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How to fit a wide open vista into a crystal ball


To photograph a landscape through a crystal ball

Time: Half an hour

Skill level: Beginner

Kit needed: D-SLR, Crystal ball, Cleaning cloth

Have you ever tried to fit an entire landscape into a tiny little ball? Well, it is possible, if you’re using a crystal ball. Place a crystal ball down in front of a scene, and you can shoot the view as it distorts and refracts through the crystal (or glass) and reaches your camera. 

Choose a scene that’s quite high in contrast, so that it looks nice and punchy when it’s miniaturised by the ball. Sunny days and blue skies work well in this respect. You don’t need any fancy kit, though if your crystal ball is quite small, a macro lens would be useful. Settings aren’t too important for this shoot either; what is important is how you set things up – like this…

STEP BY STEP: Gaze into a crystal ball


The more colourful and impressive the scene in front of you, the more impressive your refracted image will be. Don’t just dump your crystal ball down  in front of the first flower you see; find a cool landscape to photograph. Take a cloth as well, to wipe dirt from the ball.


Don’t hold the ball in your hands in sunlight – we did, and the ball magnified the sun’s rays and burnt us! Use a cloth, and shade the ball while moving it


Find a level surface to balance your ball on. (The first time we placed the ball down it started rolling away, and when it did it got dirty quickly.) If you can’t find one, use a pedestal or mount to hold the ball in place – as our Quick Tip above explains, holding it is a bad idea!


Use aperture-priority mode, and set an aperture of around f/5.6 at ISO100. Set single-point AF and place the AF point over the ball. Half-press the shutter button to focus on the scene in the ball. Zoom in on the LCD to ensure it’s sharp. If the AF struggles, focus manually.