Parapsychologists believe it is
the life force being photographed.
The HV hobbyist knows
it is corona / HV discharge (or, glow and light
of the discharge, combined with electrochemical
reactions in the 3..12 film emulsion layers which
yields the 'fake' but neat discharge
There are some cool
and naturally also via Google
pictures are a simple version of KP, good for big objects. Small objects can be photographed with
standard 100 or slower ASA 35mm color print
There are many commercial Kirlian 'cameras' around, but
it is not at all difficult to make your own photos -
without a 'camera'.
The idea in KP is to take a high frequency HV source
(4kV should be enough) like a TV flyback. I used a car
ignition coil and low frequency. A very small Tesla
coil with no streamers(!) could work.
Here's a compact description on KP : Connect a low
power AC [kHz] HV [8..30kV] supply to a small metal plate. Place the
film on top of the plate. On the film, the grounded object. Then
zapp/fry the object.
A good Kirlian device construction would
be one that allows you to fasten the film roll near
one end of the plate, lead the film over the plate,
and also has a light-protected drag-in for the film on
the other end of the plate. This helps you to easily
port the film over plate after each picture, a bit
like the film port in a camera.
my own experience I really recommend building something like
that! It is no fun to mess around in absolute pitch black
darkness with a small pile of tiny leafs and coins, a high voltage generator
with small pushbuttons, a small HV plate and a big bunch of
cables, and the bathroom
sink directly over your head - it would take ages just
trying to place one leaf properly on top of the film, not to
mention the amount of curses when you get HV jolts and your
head continuously hits the bathroom sink...
A crude sketch of such a help device is shown above,
together with the actual quick-setup I used for the
photos. The HV is fed to the plate (notice the
rounded+filed corners and edges!) via the screw and an internal wire, the
film enters and exits through slots in the bottom of the upright
standing plexiglass pieces to the left and right, the black-painted
piece of plexiglass is placed on top of the plate and film and has a
window in it for placement of the objects to be photographed. Finally,
there's the transparent plexiglass lid, with a nail through it for
connecting the ground wire. Other required parts like the film roll or
transparency sheet are not shown in the photo.
First you need a plastic/plexiglass
board for everything. Wood
is not good for this.
On the board comes a small metal/aluminium
plate for the HV. It should be glued to the board
and the surface should be smooth.
On top of the plate you then place either
a piece of easily available transparency sheet or, preferrably,
teflon sheet, in such a way that it overlaps the plate for
maybe 1 inch around all edges. Standard thin teflon sheet is very cheap (way
cheaper than transparency sheets actually!) and has excellent
HV properties and does not melt. Dielectric breakdown and melting is the major problem with
transparency sheets, especially if you have more than ~10
Watts input power to your HV generator... The teflon sheet can
be fixed on the board with the same tape that is used t.ex.
for copying machine papers. Glue won't work.
You'll also need a plastic lid/plate
made of plexiglass or some grey plastic (not black as it is
conductive) which will help you to press and keep the
photographed object down against the film. One solution is to
use get a plastic piece which fits over the HV plate, then cut
out a small window into this plastic piece. Inside the window
and on top of the film you place the objects for photographing.
The previously cut out piece is glued to a longer plastic
piece so you can press it down into the "window"
without coming too near to neither the HV plate nor the ground
connector/needle with your hands.
For photographing the object is placed inside the "window"
and the "lid" with the ground connector is gently
pressed into the window.
The only thing left to do now is to turn off the lights, port in some fresh/non-exposed film below the
then zapp the object with low-power HV for a short time, maybe
1/2...2 seconds. Draw
in the film some centimetres, zap again, draw in, zap,
... until the whole film has been used. After winding the film
back into the cartridge you can turn the lights on again and
bring the film away for developing & paper prints.
You should probably mention in the photo lab that
they shouldn't do any special pre/postprocessing, e.g.
that the roll contains "lightning pictures".
In the gallery there are a couple of more 35mm photos that maybe are a bit better than
those on this page.
Polaroid film work well for big
objects, altough the resulting pictures
might not be as detailed as with standard film. It's not
necessary to buy expensive "fresh" films - films
past their expiry date work equally well.
Photographing is simple: first manually empty the
cartridge (it must be in total darkness i.e. not even
photo development room red lights - these will expose
the film) by shifting out the
protective black sheet and then all of the polaroid
films below it.
Don't use the camera for this! And be careful not to
press the chemical bags or whatever at the bottom of the
film. Put the film sheets in a light-protected bag.
Take out one film, place it back in
the (empty) polaroid cartridge with chemical bags
facing up (i.e. photo window up), place the grounded leaf or other object on the film, connect the HV to
the metal grid on one side of the cartridge (but not
to those metal pads on the bottom side! they are the
internal battery you don't want to damage!).
Turn on the HV for 1/2...2 seconds, then remove the HV wire and the object and place the cartridge into
the polaroid camera. The film will eject and starts developing.