Check out these incredible high-speed images of exploding light bulbs from photographer Jon Smith

All images by Jon Smith:


We love these images – high speed photography of exploding light bulbs, captured at the split-second of their demise.


the work of photographer Jon Smith, from Indiana USA, who fills the

bulbs with materials like paints, dice, even bottle caps and then

captures the precise moment at which he spectacularly destroys them with a

pellet gun.


Image: ROYGBIV by Jon Smith


Jon explains it: ‘There is a certain unpredictability with high speed

photography that I’m drawn to. It allows you to capture the unseen, the

transition between before and after. It shows the beauty in destruction.

Sure, it starts out as a normal light bulb and ends as a pile of broken

glass, but for just a split second, it’s something beautiful – and to

capture that is wonderful.

Image: ‘Heavy Drinking’ by Jon Smith


these images is all a matter of timing and precise triggering. As Jon

uses a pellet gun to break the light bulbs, he cleverly hit upon the

idea of a sound-triggered flash. He gave us a look at his setup:


Image: Jon’s DIY setup


An old disposable camera serves as the flash, and a trigger from high-speed DIY specialists Hiviz activates it. ‘When I shoot the gun, the sound triggers the flash and freezes the bulb in mid-break,’ he tells us.


uses a shutter speed of 2.5secs, with a delay of 10secs to give him

time to move into position, switch off the lights, and line up his shot.


Image: ‘Non-Newtonian’ by Jon Smith


the right kit is vitally important with precise images such as Jon’s,

and fortunately his choices of equipment reveal him to be a man of taste

and distinction (at least by WDC standards).


majority of Jon’s high-speed images were taken with a Canon 7D, a solid

workhorse camera from 2009 upon which Mat Gallagher bestowed an

impressive score of 94%

Image: Though Jon has since upgraded to a 5D Mk. III, these images were shot on the 70D, a great camera.



lens of choice is the Tamron 70-200 f/2.8 macro. Though our Jon Tarrant

gave it a score of 89% in February this year, praising its ‘distinctive, friendly feel’, he

did warn that it was the kind of lens that ‘you are likely to either

love or hate’.


our review drew attention to the lens’s lack of Image Stabilisation, since

Jon is operating on a tripod he simply doesn’t need it. When

Jon needs a little more distance from the light bulb, he employs the

Tamron SP Pro 2x Extender – probably a wise precaution!


Image: ‘Come on, snake eyes!’ by Jon Smith

Jon has plenty more of these fantstic images on his Flickr page – stroll over and take a look.