends of the zoom range. Retails new for $500, selling this one for $400 including shipping.

Ray Ring Flash

Ring Flash for Nikon D900/910 with D1/D2/D3 or D/700 cameras. Light, portable, and does not require extra power. I primarily used it for creating soft, even light for macro work, and you can see examples of it below. Retails for $199, selling for $110 including shipping.

Zeikos Battery Pack

for Nikon D700, D300s, or D300

Bought this right before I upgraded from the D300s to a full frame, and never once used it. New in box, don’t know if I ever even opened it. Allows you to add another battery and also adds a button for shooting in portrait mode without reaching around your camera. I paid $50, will sell for $30 including shipping.


Lowepro Slim Lens Pouch 75AW

Sturdy lens pouch that fits most telephoto zoom lenses (up to 70-200mm f/2.8 – wither without the hood or with hood reversed) Collapses to be smaller on your body when working with lens; flattens for easy packing when traveling (it’s mostly flattened in the photo) Reinforced padding at top and bottom provides extra protection from impact at critical mount and glass points Hook/loop closure on front flap offers fast access to lens. Comes with a shoulder strap but also has SlipLock attachment tab on back so you can use it with compatible LowePro belts. I was able to use the velcro tabs to go around my Think Tank belt system. Used this a few times, then replaced it with a Lens Changer model. This Slim Pouch retails for $40, selling for $20 including shipping.


Phat Strap

Soft, colorful PhatStrap camera strap, Approximately 36 inches from clip to clip. Camera attachment parts add a few more inches. I used this a few times as both a shoulder strap and a crossbody strap. Realized I like the crossbody strap method a lot better, and this is just a tad too short for a crossbody strap for a tall woman like me, I loved the soft minky lining! Can’t remember what I paid, thinking about $40. Will sell for $15 including shipping.


Visible Dust BriteView Sensor Loupe 7X

This is a lit, magnifier to check out your sensor and see if there is any dust on it. Has 6 small LEDs that provide even light for close examination of your sensor. I bought it with the sensor cleaning kit below, but it turns out I’m too lazy to do it myself and have just been paying the local camera shop to do it for me… Retails for $85, will sell for $40 including shipping. I forgot to turn it on when I was taking pictures, but it does work. Uses 2 small easily replaceable watch batteries.

Visible Dust Artic Butterfly Sensor Cleaning Kit

These reusable brushes are for dry cleaning your sensor. Specially coated with nanoparticles to attract dust, and the largest brush can be spun to discharge particles and avoid static issues. (Note: it says all over the instructions not to spin it in your camera, so please make sure you don’t do that!) Again, I bought this kit to clean my own sensors, but every time they need cleaning I get lazy and drop it off to be cleaned. Might as well let someone else save the money! Retails for $130 will sell for $100 including shipping.


Hoodman Hood EYE Eye Cup for Nikon *Square* Eyepieces

I have a camera with a round eyepiece, and my husband bought me this one for square eyepieces. I love, love, love the one on my camera. So very helpful when you shoot with glasses! Works for either the right eye or the left eye (you can rotate it either way) so no matter how you shoot this can help. Retails for $20, selling for $12 including shipping.


Lensbaby: Bending Your Perspective

by Corey Hilz

2010 edition, lots of great info on using the old school Lensbaby optics (double glass, etc.) Out of print. Selling for $10 including shipping.


Light it! Shoot it! Retouch it!

by Scott Kelby

Great book where Scott Kelby walks you through several photo shoots, demonstrating exactly how to set up lighting, how to shoot, and how to edit. Retails for $33, will sell for $15 including shipping.