Thursday, August 9, 2018

It Takes Balls (Well... One, Anyway)

For years, I've wanted a crystal ball. Not to see my fortune or to look into my future, but for photography.

I've always looked at photos that were shot through a glass sphere, seen how the light bends the subject and inverts everything within it, and I've wanted to reproduce some of those images or come up with new ones of my own.

But other life priorities got in the way, or I'd put the thought of owning a glass ball in the back of my head, among the other things I want but aren't a high priority.

Still, the images of these light-bending spheres continued to pop up, even more frequently with the pervasive social media. So, one evening, I threw my desire out on social media, telling whoever cared to listen that I wanted a glass orb.

One of my Twitter buddies came back, telling me that the cost of one of these orbs would cost an arm and a leg (I'd give the latter away, any day), and I was about to toss out the notion of owning one when another Twitter friend chimed in, telling me she got hers for about $15, through Amazon.

I ordered mine right away. It came with a small stand that is also made of glass. With taxes and shipping, I paid a little more than $26.

Having never used an orb before, I thought there might be a learning curve, but there really isn't one. The trick is to find the right subject, and to decide whether you want to be close to the orb—arms length or closer—or you want to place it on its stand and step back a bit.

For my first shot, I placed the ball on its stand, placed it on the little table on my front porch, and stood back, zooming in with my 24-70mm lens. I shot my front yard, with the aperture wide open, to give the background outside of the orb a bokeh effect.

Because only the captured image inside the ball was in focus, I decided to turn the image upside-down when I shared it. Doing so seemed to make sense for this subject.

My front lawn never looked better.

For my next shot, a couple of weeks later, I decided to include the background outside the orb in the shot. I set the f-stop to 8, to make the background recognizable but still out of focus. The focus would be within the sphere. And this time, it made sense to keep the overall photo right-side up.

I set the base on my tripod, but it sat at an angle, and so I had to carefully rest the ball in place. And I had to crop the shot so that the base wasn't visible, because of the angle, and so a bit more of the ball was cropped out. But I think the shots still worked.

A couple of days later, I was back at it, taking a small detour on my way to work, where I stopped a month or so before. In a small pedestrian walkway in an old part of Hull, dozens of umbrellas can be seen, hanging above, offering a bit of shade and something pleasing to the eyes.

This time, orientation wasn't a factor. I simply held the sphere with my fingers and held it above me.

There are lots of uses for my sphere but I now worry that I'm going to overuse it, boring both myself and those who like to look at my photos. I got a first taste of that feeling, last week, when I went to a model shoot at Britannia Beach. I asked one of the many models at the meetup if I could use my glass orb for a couple of shots.

Only one turned out. Barely.

Model: Carmen C. Camacho
It was enough to make me think that I really need to consider my subject before I pull out my ball.

That didn't sound right...

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