January 17, 2009 Macro Static Shock Pictures

I first tried this years ago with my first still camera, back in like 2002 or something. It was interesting, but I could only get so close. I finally got around to renting a macro lens to try it again, a canon 100mm F2.8. This would let me make things 5 times bigger/closer than I could with my 50mm F1.8 non-macro lens.

At first I wondered if it was worth the trouble. Slowly though it got more and more interesting. What I quickly learned was I needed something to focus the zaps, because the depth of field is extremely thin with a macro. I needed a fixed point I could focus the lens on then just zap it.

So I dug around and found this basketball pump needle. I then taped it to the arm on my weight bench(the one I should have sold looong ago). Here is how thin that depth of field gets. I put the camera on the tripod, turned on live view, then zoomed in 10x on the LCD to watch the focus precisely. If I was focused on the front side of the hole in the end of the needle, the back side of it would be out of focus! No wonder I could never get a sharp zap, as I tried to just zap the end of the metal bench arm there. This macro, like most, is only a 1x life size deal. I wanted to buy that 1-5x 65mm macro canon makes, mostly just for this, but am now really glad I didn't. 1x macro is more than enough for this. Having a depth of field 5 times thinner...lol...I can't imagine trying to do that. This above is not all the way to the minimum focus distance.

The two zaps above got me thinking.

Also, about getting charged up. I could not get a charge with just socks on and the carpet. I had to have my shoes on and do it. Well I think the shoe structure helped. They are Nike's with the sort of air deal in the heal. It's not a plastic air container, but just an empty hole under the heal, with rubber around it, which also has holes. I think the added surface area may have helped let me build up the charges I was building up. When I'd get the good zaps(which was highly dependant on what I was touching) I'd feel the discharge go out the back of my calves to my pants.

Now I'm in closer, lol. That is the end of that pump needle, with my finger getting zapped above it. I've cropped into the image, but this isn't down to 100% pixel size. Rather interesting zap here. It zags straight over to meet half way up/down. There's also blue "stuff" reaching out, something I'd soon have a lot of fun with.

Had to try this after seeing the second zap on the one image.

Moved the lens closer. Nice fire there.

That there is the tip of a needle. It's like the zap hit the metal edge, then went sideways till it hit the edge of it. I first thought it was like a plasma ball rolling off that way. Cool whatever you label it.

Right about now is when I noticed something happening. I went to touch the needle and saw the part where it is taped to the metal flickering. I wasn't getting the zap yet though. I then saw on the stills the blue fanning off the top, without a discharge/zap! You had to be really really careful and slow to get it to do it. Had to get your finger close, but not close enough to have the zap happen. I got pretty good at it. I could walk over and "pull some electrons off there". I'm not sure what the name is for this blue "almost zap" stuff(I guess it is called Corona discharge). It was fun to toy with. This one above I did in one move/shot. I slowly brought my finger in till I could see it flicker, without the zap, on the right needle. I then lifted it up and over and made the zap on the other needle. You can see my finger tip twice on the exposure above doing it. The first finger is brighter as I had it there longer trying to move in slower to get the flicker/no zap blue stuff. You can even see some of those collecting on my finger tip in this one. The finger showing up for the zap on the left wasn't as bright because it's not there as long as the other(same finger). Also, that nail on the other side is really really skinny. Makes those needles seem bigger than they are. The needles are...well...needles. I took one and slid it through the skin of my finger so it came back out again. I then zapped the metal under the skin....and really regretted it.

I soon began holding a phillips head screw driver to make the zap. It would be more direct and seemed a little stronger. When they hit your finger they fan out. I believe that reflection on the nail is from a flash between the needle and the metal.

