Sunrise Journey

Short Stories: about photography and a crystal ball

September 20, 2017 12:16 pm

You know you love doing something when the activities and grit surrounding it (at least some) feel like play. That is what photography is for us and who can go wrong with inexpensive new toys? Last month we purchased a crystal ball of sorts and I’m going to share our first day playing with the thing.

First of all, there are many different kinds and almost as many names for them: crystal balls, lens ball, photo ball, orb, sphere. I didn’t see any called “scorching harnesser of sun’s devil rays”, but perhaps that descriptor is worth noting. Use common sense there.

Part of the fun of a photographer’s life is kicking yourself or your photo buddy out of bed before sunrise, so you can get to a nice place to take photos during one of the golden hours of the day. That is what happened on this day, and we drove to a nearby road that winds down a small hill. Although the ball came with a clear crystal stand, I didn’t have time to find it. Parked on the side of the road, lying on the ground, and after clearing some weeds, we captured these shots of the sunrise:


Crystal ball at sunriseCrystal ball at sunrise

Capturing this how we had imagined it proved to be difficult because there was no good or easy place to set the ball on the side of the road so that the main focal point wasn’t filled so much with gravel. The idea is to focus on the refracted image in the ball, causing a background full of moody blurs and bokeh.

Next, we tried holding the ball. Each of us tried taking shots and my holder reported that it’s difficult holding something that isn’t especially light PERFECTLY still, or at least still enough so the photo is in focus. This is a relative problem; it’s nothing worth a large complaint.

Holding the crystal ball until it hurts

After taking more shots without the ball, we headed to Door County. We drove to Fish Creek and the usual area and didn’t feel like stopping anywhere. We wanted to go somewhere we hadn’t been before. On the way home, I took a left upon seeing a sign for a park we’d never visited.

Down a windy road, past a slew of bicyclists on a road race of some sort, we ended up at Cave Point County Park. There were few people there and vendors were setting up for what looked like a wedding. This is a beautiful park, hugged against the banks of Lake Michigan, where the sound of the waves beating against the small cliffs forces even the busiest techie to put down the equipment to watch and listen.

There are things to be aware of when using this ball

It will get smudgy and full of fingerprints. I wasn’t too worried about this, at least not for this purpose. In some shots it is pretty visible.

Light, light, light…some of the photos taken in the darker, wooded areas, capture a lot of light on the front side of the ball that gets reflected back in annoying sky patterns. This doesn’t always matter. If it does, consider shielding the rest of the front light. A friend or ingenuity is needed for this if you don’t want to tackle it in post.

The camera had a hard time autofocusing on the subject in the ball. It was also easier to change into different positions, as the shooter who was often close to the ground, when focusing manually.

Here are some shots that turned out well. Take a look:

Ball on a rockBall in the woodsBall on a stump

Ball on a stump againFlip and crop, perhaps?

Flipped ball on stump

This is a recommended addition to the bag, even if not on every occasion. We bought this one from Amazon and many others hover around the $10-$20 mark.

If anything was foretold in this crystal ball, it is that the future is upside down and skewed. So be it.

Here are some Instagram hashtags to check out what others have done with it:

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