How a Photographer Created Images of Fireworks Unlike Any You've Ever Seen

A photographer's experiment puts explosions in new light.

[optional image description]
A spaceship? A sea creature? A spunky chapeau? Nope: fireworks. (David Johnson)

Earlier this month, David Johnson found himself at the International Fireworks Show in Ottawa, Canada. Johnson, being a photographer, wanted to capture images of the proceedings. Being a photographer, though, he also couldn't resist tinkering a bit with the explosive images before him. When Spain's delegation began its show, Johnson decided to try an experiment: He took long exposures, then adjusted his focus -- in the middle of the shot. 

The resulting images, which I first saw on the blog This Is Colossal, are mesmerizing. Fireworks, their familiarity made less so by their resemblance to ordinary images. Ordinary images, made less ordinary by the fact that, in this case, they're actually fireworks.

As Johnson later told me of his method:

The way I captured the photos was actually pretty simple... it just required good timing. Having the camera in Bulb mode (exposure is as long as I hold down the shutter) was key. I put the camera out of focus and would start an exposure when I could see the fireworks going up. Once they exploded, I quickly refocused the camera. This created an effect of blobbed/out of focus light that slowly converges into fine points. Makes a regular explosion look like a deep sea creature!

It does! And like flowers and insects and many other familiar forms from nature. Like, for example ... 

A dandelion:

tumblr_m985kr7Lki1resy7ro1_1280.jpeg

A group of dandelions:

dand.jpeg

A sunflower:

Screen Shot 2012-08-29 at 1.48.22 PM.png

Thistles:

spore.jpeg

Spores:

tumblr_m985n7AquS1resy7ro1_1280.jpeg

Viruses:

virus.jpeg

An armored insect:

tumblr_m92npbJecA1resy7ro1_1280.jpeg

You can see more over at Johnson's website, here.

Via Steve Silberman and This Is Colossal.

Presented by

Megan Garber is a staff writer at The Atlantic. She was formerly an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab, where she wrote about innovations in the media.

Never Tell People How Old They Look

Age discrimination affects us all. Who cares about youth? James Hamblin turns to his colleague Jeffrey Goldberg for advice.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Never Tell People How Old They Look

Age discrimination affects us all. James Hamblin turns to a colleague for advice.

Video

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

Video

Pittsburgh: 'Better Than You Thought'

How Steel City became a bikeable, walkable paradise

Video

A Four-Dimensional Tour of Boston

In this groundbreaking video, time moves at multiple speeds within a single frame.

Video

Who Made Pop Music So Repetitive? You Did.

If pop music is too homogenous, that's because listeners want it that way.

More in Technology

Just In