See, needles, like sewing needles. They look huge on some of the macros. Don't ask me how I dreamed up this contraption. The metal of the bench is the top where the bar rests. So there is a taller back to it. I taped some wire/thin metal to it and then strung the needle down on thread from that. So the needle is hanging in the air by the thread. I soon realized these pins were now rather magnetic, from me zapping them. The hanging needle would sit there and move all around as they tugged on either side. At times they'd connect and I'd have to separate them. I wondered what kind of connection/zap I could make on a needle hanging in the air, if there was a magnetic pull to either grounded needle. I had to change them up a bit from the picture above as they just wanted to connect too much, so I raised the hanging one some.

I'm not completely sure why this is so cool to me. I get all charged up then come and slowly touch the hanging needle. I don't get a zap, but I do get that blue steam stuff. Look closely and you can see it, not only on the hanging needle, but the needle attached on the right. As I touched it, the electrons wanted to pass on through to that other one.

Holding a screw now instead of using my finger. This was tough, as the hanging one would want to magnetically pull over to the screw as I moved it closer. As you can see, got another blue flicker deal with no zap.

Let me try to figure this one out. I'm holding the phillips head screw driver again. As I moved it in what happens first is the blue puff off the top of the right needle, reaching up to the screw driver. But soon after I'm too close to the hanging one and it magnetically pulls over, making contact with the screw driver AND the right needle. You can see the full zap that happens by the brighter light where the needle tip touches the right one, as well as the brighter light where it touches the screw driver. The needle must have given off a blue puff as it swung over, before it contacted the other needle.

Now I've got my finger at the end of the screw driver. I again am able to get a blue puff off that right needle before the hanging pin magnetically pulls over to the screw driver....where it zaps my finger while contacting the right needle as well.

Check this out, I'm touching the top of the hanging needle with the screw driver getting the blue no zap stuff at the needle tip. If you look close you can see at least three blue spots under that on the metal. Again, there is no static zap with this. It's just what it does when it really really wants to zap. Thinking about lightning now some things become a little clearer. Like when people claim they felt something before the lightning hit nearby or during it, but they never got hit themselves by the direct discharge.

On this one I snuck the screw driver in down low at an angle. As I near the tip of the hanging needle a blue short stream is coming off that right needle apparently wanting to come over to the hanging needle(remember, there is already an established magnetic pull between the needles....which I have no idea if it's really related to this shocking or not). Look really really close and you can see a tiny blue/purple dot at the tip of the hanging needle.

Closer shot of this blue stream stuff.

Another closer shot. You can actually see some of the blue collecting over on the screw driver head. Again.....no zap here...just getting as close to the thing as I could without getting the zap. It was really neat at times. I could do this and where it would really flicker was where the needle was taped to the metal. I could move in and watch it flicker.....flicker.....flicker....flicker down there....all while not getting the zap yet.

Time for some finger getting zapped close ups. The object in the front here is a drill bit...not a real big one. The zap is fanning out as it gets my finger. Not sure what those balls of light are in the zap. It's interesting how much they look like veins when it does it to your finger.

It's quite the challenge having the focus just right to do that. Even though you are almost touching the drill bit you have to focus past it. And it is now abundantly clear to me why lightning often appears soft. It largely is a soft object. I mean on these getting my finger here, from front to back it goes from out of focus to focus to out of focus again, so somewhere in there should be sharp.

This was tough. On many of these before I had the hallway light on to sort of light up the needles, etc. To get 5 zaps I'd obviously have to recharge by feet rubbing between each one. So the shutter would then need to be open a lot longer. If the shutter is open a lot longer, well, I'm using 1600 ISO to get these to show well(the zaps, etc), I'd not be able to leave that hallway light on...the shot would blow out. So, what does that mean? It was really really dark in my apartment now. Imagine trying to rub the feet, come back over and touch the needle you didn't get zapped by yet.....when you can't see them. I got that needle second from the left two times....obviously. So I did 6 zaps in one exposure. This was near my window, so it looks lighter than it is(1600 ISO over much time will brighten the heck out of anything). I could just barely make out the bench arms, but not the needles. Took me a few tries. Half the time I was zapping the metal below the needles as I'd reach in.

