[ Update January 15, 2013: I published this article as an "instructable" on instructables.com on December 20th, 2012. I was notified today that it won a prize as a runner up in a photography contest! How cool is that? Go check out the instructables website if you need to find a 2nd home for your inner geek!]
Domes. They’re beautiful. Would you like to know how they’re made, and how you can make your own easily?
All you need is a simple dome tool. This consists of a circular shape with lights around it, and an axle equal in length to the radius of the circle. That sounded complicated, didn’t it? How’s this: It’s a bicycle wheel with holiday lights around it.
It doesn’t have to be a bicycle wheel, but they make the best example. Below, you’ll see two photos (front and side) of a quick little dome tool I made from one of my wife’s cross-stitching loops. I put some battery operated LED Christmas lights around it, added an “axle” that you can see in the side shot, and that’s all it took to make the picture above! It only took me about 15 minutes to assemble.
On the side view, you’ll see the axle. The important thing here is that the axle should be equal in length to the radius of the circle if you’d like the top of the dome to be closed. In this picture, mine is a bit longer. I wanted the top of the dome open for a reason that I’ll show you later. Ideally though, the top of the wheel should be over the pivot point of the axle.
To get your dome, simply mount your camera on a tripod and use an exposure time of at least 15 seconds…longer if you like. Once the exposure is started, simply let the wheel rotate on the axis of the pivot point. It will tend to go in a circle, and that’s what makes your dome. Make your circle at least once. You’ll want to experiment with how many times you complete the circle. I usually use 3 or 4 complete revolutions because I like the effect of the denser dome.
I told you it was easy!