Had an opportunity to try some Steel Wool Photography last night and thought I would share my experience-
You will need –
- Steel Wool – Grade 0, 00, 000, or 0000. Don’t buy grade 1 or higher.
- Wire Whisk to hold the wool
- Chain or dog leash to clip to the wire whisk for spinning- this should be 3′-4′ long
- Lighter or 9 volt battery to light the wool
- Tripod or someway to hold your camera steady for 20-30 seconds.
- Flash light or light source(lighter can work) for focus assist with the camera
- Junky clothes including a hoody or a hat to protect your hair and eye protection
- Space to spin that isn’t going to catch on fire.*
*You will potentially be throwing sparks 15-20′ possibly more depending on the wind and these are sparks or bits of wool that continue to burn. DO NOT experiment with this anywhere that potentially could catch fire and have someone with you keeping an eye out for for issues. And when done do a walk through picking up any mess and making sure nothing is still burning or smoldering.
- Stuff the steel wool inside the whisk and rearrange the whisk so it is spaced evenly, closing any big gaps created when you stuffed the wool inside. You can keep the wool packed or unravel and re-pack loosely. The more tightly packed the slower and more consistent the burn.
- Attach the chain, dog leash to the end of the whisk and experiment with spinning the contraption.
- Using a flashlight, compose and get focus on the subject that will be spinning.
- Set camera on manual mode – suggested starting settings around 20-30 seconds, f8-f/10 and ISO 200-400 – not a bad idea to set the camera on 2-second delay to avoid any extra jiggling or use a remote to trigger the camera.
- Light the wool(you don’t need the wool to be on fire – small embers are enough, once you start spinning it will catch fire) and start spinning.
- Review images and try again.
Alternative Ideas –
Not interested in spinning burning steel around your head? Use a glow stick, flashlight, electrowire- You won’t get the sparks but can still create some very cool images using the same basic camera settings and setup. Watch my Electrowire light painting video
Future Plans –
I’d love to try some more – locations with reflections, locations like tunnels where the flying sparks hit walls and define the space, spinning as I spin to create more of an orb look and one more than I am not ready to share yet. Have you done any steel wool photos? Share them in my Flickr Group or on my Facebook Page.
Questions? Comments? Suggestions for future video topics? Leave them below.
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