No matter where I travel there are a few things I always pack….my camera, phone, tripod for both, spare lens, spare battery and my trusty little lensballs.
I love taking photos and I’m always on the hunt for the “perfect” shot but sometimes it’s cool just to have a little fun with it too. Which for me, is where the lensball comes in.
Using a lensball is an example of refraction photography. Refraction is somewhat of a magical phenomenon which occurs when a wave such as sound, water or in this case light, is deflected through a denser mass such as water or glass.
As the light hits the lensball, light is bent which causes a distortion and due to the lensball being a transparent spherical object, this causes the image in the ball to appear inverted. It feels like somewhat of a magic trick and on more than one occasion I have had people watching me use this gadget and asking about it.
Therefore, I thought I would share a few tips on using the lensball.
Before you begin make sure the lensball is clean, they are prone to picking up finger prints and specks of dust so give it a good wipe each time before you start.
Make sure the lensball is inline with your subject. This will help to minimise distortion. There are a few exceptions to this such as placing the ball in a puddle or like the image below to capture the dessert sand.
Make sure your subject fills the ball. This will sometimes mean having to get closer to whatever it is you’re taking a photo of.
Take a few different photos of the same image, some getting close to the ball and some where you capture more of the background. Stepping back a little to get more of the background creates a greater depth of field and can add a little extra to the photo.
Play around with angles, sometimes having the lensball off centre will yield better results.
Play around with the aperture of your camera to get the image that best suits you. Do you want to image on the lensball to be focused or a focused background with a blurry lensball image?
Pick a camera lens that will work for you. Using a macro lens will work well as it will allow you to get very close to the lensball. Mobile phones are excellent for this, infact, all the images on this article were taken with a mobile phone. You can also use a wider angled lens should the scene (such as landscape) allow.
Get to grips with editing. Your image will always appear inverted in the lensball and sometimes you’re going to want to flip it just like in the images below. A quick and easy phone app to do this in is Snapseed.
Sometimes, if you keep the background image in shot you might just want to keep the lensball image inverted. Always have a play around to see what works best for you and your image.
Many lensballs will come with a mount to stand it on, however, sometimes you might want to try embedding the lensball more into the natural environment to make the image flow with its surroundings.
When finding your ideal location to place the lensball, please do keep an eye on it especially if you’re at a height. The balls are solid glass and therefore quite heavy. You don’t want to risk it rolling off and landing on someone’s head!
When storing your lensball, do not leave it in direct sunlight. They act as a magnifier and will cause fires.🔥
The above also goes for when taking photos, if someone holds the lensball for you in direct sunlight, it can cause them to burn. As can placing your ball on an object to take a photo. Dry leaves and magnified sunlight = fire 🔥 so please PLEASE always choose your location wisely and keep an eye on the sunlight and your lensball. See the image above of the Seven Pillars of Wisdom, you can see the sun shining straight through.
Pack your lensball carefully, speaking from experience, just chucking the lensball into your bag can result in chips and scratches with can ruin the photo.
What to Buy
Lensball come in a variety of sizes and can all vary greatly in price. Remember that although the bigger the ball the bigger the image, the bigger the ball the greater the weight. Here are a few that I would recommend.
This is the one I currently have, it’s 80mm, so a decent size and it comes in a gift box with a cleaning cloth and pouch.
The below three options are slightly pricier but well worth it as they come with a storage bag. They come in 60mm, 90mm and 110mm (and probably a few more sizes in between) and have a microfiber cloth. This will be something I look for on my next purchase as the bag alone will stop me having to buy new lensballs when I damage mine!
Now this is one I have never seen before but looks very cool and I have just added it on my list to buy! It’s used to create a rainbow effect amongst many others and also comes with a cleaning cloth.
So there you have it, the photographic lensball in a nutshell. Remember although we all strive for that perfect photo, have fun with it and get sharing those images!
As always, any questions please do leave a comment on here or message me directly.
When I found out that I’d be moving to Nigeria, I thought I would be saying goodbye to the beautiful greenery, rolling hills and wildlife of Yorkshire and hello to the smoggy heat and grey bustling city life of Lagos.
How wrong could I be?
I never expected to find conservation centres home to Gorillas, Elephants, Monkeys, Crocodiles, Antelope and least of all Pangolins.
