the blue-to-ultraviolet range. You can use Image »
Adjust » Color Balance in Photoshop to change
your image’s color for some beautiful effects.
Using digital cameras to capture Kirlian photographs
is relatively new. Because it’s a low-light process, we
can borrow techniques from the astronomers who
use digital cameras, as well as astronomy software
such as AstroStack ( astrostack.com), which stacks
multiple images of the same object to create a
brighter, more detailed image.
Shooting Kirlian photographs in atmospheres with
other mixes of inert gases, such as helium, neon, and
carbon dioxide, will create corona discharges in different colors. Just make sure the gases are inert.
To learn more about Kirlian photography using
film, refer to my book, Kirlian Photography:
A Hands-On Guide (Images Publishing, 2000).
John Iovine is a science and electronics tinkerer who has
published a few books and articles and owns and operates
Images SI Inc. ( imagesco.com). He lives in Staten Island, N. Y.
The light you see during a Kirlian discharge comes
from an electric field ionizing the air and parts of
your Kirlian subject. The charged air gives off intense
heat and ultraviolet radiation as well as visible light.
Photographic emulsions interact with all of these,
plus the electrostatic field itself, while digital sensors
mainly just capture visible light. As a result, traditional
film-based Kirlian images require shorter exposure
times than digital methods, and can show the lightning-fast discharge arcs in greater detail.
For example, my Kirlian photograph of the quarter
on this issue’s cover took only a ¼-second exposure.
With faster photo papers and films it might take even
less. In addition to improving detail, such short exposures also decrease the chances of vaporizing or burning your subject. And when photographing a human
being, short exposure times are less painful!
Open-film Kirlian requires a fully darkened room,
tens of thousands of volts, and expensive sheet film.
All of this can be daunting and, well, dangerous — or at
least expensive. But you can start out and get wonderful results using black and white photo paper instead
of film, and working under a darkroom safelight or
red LED flashlight to help you steer clear of the power
supply. Later, you can graduate to a color image, and
the digital method is also worth a try! —Jasper Nance
Photograph by Jasper Nance