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Jo Iredale – NCFE in Photography: Levels 1 & 2:


Project: Natural / man-made

The theme for the photographs that I am submitting for assessment is..

Through a glass ball

I’m not sure where I got the idea of taking photographs through a glass ball from, but I really liked the idea and bought a ball online. I’ve been practising taking photos with it using a variety of subjects and I’ve decided to select five of those photos for my project. As the glass ball is man-made, I was able to photograph natural subjects through it to fit the requirements of the project.

My first attempts at taking photos through a glass ball weren’t overly successful. I realised that autofocus didn’t always focus on the subject through the ball so for some photos I had to switch to manual focus. I also started by using a 18 – 70mm lens but couldn’t achieve the result I wanted as I was too far away from the ball and had to zoom in, which meant losing the background so I changed to my fixed 30mm macro lens which meant that I could get closer to the ball and fit in plenty of background.

Photographing through a ball causes refraction. The subject in the ball is upside down, so the idea is that you turn the photograph upside down in order to see the subject the correct way up. I found that this didn’t always achieve the best results. When using a wide aperture, the subject in the background becomes blurred and difficult to identify, so I think that when using a wide aperture, the photos look better upside down so that the subject is in focus through the ball. However, if you have a  narrower aperture, you can identify the background subject and in those cases, it’s better to have the photo the correct way up.

Having said all that, it’s very subjective!

I have taken the first three photos at an ISO of 100 to ensure that they are as clear and noise free.

1. The Glasshouse, RHS Wisley

Manual exposure: F11, 1/80, ISO-100, 30mm

I chose to use an aperture of f11 for this photo as the Glasshouse was far away and I didn’t want it to be too blurry in the background. I tried taking the photograph from many different positions to get the best result possible and this shot captures a good section of the scene. I also tried to line up the bottom of the Glasshouse in the ball with the bottom of the Glasshouse in the background to give a straight line running through the photograph which I feel keeps it neat. I also used some pieces of bark that I found on the floor to place on the glass stand that the ball was sitting on to give it more of a natural look.



2. Tree

Manual exposure: F5.6, 1/80, ISO-100, 30mm

In order to take a photo of this tree through the glass ball, I had to hold it which meant that I needed to use autofocus. Luckily, it worked in this instance. I chose to use an aperture of f5.6, the widest I could get, as I wanted to blur the tree and it wasn’t too high so I felt that I could use a wide aperture whilst still being able to make out the tree in the background. I have turned this photograph upside down so that the tree appears the correct way up in the glass ball.



3. Happiness

Manual exposure: F9, 1/160, ISO-100, 30mm

I wanted to include people in my project and this is an example of when the photograph perhaps works better the correct way up. I tried looking at it both ways, but decided to submit it this way. I opened the aperture to f9 so that the people in the photograph are identifiable. I also used the sepia setting to give it the look of an aged photo which I felt suited the mood and the people in the photo.



4. The sky

Manual exposure: F11, 1/250, ISO-500, 30mm

I really didn’t expect to be submitting this photo as part of my project as there were other photos I really liked and this one was just an experiment. However I really like the fact that all you can see in the background is the sky and the building looks like it’s enclosed inside the ball – it was actually just below my thumb. It was later in the day and I chose to use a narrower aperture of f11 for photographing the sky which meant that I needed to increase my ISO.



5. Cows

Manual exposure: F4.5, 1/800, ISO-250, 30mm

I wanted to try and photograph animals through the ball and decided to try and get a close up of the face of a cow’s face which was standing near a fence. Unfortunately, the cow moved and had an encounter with another cow which I managed to capture through the ball! Luckily I’d set the shutter speed to 1/800 to capture movement. I prefer this photo upside down as it shows other cows in the background as well as the sky.

The ball was resting on a piece of wood that I found in the field and was handheld.




One thing that I learned when I was balancing the ball on a piece of wood was that when using a glass ball on a sunny day, it burns, as you can see from this photo below – there is actually smoke!



To look at these photos closer and view the properties, please click on them below:

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