I didn’t even know Pangolins were native to Nigeria and I certainly wasn’t expecting to see any in the flesh in my life.
Pangolins are ant eating mammals covered in protective keratin scales and the only mammal known to have this feature. They are nocturnal creatures who spend most of their days curled up in tiny little balls sleeping; something they also do when feeling threatened, curling into a ball to expose their scales whilst using the sharp scales on their tails to lash out.
There are 8 different types of Pangolin, 4 listed as critically endangered and 4 listed as vulnerable and unfortunately, Pangolins are one of the most smuggled mammals in the world due to their meat being seen as a delicacy in China as well as their scales being used for medicinal purposes there.
For all the bad that happens to Pangolins, this is a story of 2 very lucky Pangolins, whom I like to call Mr & Mrs Pangolin.
Two friends and I were exploring a local market here in Nigeria. We had just come out of a Chinese market and my friend spotted what he thought was an Armadillo and some Turtles. After closer inspection I realised that we weren’t dealing with an Armadillo, the animal was a Pangolin.
As they were outside a Chinese market and given what we knew, the fate of the Pangolin was not going to be a good one.
My friend stealthily took a quick photo of the animals and we got out of there.
As soon as we got into the car, I got on the phone to start calling around organisations who could possibly go and rescue Mr Pangolin and the Turtles. My friend was on Google lining up the numbers whilst I kept hitting dead ends.
I remembered reading a BBC article before I came to Nigeria about a man who rescued animals. I knew he was the guy to call but for the life of me I couldn’t remember his name (this bit becomes relevant further on in the story.)
Eventually the Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF) enquiries team picked up the phone. I explained the situation and they were ready to help. Shortly afterwards, I was able to speak with Joseph Onoja, the Director of Technical Programmes of the NCF who assembled a rescue team straight away.
An hour and a half later a full rescue had been completed. And even better than we thought, there was a Mrs Pangolin as well as a Mr and a total of 8 Turtles. 😍
The rate this team were able to assist was incredible to say the least. I wanted to know more about the team and what their capabilities were so I requested to meet up with them and watch the Pangolins and Turtles be set free- a moment I will never forget.
After a weekend of recuperation with the vet, Dr Mark Ofua, it was time for the animals to be released.
Dr Mark Ofua Pangolin (as he is now known) arrived at the conservation centre with the animals and what a happy sight it was to see them.
I swear I recognised Dr Ofua but just couldn’t place him (again, this will become relevant later.)
As soon as Mr Pangolin woke up and saw the forest around him, I think he knew what was going on. He seemed to get so excited like he knew he was going to be released.
Mrs Pangolin having a quick bath and drink before her release.
After introductions, it was time for the release; we headed for a quiet spot in the bush and first up was Mr Pangolin.
What an incredible moment, seeing this little guy climb his way to freedom. It took all I had not to cry! But that wasn’t the end of it, next up was Mrs Pangolin.
Mrs Pangolin was a little more shy than her other half so we decided to give her some space, release the Turtles and come back to check on her. So next up… the Turtles!
It was decided that 4 would be released at Lekki Conservation Centre and the other 4 at a nearby lake. This way the Turtle population could grow in 2 separate locations.
On the way back over to check on Mrs Pangolin, I had the chance to speak properly with Dr Mark Ofua. It turned out this wasn’t his first Pangolin rescue. He had returned around 20 back into the wild not to mention numerous snakes and other animals local to Nigeria.
Fairly recently he had even rescued a little black cat which was going to be used for ritual purposes. This is one of his few rescues that I think will end up permanently living with him.
I asked Dr Mark Ofua if he checked up on the animals he had released and whether he could track them. After a release, Dr Ofua goes back to site to check on the animals however, unfortunately the funding isn’t there in order for him to attach trackers to the animals.
Tracking is not only important for research into these animals but it also aids their protection. This is where you and I can help. I have set up a justgiving page to raise money for this crucial equipment.
If you can help, no matter how big or small please do so to help Dr Ofua in the amazing work that he does and to help the protection of these animals.
Not only is Dr Ofua a vetenarian who helps to save animals in his spare time, he also tries to educate local kids about animal rights 👌🏻👌🏻. What a guy. You can check him out on Instagram by clicking on this link.
