Fun with Lasers


What geek doesn't like lasers? The two go together like peanut butter and chocolate, or Americans and credit debt. But it occurred to me a few years back that I didn't own any cool laser devices, so I set about correcting that.

The first thing I came up with was an old laser light show unit. The unit read "Lite F/X Laser Lite Show". It was pretty basic and it must not have been very expensive when it was new, so it was limited to patterns created by varying the rotational speed of two slightly crooked mirrors in the laser's path. It started out pretty before rapidly growing dull. But what if I added some long exposure photography to the mix? I took the unit outside and set it on a garbage can, aimed it at the white garage door across the alley, then took a couple long pictures to see what I could get out of it.

The results were like a laser powered spirograph. I could create all sorts of cool geometric shapes.

Some of the most interesting patterns looked like nothing at all to me at the time. This one was taken with one or both of the controls set at their limits, which resulted in less of a pattern and more of a randomly spazzing line. But when I looked at the long exposure on my camera it had become something pretty.

All right, that was pretty cool for a free unit, but everyone's seen one of these cheap laser light show doodads before. Time to get a bit more creative.

Weasel boy had bought a 125mW green laser pointer from Wicked Lasers for a huge amount of money, then shortly grew bored of it. I borrowed it from him and started wandering around in search of photo opportunities. The first presented itself during one of my late night outings with Phillip. We were walking around by the planetarium when we came across a construction site. It seems they were preparing to bury a very long length of pipe in the ground to replace the existing sewer, but at the moment the new pipe was simply sitting out in the open.

The pipe was several feet in diameter, had seriously thick walls, and the markings on the side indicated that it had been pressure tested to some obscenely high PSI. It was also empty and open. Who could resist?

Evidently not us. Also, I had forgotten to change the white balance for this time before taking the picture, but it looked so odd and cool that I left it that way.

Phillip's cell phone even worked down the pipe, which he demonstrated by taking a call. "You'll never guess where I am" has seldom been so true. Eventually I got him to hang up the phone by handing him the green laser pointer.

Now we're talking!

Our breath in the winter air was like smoke to the laser.

Next I started the photo exposing, covered my eyes and instructed Phillip to shine the pointer in my direction. The camera caught 10 seconds of him waving the beam around the pipe and turned it into something other worldly.

I'm very happy with how the photos turned out. Sadly the laser pointer stopped working a couple months later before I had run out of ideas for it. Maybe some day I'll buy another. Until then I have some cool photos to remember it by.

Update: The above photo was the subject of a nefarious deed! Read about it here.

Page created June 16th 2011
Last updated May 14th 2013

You shine a little love on my life, and let me see