I've been wanting to create some little atom bomb look-a-likes for a while, but given the amount of broken glass and electricity involved, I decided I should let my husband, Daniel, do some man-supervision over this little project. If you decide you want to try this at home, be sure to wear protective goggles, and gloves at all times! We had a number of bulbs burst and pop after heating up. Safety first always!
You can use any bulbs that have filaments in them. Different shape and thickness can play a big part in your finished image. Be sure to choose transparent glass so you can see through to all the wonderful smoke and light on the inside. We chose the cheapest bulbs we could find in as many shapes as we could find for our first run. More is better! It took a few tries to get my camera set proper, and unexpected breakage is always a factor.
The key to this project is timing. Everything has to come together at just the right second to catch the smokey scene before the bulb bursts or the filament burns out. For this reason you will want to buy plenty so you have extras to experiment with. We purchased 18 bulbs all together and wished we had double that many when we finished.
There are several ways to create burning filament photos, but the most important thing is to break the vacuum seal without damaging the filament. You can tap a crack, drill a hole, or break all the glass using a plastic bag. Keep in mind that the more air allowed in, the faster the filament will burn out.
If you don't own a mono-light you can pick up these little plug in sockets at most hardware store for about $2 each. If you use this method, you might want to plug the socket into a power strip with an on/off switch so you can better control your timing. You can also use normal sockets, but then you have to worry about wiring and such. For our set up I used my reflector as a make shift backdrop by clamping it to one of Daniels work shelves. I placed my mono-light stand about a foot in front of it, and my tripod about a foot in front of my light. We plugged the mono-light into an extension cord and used a power strip to control the timing. Once you have drilled your holes, set up your shot, and configured your camera you are ready to go! Here are some of our favorite shots! **REMEMBER to set you ISO on 100 and your shutter speed high so you don't wash out your frame.