Right… back to Mrs Pangolin. We headed back over to the bush to make sure she was ok and to our delight, we got back to where she was released just in time to see her clambering up a tree 😍.
Shortly after the seeing Mrs Pangolin make her break for freedom, Dr Ofua had a call about another animal in need of his assistance. This time it was a Python.
We swiftly made our way to the entrance of the Conservation Centre where the snake was waiting for him. The poor little guy was tangled up in a fishing line.
Dr Ofua quickly set to work, he made a secure bag to place the snake in (just out of what he could find) and slowly cut the snake free.
After the snake was securely in the bag I jokingly said, “you’ve done that before” to which Dr Ofua replied, ” I’m the snake man of Lagos, you can Google me!”
The penny suddenly dropped! This was the guy I had previously read about and been searching for on the internet when I was scrambling around to find someone to save the Pangolins! You can check out the BBC article about the Lagos Snake Man, here.
This truly was a humbling day. Seeing the work Dr Ofua and the NCF do is incredible and being witness to these endangered, beautiful animals being released back into the wild into a safe place was out of this world.
If you too enjoy seeing wildlife in it’s natural habitat and have a genuine interest in conservation then you should check out Lekki Conservation Centre, either for a visit or as a volunteer.
Please also check out their website. Here you can enquire on how to become a volunteer or even donate to aid the good work they do.
The NCF who run Lekki Conservation Centre, was founded in 1980 by the late Chief S. L. Edu and it 1982 it was registered as a charitable trust.
The foundation has a vision of “a Nigeria where people prosper while living in harmony with nature.” After speaking with Adedamola Ogunsesan, a conservationist at the centre, it became apparent that this vision is as alive now as it was back in 1980.
For more photographs of the centre and some its inhabitants, please see the bottom of the article.
**Top Tips for visiting Lekki Conservation Centre**
Please be respectful. This is a conservation centre so please put all your litter in the bins provided.
Use reusable plastic bottle and straws. Not only will this help reduce rubbish at the centre but it will help reduce plastic in the Lagos area and on a wider scale.
Keep noise to a minimum. This area is home to many animals, it is not your home. Besides, the quieter you are, the better chance you have of spotting something in the wild.
I would advise going earlier in the day to beat the crowds…. and the traffic.
Please do all you can to help this precious planet and its inhabitants. We only get one shot! For those of you that have donated or given up your time to volunteer with the NCF, from the bottom of my heart, thank you ❤.
See you there.
P.S. Please leave your comments at the bottom of the post or contact me directly for more details. Please help to share this article using the buttons at the bottom of this post, this will help to raise awareness and much needed cash for the trackers! Xx
Nestled inbetween counties torn apart by war and political unrest, Jordan truly is a jewel within a crown of thorns with its rich history, culture, dramatic yet beautiful landscapes and some of the friendliest and welcoming people you’ll ever meet.
If you enjoy a fast paced holiday, want to see ancient ruins whilst learning the history of the land, eat amazing food until you’re fit to burst, then hike wonders of the world and stunning landscapes, then Jordan is the place for you.
Now, before I go on, I want to share my number 1 tip for Jordan… get the Jordan pass before you go. It costs 70JD which is around £77 and gives you access to most of Jordan’s top attractions including entry into Petra which alone is 50JD. The pass also covers your visa fee when entering the country. You can pay a little extra for the pass which gives you a 2 day pass to Petra. Petra is such a huge site so if you have the time I would advise doing this. I’m a keen hiker so can get around pretty quick but 1 day for me wasn’t enough. There are also options to add on entry to Bethany which I would advise doing if you’re planning a trip there. You can find the Jordan pass on the link below.
Aqaba in the south of Jordan is perfect for those of you that want to relax and catch a few sun rays. The beautiful beaches overlook the Red Sea with views of Egypt and Israel. As well as relaxing on the beach, many of the resorts offer water sports including scuba diving around the coral reef. I didn’t have time to dive but managed to take a glass bottom boat tour, where I really enjoyed seeing the coral but it made me feel sad at the amount of litter thrown in there.
**Top Tip** if you want to sunbathe, I would advise doing so in one of the resorts. Although Jordan is pretty westernised, you should still be respectful of the local community if you want to lay around in swimwear.
