We’re going to show you how to set up your camera outside to photograph balls of light that look like mysterious glowing spheres of energy. You can make these energy balls in any landscape and in any weather, but you do need a bit of extra kit to make it happen. We took along some continuous LED lights, our DSLR plus lens, and a tripod.
If you already have a camera and a tripod, this project is a no-brainer. It’s light on your wallet and takes up next to no space in your bag. Most of the technique is simple too, though you might need to practice creating the energy balls.
After our first few attempts we found the trickiest part was not taking the photo, but getting the spin just right to form a perfect sphere. The important thing is to choose a point on level ground to spin your lights over. As you move around that spot, the circles of light you’re making will be at slightly different angles to the camera with each step, and all these circles are what creates a ball of light in the final image.
On location - what kit you need
1. Sturdy tripod
To capture the movement of the light, you’ll need to use a long exposure, and that requires a tripod. The only thing moving should be you and the lights.
2. Portable lights
You don’t have to buy expensive lights, but they need to be sturdy enough to survive the spinning process, and portable enough to take on location.
3. Dark clothing
Wear all black, even black shoes. Any clothing of a lighter shade might show up in the final image. White is a definite no-no for this type of shoot.
4. Level ground
If your surface is uneven you’ll get an uneven ball of light in your photograph, and unless this is the look you’re going for it spoils the overall effect.
Key skills - prepping the lights
1. Line up your lights...
We picked up our cheap fairy lights for £1/$1.50, so you should be able to find something similar. However, they’re not ideal for this project straight out of the packet, as all the individual bulbs are spaced out along the length of the cord, rather than in a tight cluster.
2. ...and tape them up
Unless you want a big mess, bunch a load of lights at the end of the cord together with a rubber band, then cover any remaining bulbs with gaffer tape to stop the light leaking from them. Now you have a collection of bright lights at the end of the wire to create your sphere with.
Step-by-step: Get in a spin
…perfect. We can’t stress enough how much practice it took to get a good-looking sphere. Many of your early attempts will be ‘nearly there’ but not quite right. Unless you’re particularly skilled at twirling things already, it might take an hour or two until you get the knack.