Electrifying Photos of Flowers Being Zapped by 80,000 Volts

Photographer Robert Buelteman takes pictures of shocking things — literally. The California-based photographer uses Kirlian photography techniques to capture amazing images of 80,000 volts of electricity coursing through flowers. The technique is so dangerous and tedious that very few people in the world even attempt this kind of photography.

Wired offers this explanation of the process involved:

Buelteman begins by painstakingly whittling down flowers, leaves, sprigs, and twigs with a scalpel until they’re translucent. He then lays each specimen on color transparency film and, for a more detailed effect, covers it with a diffusion screen. This assemblage is placed on his “easel”—a piece of sheet metal sandwiched between Plexiglas, floating in liquid silicone. Buelteman hits everything with an electric pulse and the electrons do a dance as they leap from the sheet metal, through the silicone and the plant (and hopefully not through him), while heading back out the jumper cables. In that moment, the gas surrounding the subject is ionized, leaving behind ethereal coronas. He then hand-paints the result with white light shining through an optical fiber the width of a human hair, a process so tricky each image can take up to 150 attempts.

Here’s a video of Buelteman explaining the process (thanks Joakim!):

You can find more of these images over on Buelteman’s website.

(via Wired)

Image credits: Photographs by Robert Buelteman and used with permission

  • whitehawk

    Judging by the given examples, it’s not worth the hassle.

  • Pedro Rojas Jorquera

    great to know he like to electrify some male cannabis xD


    What have you done lately?

  • rtfe

    i have that weed poster in my van! awesome!!

  • harumph

    I have a hard time getting past the whole “painstakingly whittling down flowers, leaves, sprigs, and twigs with a scalpel until they’re translucent” thing. Really!? But I actually don’t even understand the final bit of the process about “hand-painting the result with white light shining through an optical fiber the width of a human hair.” So am I actually seeing dancing electrons and ethereal coronas, or is this the result of light painting with an optical fiber?

  • ricardobeat

    The blue sparkling outlines are the result of electricity, the light painting is so you can see the plant itself, otherwise it would be completely dark.

  • Damian Taylor

    I’ve been printing for fine-art (and otherwise) photographers for 20 years and I print for Rob. It’s rare that I see anything unusual or original cross my monitor but like Robs work or not, you have to admit it’s both.

  • Ralph Hightower

    When I saw 80,000 volts, I immediately thought lightning strike. When I worked up on 21st floors, I saw a ground strike. That was pretty impressive. The ground glowed for a few seconds.

  • whitehawk

    I don’t think I need to be an artist to judge how other people’s work complies with my taste. The result may well worth be the effort for the author himself (as is climbing the top of a mountain and take a pic that thousands have taken for me, even though photos are far from being the only reason why I love mountains). I just said that imo, the pictures, while certainly original, actually aren’t all that impressive aesthetically. And so for the sake of curiosity regarding the technique, making a few prototypes could be enough.

  • Hi Man2.0


  • Darkhawk

    So what have you done lately?

  • Bbp

    Art evolve with new ideas like this one. Good job Robert Buelteman, I like it.