For the shopaholics out there, you’ll be pleased to know there will be ample opportunities to shop with quirky bustling markets and boutiques dotted around the place. I explored a market in Aqaba and particularly enjoyed the spice stalls where I picked up some lemon salt and Jordanian tea (a must try). There are plenty of places to pick up souvenirs from your trip but animal lovers be warned.., you will see animals waiting to be slaughtered as well as slaughtered animals. I know not everyone wants to read that but I personally found that quite hard to see so thought it only right to share my full experience.
**Top Tip** Try the spices in the market before you buy, they are so delicious! Also go in there prepared to haggle and you’ll grab yourself a bargain.
For the wannabe historian/archaeologists or for those interested in seeing/learning about ancient history you have the Greek and Roman remains of Pella, Umm Qais and Jerash. Not to mention the Nabataean Kingdom of Petra, one of the wonders of the world and an absolute must see whilst in Jordan.
Whether you are religious or not, it’s very interesting learning about Biblical times and seeing some of the places referred to in the bible as well as seeing views over the Holy Land. You can also visit Bethany which is the claimed baptism site of Jesus.
**Top Tips** take appropriate clothing. Walking boots or at a minimum trainers are required as there will be a lot of walking in gravely and sandy areas. I’d also recommend taking a backpack and layers. I visited in February and had beautiful sunshine, rain and even snow so its good to be prepared.
Visiting Wadi Rum (Valley of the Moon) for me, was the best part of my tour around Jordan. If you want to follow in the footsteps of Lawrence of Arabia, enjoy being outdoors and taking a jeep safari through the sand dunes, or simply just be, and watch the beautiful sunset behind the dramatic landscapes or taking a camel trek to watch the sunrise, then Wadi Rum is the place for you.
For the more adventurous or people wanting to connect with the nature around them, you can even stay overnight in a Bedouin Camp at Wadi Rum. Enjoy a traditional evening meal and dancing followed by camp fire stories and gazing at the infinite, beautiful stars. Just unreal 😍
**Top Tip** the desert gets cold at night so take layers. I shared my hand warmers when sat around the camp fire to other members of the group, it really does get cold! See the link at the bottom of this page for my preferred choice.
I would also have your sunglasses to hand regardless of the sun. When the wind picks up it blows the sand around and you want to avoid getting it in your eyes.
After a few days of exploring, why not take yourself off to the Dead Sea for a mud treatment and let the tranquility take over you by floating weightlessly on the water. This is a truly unique experience and another must do when in Jordan.
**Top Tip** Take some beach shoes that you can wear in the sea. The sea bed is made of very hard and scratchy salt so if you don’t want to cut your feet up, wear the shoes!
Another way to relax after walking all day is to visit one of the Turkish spas. There is one on the same road as the entrance to Petra so after walking for miles I took myself off here with a couple of gal pals.
**Top Tip** The massages can be pretty handsy so if you don’t like bein nude in front of other people and being massaged pretty much all over then this is probably not for you.
Now for the foodies out there, trust me, you’ll be in heaven in Jordan as the food is just amazing. You can find the usual takeaways, even a KFC here and there but dining out in Jordan is very much a social event and sampling a local Jordanian restaurant is a must. There is food to cater for meat eaters and vegetarians and no matter what you order, you’ll always seem to get a traditional starter of pitta breads, hummus, multiple salads and dips. The fresh fruit drinks are also to die for. I found the food here very reasonably priced considering you always get a Mezze starter (which always filled me up.) The most I paid was 13JD which equates to about £13. For lunch I had falafel wraps with a drink and fruit and that was around 5JD.
Alcohol is also served in Jordan. It isn’t served in every restaurant BUT there are liquor stores wherever you go.
**Top Tip** seriously get stuck into some traditional food, it’s some of the best I’ve ever eaten. With things like Mansaf, Maqluba, fresh fish of the day and a sharing Mezze to name just a few, trust me, there’s bound to be something on the menu that you’ll love.
I’ll be honest, I’m not really one for a package holiday, however, as much as I wanted to explore Jordan, I did have my reservations given its geographical location but how wrong could I be?! I always felt safe here, even when alone or getting taxis. The below is the itinerary I covered, I will cover each thing in more details in future posts.