On a weight bench there are those safety catches for the bar if you can't get it all the way back up. This is now on one of those. I've opened up a pen, took it apart, stuck the wire down in there with a needle taped to the end of it......and taped the pen to the metal so the wire and needle weren't touching metal. I needed to do this to get the needle really close without touching. My hope was at the angle here I could get close ups of any rolling plasma balls like I thought I got earlier. That wasn't happening though. I did get this interesting no zap blue stream stuff. Evidently I had that needle tip very close to dead middle between the shortest points.

That is what it looks like when you get the zap, much brighter than these blue stream deals, or blue particle things. Fun stuff.

Now I've got my finger at the end of the screw driver. I again am able to get a blue puff off that right needle before the hanging pin magnetically pulls over to the screw driver....where it zaps my finger while contacting the right needle as well.

Check this out, I'm touching the top of the hanging needle with the screw driver getting the blue no zap stuff at the needle tip. If you look close you can see at least three blue spots under that on the metal. Again, there is no static zap with this. It's just what it does when it really really wants to zap. Thinking about lightning now some things become a little clearer. Like when people claim they felt something before the lightning hit nearby or during it, but they never got hit themselves by the direct discharge.

On this one I snuck the screw driver in down low at an angle. As I near the tip of the hanging needle a blue short stream is coming off that right needle apparently wanting to come over to the hanging needle(remember, there is already an established magnetic pull between the needles....which I have no idea if it's really related to this shocking or not). Look really really close and you can see a tiny blue/purple dot at the tip of the hanging needle.

Closer shot of this blue stream stuff.

Another closer shot. You can actually see some of the blue collecting over on the screw driver head. Again.....no zap here...just getting as close to the thing as I could without getting the zap. It was really neat at times. I could do this and where it would really flicker was where the needle was taped to the metal. I could move in and watch it flicker.....flicker.....flicker....flicker down there....all while not getting the zap yet.

Time for some finger getting zapped close ups. The object in the front here is a drill bit...not a real big one. The zap is fanning out as it gets my finger. Not sure what those balls of light are in the zap. It's interesting how much they look like veins when it does it to your finger.

It's quite the challenge having the focus just right to do that. Even though you are almost touching the drill bit you have to focus past it. And it is now abundantly clear to me why lightning often appears soft. It largely is a soft object. I mean on these getting my finger here, from front to back it goes from out of focus to focus to out of focus again, so somewhere in there should be sharp.

This was tough. On many of these before I had the hallway light on to sort of light up the needles, etc. To get 5 zaps I'd obviously have to recharge by feet rubbing between each one. So the shutter would then need to be open a lot longer. If the shutter is open a lot longer, well, I'm using 1600 ISO to get these to show well(the zaps, etc), I'd not be able to leave that hallway light on...the shot would blow out. So, what does that mean? It was really really dark in my apartment now. Imagine trying to rub the feet, come back over and touch the needle you didn't get zapped by yet.....when you can't see them. I got that needle second from the left two times....obviously. So I did 6 zaps in one exposure. This was near my window, so it looks lighter than it is(1600 ISO over much time will brighten the heck out of anything). I could just barely make out the bench arms, but not the needles. Took me a few tries. Half the time I was zapping the metal below the needles as I'd reach in.

On a weight bench there are those safety catches for the bar if you can't get it all the way back up. This is now on one of those. I've opened up a pen, took it apart, stuck the wire down in there with a needle taped to the end of it......and taped the pen to the metal so the wire and needle weren't touching metal. I needed to do this to get the needle really close without touching. My hope was at the angle here I could get close ups of any rolling plasma balls like I thought I got earlier. That wasn't happening though. I did get this interesting no zap blue stream stuff. Evidently I had that needle tip very close to dead middle between the shortest points.

That is what it looks like when you get the zap, much brighter than these blue stream deals, or blue particle things. Fun stuff.