A few photographers I follow on Instagram have been posting images where steel wool was used to create very different effects on long exposure images. I’ve tried to do my own take on some of them but mostly enjoyed watching people spin the smouldering wool around to see how much it would spark! I went out with fellow Antigonish photographer Brad Bowman of Beerad Digital and his lovely partner, Sarah, to test some shots. We’d never met and we’d also never tried this type of thing so it was a great evening – despite how chilly it was.
The images below were created by taking steel wool (purchased at any craft or hardware store – get the finest stuff you can get as it comes in different grades), pulling the wool apart and then stuffing a roll into a whisk (same kind you would use to beat eggs with.) Once you have it in the whisk evenly, tie a rope or a dog leash or something like that to it, light a tiny bit of the wool on the top so it lights (it won’t flame so don’t wait for that.) and start spinning at the desirable speed and length of rope. The rings are created by continuously spinning the rope with the smouldering wool while the shutter on the camera stays open for a few seconds. Long exposures help capture more light, creating a different image! Hopefully it goes without saying that if you should choose to attempt this, you should take great caution when setting anything on fire. Also hopefully you know to use a super sturdy tripod when catching these images so you get a crisp images. It can help to have a flashlight to either light some foreground OR to help focus your scene!
Brad and I tested out different ranges of exposures. I stuck around 15-20 seconds, changing other settings as needed. Most of my images were shot with a Nikon D750 and my Sigma 35mm 1.4 Art as well as my Sony A6000 paired with a Zeiss 12mm 2.8.
Where this was my first time, it was filled with a lot of trial and error. Trial and error is never fun when it’s chilly out and when you only have 18 rolls of steel wool and each one only burns for roughly 15-22 seconds.
I decided to go out last night as well and do some with a few friends of mine! I’m starting to get a grasp of how the stuff works and how it burns. Keep posted for more images – I’m trying out a bunch of new things to keep me busy these days but this has been super fun so far AND great to get out with some great people as well! Big thanks to Brad, Sarah, Keegan, Katie & Michelle for shooting with me!