Day 1: Fly to Aqaba followed by a traditional evening meal.
Day 2: Exploring the coastline of the Red Sea before driving up the Wadi Arabia road to Amman.
Day 3: A day of ruins with a morning visit to Pella, one of the most ancient towns in the world followed by an afternoon visit to Umm Qais, a member of the Decapolis and the centre of Greek culture in the region.
Day 4: A morning visit to Jerash, The Jewel of the North and one of the most preserved sites of Roman architecture in the world outside if Italy. In the afternoon we headed over to Bethany followed by the Dead Sea.
Day 5: A beautiful drive along the 2000 year old Kings Highway took us firstly to Madaba,’The City of Mosaics’ before proceeding to Mount Nebu known as the burial place of the Prophet Moses. We then stopped at Kerak to explore the spectacular Crusader Castle built in the 12th century AD and situated 1000 meters above sea level.
Day 6: The one we were all waiting for, a full day in The Rose Red City of Petra. The ancient Nabatean city is one of the Seven Wonders of the World and an absolute must see whilst in Jordan.
Day 7: Enroute to Wadi Rum we took a stop at Little Petra, which was the entry and exit point for the trade routes followed by a stop at the Seven Pillars of Arabia which is where Lawrence of Arabia was filmed. Last stop was Wadi Rum which is home to several Bedouin tribes and was a perfect last night under the stars in Jordan.
Day 8: A sunrise camel trek in the desert before heading back to Aqaba to take a glass bottom boat tour to see the Coral Reef followed by some last minute shopping in the markets.
I felt very lucky actually as my tour guide for the week, Eddie, had an in depth knowledge about the history of Jordan as well as where to go for food/shopping. He gave us all some very useful tips. Here are just a couple:
Don’t talk about religion or politics
Do talk about the water shortage, the deficit and Azuz (a small child that is the butt of many jokes.)
I took the below picture of Eddie in Wadi Rum. He loved it so much I traded my lens ball with him for a beer!
Things To Pack
Clothing for every type of weather. It’s better to pack layers so you can add or remove as necessary.
Sensible walking boots as you’ll probably cover every terrain imaginable.
Camera and equipment. I always carry mine on me as you just never know when the perfect picture opportunity will arise.
Hand/foot warmers. TRUST ME, these are a godsend as the desert gets freezing at night. These particular ones are tried and tested by myself and literally last all night.
Beach wear with suitable shoes for the Dead Sea. I would recommend wet shoes with a rubber sole and NOT flip flops.
A sun hat, sunglasses and sunscreen. As well as the cold, it will also get very hot. The sunglasses will also help keep the sand out of your eyes in the desert.
A power bank to charge your phone. If you have a similar itinerary to mine and use your phone to take photos, then you’ll probably need a recharge at some point. I use the one below which gives me about 5 charges.
A sturdy rucksack to put your water bottle/flask in plus all over the above! I use the one below as it comes with a detachable day bag. I always take my stainless steel cutlery set as shown below, you never know when you’ll need them. The set does come with a set of straws but again it cant hurt to take some extra with you in case you can’t wash them. These ones are stainless steel so reusable and more environmentally friendly. When you’re off the beaten track and buy a drink, it’s more hygienic to drink from one of your own straws rather than the can/bottle.
I truly loved this country and the time I spent there. I really hope to go back to explore further but until then, Jordan, keep shining.
P.S. Sign up to my blog for more in depth details about all the excursions I went on and please drop me a message for any questions about this amazing place!
Firstly, I would like to start by introducing myself. My name is Cat Fox, I’m 32 years old and I’m from sunny Sheffield 🌞 in the UK. I am by no means a writer but in fact a full time civil servant and a wannabe full time traveller/blogger.
I have recently returned from a 5 week American adventure which took me from the sunny west coast of California and then across to the east coast which was also surprisingly sunny given the time of year!
This was my first solo trip and I survived! Yessssss! To be honest though… I more than survived, I felt liberated from the usual constraints of everyday life, a feeling I think I’m now addicted to.
To explain a little as to why I did this trip now, especially for someone who is taunted by anxiety on a daily basis, I’m going to go off on a tangent, a little.
