Tesla Thunderstorms: Miniature Bolts of Man-Made Lightning

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Tiny bolts of lightning are captured on camera as they shoot off an antique electrotherapy medical device, turning the discharge of electricity into a form of art. Germany-based photographer Marc Simon Frei purchased the 1920 violet ray, invented by Nikola Tesla, on eBay and began to experiment with visual effects.

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The device is basically a portable tesla coil, an electrical resonant transformer circuit used to produce alternating-current electricity. Frei used various methods to create sparks and caught them at just the right split-second with his Nikon Df, 50mm f/1.8 lens and a macro extension tube.

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He has also played around with wiring, and creating miniature storms within tufts of wool stuffing taken from a teddy bear. Frei notes that if you want to try it yourself, you’d better be prepared for possible equipment damage from the high frequency voltage; the LCD screen on his camera flickered whenever it came too close to the coil.

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Nikola Tesla would likely be disappointed that his ingenious creations are mostly relegated to exhibits and experiments these days, rather than becoming a viable wide scale source of energy, but it seems likely he’d approve of this project.