Look into My Crystal Ball

I got a new toy, a crystal ball for photography effects. So far, I haven’t really been to a location that is especially conducive to this little gadget but I’ve experimented with it a little. The above photo was taken at the Desert Botanical Garden. After I realized I wasn’t going to get anything I was pleased with, I walked around in the late afternoon sun and got some regular photos.

Currently the Garden has an exhibit by Jun Kaneko scattered around various areas. Some people love it, some not so much. I’m probably in the latter category but I do know that they need to bring exhibits in so that more people will come to the garden so they can support their mission of research, education, and conservation. The sculptures are mostly glazed ceramic forms although the one, below, is a bronzed form.

Below are the stars of the show, the Tanukis, based on Kaneko’s interpretation of the Japanese raccoon-dog which is a real animal and also a popular theme in Japanese art. See more on Tanukis here.

Visitors are encouraged to hug the Tanukis and everyone wants their photo taken with their favorite one. I was volunteering one night at a busy event and countless people handed me their phones and asked me to take their pictures.

A few days later, I went over to Scottsdale Xeriscape Garden to try my luck with the crystal ball again:

Still not thrilled with the results, I snapped a few other shots:

Red-naped Sapsucker

Gila Woodpecker

I have a glass stand and a wooden stand for the ball but the photos I’ve seen that I like the best are those where the stand doesn’t show, either by cropping it or by not using it. However, if you don’t use the stand, you have to be careful that the ball doesn’t get scratched by whatever you have it on and that it won’t roll away and break. Here’s a practice photo I took with the glass stand…not thrilled with seeing it.

Do you want one? This is the one I have.

Do you want to see some beautiful photos taken with them? Check here.

Want some tips?

CAUTION: It’s true that the ball can refract the sun’s rays and cause a fire. I set mine on a white table outside for about 3 minutes. When I touched the refraction on the table, it was burning hot!

P.S. It’s my 9 year blogiversary on 2/13!



Back in Circulation

red-eared-terrapinRed-eared Terrapin


towhee-2-11-5-16Abert’s Towhee

thrasher-granadaCurve-billed Thrasher


mock-on-wireNorthern Mockingbird

goose-in-woodsDomestic Goose

wigeonAmerican Wigeon

eucd-11-5-16Eurasian Collared-Dove

hum-11-5-16Anna’s Hummingbird, male

Back in February, 2015, I got a new lens for birding, the Sigma 150-500mm. It was on sale. Shortly thereafter, they released 2 versions of a Sigma 150-600mm (hence the sale). I was very happy with my lens and could handhold it whereas the birding friends I knew who got the 150-600mm could not handhold theirs. Those things are huge…but do deliver a very crisp photo. If I was in great light and all, my photos were crisp, too, but as time wore on, I felt it focused sort of slowly and could be sharper so I started thinking about the Nikkor 200-500mm. It was quite a bit heavier and bigger than my lens, though, so I kept stalling because I was afraid I would have to use a tripod or monopod.

Then another acquaintance in my birding group, who is an excellent photographer, and who is able to “test drive” lenses (I don’t really know how he pulls that off) said the new Tamron 150-600mm, 2nd generation, just released in September, was faster and crisper than the Nikkor. I looked at the specs and it was only 4 ounces heavier than my Sigma and just slightly longer so I felt it could still be handheld. It was the same price as the Nikkor so I traded in my Sigma and now have the Tamron.

I really haven’t tried it out much yet. I went out to a park one day and got a few photos but, other than that, have mostly used it in my yard. Our yard is pretty dark so I don’t think I’ve experimented enough yet to gauge the sharpness. The extra few ounces are actually noticeable as far as handholding but I think I’ll get used to that. The extra reach from 500 to 600 is very noticeable. I usually have buyer’s remorse but I’m trying to get over it. I guess I have to say that I just haven’t used it enough, under the right conditions, to know if it is markedly sharper and faster to focus but it has excellent reviews so I’m hopeful.

And here are a couple photos taken with my 18-300mm. These 2 Macaws live at Dig It Urban Gardens and Nursery, where I went the other day.



skipper-aboveFiery Skipper


Fisheye Fun in Phoenix


This is the Water Room at Arizona Falls which I’ve blogged about before (1, 2). I thought I would take a little break from taking/posting bird and butterfly photos and play around with my fisheye lens for a couple days.


Arizona Falls is a public art project as well as a working hydroelectric plant providing power to 150 households. It’s a great place for photography and has a lot of interesting angles and features itself so using a fisheye only enhances that.




Not too far away is Papago Park which I have also written about numerous times.




With a fisheye, where you center the image vertically and horizontally affects how “bulged out” the image will be. If it’s centered horizontally, it will not be as distorted and will just provide a wide angle of view.



If you enlarge the above photo (a lot), you can see our downtown area with tall buildings, not quite skyscrapers. And here are a few more shots in a business district close to my house.






No birds! But you can actually see a couple ducks and a turtle in the office complex pond above.

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Rainy Day Pastimes

Hummer Spilled Ink_edited-1Oops

Thanks to El Niño, we had 5 days of solid gloom and rain. Instead of using the time to do all the things I need to do, I played around with some photos…and the minutes turned into hours and the hours into days. They each can tell a little story, I think.

window lake cupShattered

Nikon Camera HawkShootin’ Film


Window Cat_edited-1Looking Out/Looking In

Hawk Easel Feather BlueArt Imitates Life

I had seen this 5 minute award-winning animated film short the night before and that’s what “inspired” me to make these…not the message of the film (which is kind of sappy although true) but the visual beauty of it. I love all the layers upon layers in it…not that I can do anything very complex but it was fun trying.



The Bigma!


House Finch, male


Northern Mockingbird

Less than a year ago, I got a new camera lens, a Nikkor 18-300mm that I love for its broad focal range, from wide angle to close-ups. I thought the 300mm would be such an improvement from my 200mm for birds and that I would never need another lens.


Wrong! I need a longer focal length for birds. So, while my 18-300mm will remain my main lens, I’ve now added the Sigma 150-500mm to my lineup~the Bigma! (Technically Sigma’s 50-500mm is the lens referred to as the “Bigma,” but this one is almost as long). Weighing in at a petite 4 pounds plus 1.5 pounds for my camera plus battery and straps, I can still handhold it because of its image stabilization feature…but after a couple of hours, it’s heavy.

The first two shots as well as these below were all taken with the Bigma at 500mm or close to it last week. Click photos to enlarge for detail.


Mallard drake


Mallard hen


Ring-Necked Duck drake


Rock Pigeon


Rosy-Faced Lovebird

Hum 2.14.15

Anna’s Hummingbird, male

I’m pleased with the sharpness and there is a big difference, to me, between 300mm and 500mm when it comes to shooting birds. Anything longer than 500mm, I don’t think I can handhold so I think this will be my birding lens for a long time.

A few cat shots with the Bigma:





Ivory 2






And I certainly don’t want to forget Ebony but his photo, below, was taken with the Rokinon 800mm Mirror Lens, also handheld. But that lens is much lighter because it’s a mirror lens.

Ebony 3

And just because Marbles, Google, and Jessi didn’t want to be left out, here are some recent photos of them taken with my main lens.


Goo 2

The boys love to soak up the sun in front of an open door.


Jessi loves her bed and does not love the boys.