I’ve been experimenting with long exposure photography lately and really wanted to try burning steel wool. Here’s how I did it and what I wish I would’ve been told before standing in the cold for an hour and half trying to figure it out.
What you need:
- Steel wool (like this)
- A wire whisk
- A metal chain or cord
- Volunteer who will take a chance at singeing their hairs
Basically, you will place the steel wool in the wire whisk, attach the chain, light it, spin it, and try not to get burnt. Obviously you need a volunteer to spin while you take the photo. I set my camera to manual mode, bulb, f/5.6, ISO 100, and shade white balance which I later corrected in post processing. I did my editing in photoshop (duh) and mostly drew out the highlights, darkened the shadows, and color corrected.
There are some things all the tutorials I read did not tell me. Here’s some real time tips:
- DO NOT try to do this a closed tunnel. Something about the lack of airflow made it impossible to lite the wool. Do it in the open air or opening of the tunnel.
- Use small amounts of wool each time and make it into a little round nest to catch the sparks.
- Make your partner wear thick clothes, gloves, and a hat (even if its hot outside). You are photographing flying fire, they will get burnt!
- The darker the area, the better the exposure will look. Lights in the background or sides just ruin the scene.
- HAVE FUN! It will be an adventure!
Here’s some of the results I got my first time shooting steel wool-