Basically, I love music 🎶🎶. I love to play, sing, go to gigs and festivals and I can’t think of a better feeling than the euphoria thousands of people create when all singing along to their favourite band… talking of which, one of my favorite bands and the band that has pretty much been the soundtrack to my life since 2004 is, The Killers.
I have said since 2004 that one day I wanted to see them play a home gig in Las Vegas, so when the band announced a tour last year I was alllll over those tickets. I was FINALLY in a position where I was actually able to go ❤❤❤ Vegas baby!!!
So anyways…. Back to the trip. I now had my dream gig tickets along with the want to travel America so that was it really. I’m the kind of person that once I get an idea in my head, I have to make it happen.
I started to look at the route I wanted to take as well as blagging the time off work (winner!) but then came the tricky part, trying to persuade people to come with me…. I hate going to the supermarket alone let alone going travelling alone!
As much as people liked the idea of my trip, it was MY dream, not theirs and I began to realise that I can’t spend my life waiting around for people. If I want to do something I have to get out there and do it because truly, life is too short.
So that was it, I found my flights and after hovering over the buy button for around 10 minutes with the nerves in the pit of my stomach (and my friends shouting, “just press the damn button”) I did it, I actually bought the flights. That was it…. No going back. Although the nerves were still there I also had an overwhelming feeling of excitement…. I was going to America… on my own!
The rest of the planning was a bit of a blur but to keep the anxiety levels down I made sure I had all my accommodation and transport booked prior to leaving. Also making sure I had enough cash in the bank to buy a ticket home should I absolutely hate it… like that was ever going to happen! 😂
That was it, my trip was booked. San Francisco, Yosemite National Park, L.A., Las Vegas, Lubbock TX, Bandera TX, San Antonio TX, New Orleans, Memphis, Nashville, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, New York and Niagara Falls ON.
All I had to do now was get on the plane (I’m terrified of flying) for my first solo flight. And well…. I did it. As soon as we took off I felt like all my worries flew away as well, I felt nothing but excitement. Whatever was going to happen was going to happen and I would just deal with it as I went along.
Skip ahead 2 months and I’m now sat on my sofa dreaming of the adventure I had. From the sunsets on the Californian coast, the sounds of the slammer in Alcatraz, the shear beauty of Yosemite, paddle boarding in L.A, seeing the vastness of the Grand Caynon and watching The Killers play Vegas. Horse back riding in the Texan hills, seeing the liveliest city of the dead during Mardi Gras in New Orleans (as well as seeing someone literally come back from the dead 💀- freaky), seeing Alligators in the Louisianna swamps, playing on Jerry Lee Lewis’s piano in Sun Studio, Memphis (then crying like a little girl), having a holiday romance in Graceland. Hearing all the music in Nashille and then power walking around Washington D.C., running up the steps from the Rocky film in Philadephia before hitting the bright lights of New York, eating choc chip ice cream under the Brooklyn Bridge in the crazy heat before going to the breathtaking cold of Niagara Falls and seeing the frozen falls.
This is not to mention all the wildlife I was lucky enough to see (Coyote, Dolphins, Sea Lions, Water Hogs, Racoons, Alligators, Turtles) as well as the crazy and wonderful people I met along the way. Some of which I already have plans to see again.
This truly was the time of my life and I would switch this comfy sofa in a heartbeat to be sat back on those stinky Greyhound buses (that’s a blog for another day).
I’m not saying all this was easy, in fact Texas almost broke me and I even had to change accommodation in New Orleans as the first one was so grotty. But I felt so care free on my adventure that fixing a few bumps in the road really didn’t phase me.
I had my friends at the end of my phone if I needed them and my America survival kit ( an amazing Christmas present from a friend) which contained 3 journals (also Christmas gifts!). One of the journals I took with me on my travels to document my journey – my memory is shocking so this way I could read back over the things I might have forgotten. Bullet journal writing is all the rage in L.A. so I thought, when in Rome ‘n’all that. This way, I could document what I had done each day along with my achievements.
Like I said above, I truly believe life is too short so if you want to do something, make it happen don’t let your fears hold you back and DO NOT wait for other people. Go have an adventure and enjoy life!
For me, the thought of not living life to the full is scarier than all the things that I could let hold me back, so I plan on carrying on with the adventure and you can keep up with me on here 😁.