Burning Light Bulbs

Idea: Looking for fun projects to do I found a project at diyphotography.net and I immediately fell in love with it. Looked easy enough and “crazy enough” and as it was a low- budget thing I could do at home on a weekend decision was made to try it and see what results I can come up with.

Preparation: First, I ordered 25 old-style 40 Watt bulbs (approximately 10USD total) from local electronics hobby shop as some of our supermarkets carry only light-saving bulbs and I didn’t want to go on a blind hunt.  Second, I searched through the flat for suitable lamp stand. I even contemplated using exposed wires to have the ability to shoot the whole bulb including the screw-thread (but as I am no electrician I though broken glass, and burning bulb thread present enough challenges for first project). There was a single old lamp stand at home, so I removed the lamp shade and realized that the stand makes for and ugly photo. I thought about covering the stand with an interesting cloth but decided to exclude it from the photo entirely. Third, yes finally there is a time for hammer :) and piece of throw-away cloth to “dull” the blows and catch flying glass.

Photo: It was apparent that screwing the bulb in/out without the glass bulb will be pain. So I screwed the bulb into the unplugged lamp stand then put the bulb back into the paper box to catch as much of the broken glass as possible, wrapped it into the cloth and smashed it (I ended smashing 10 bulbs total, in three of those the thread was broken as a result of the violence… you can carefully stretch it back – it wont burn as well as intact thread but at least it is not a wasted bulb). Having camera on tripod I focused it onto the thread then switched to manual focus and M mode with the suggested shutter at 1/640 and aperture f5,6 ready in a burst mode (5 fps for my camera). I pressed the shutter button and switched on the light.

Result: The exposure was correct right from the beginning (dark enough not to show the lamp stand). What were the problems? 1st. I was only able to take 1 solid (meaning looking like the first one) photo per bulb/thread. Other photos looked all pretty much like the second in the row. Maybe better camera (with higher fps) could pull of two and also higher Watt  bulbs supposedly have thicker thread and could therefore last longer. 2nd. I had to be careful not to move the lamp (like I did in the third photo which is also a shot of one of those “restretched” threads) or the camera since I had one hand on the lamp and one on the camera and wished I was an octopus :). 3rd. Screwing out the bulbs (without bulbs) was the single really annoying thing to do, with little pieces of glass flying everywhere as I had to squeeze it with pliers pretty hard.

Post-Processing: As you can see on the first three photos the light and smoke were white-ish. Just a little polish in Lightroom and two things in Photoshop. One was removing lens flares which I possibly had from a bucket full of glass standing next to the lamp (unfortunately I didn’t see the flares on the camera lcd) – you can still see it on the glass stems of the finished photos if you look for it. And second obviously was adding color to the smoke by applying gradient overlay… I chose green/orange gradient because it felt nice, but any other color could do…

Suggestions: I have to say I enjoyed this immensely. It was great and cheap fun at home anyone can do. If you aren’t as afraid of stripped wires as I was I think photo of the whole bulb without the stand could be cool. Also adding some chemicals to the thread to change the color could work… I still have 12 bulbs left so I will think of something or wait for suggestions :)