Last week my friend Jenny and I were finally able to get together and play with some steel wool. We had been talking about exploring this popular genre of photography for a while now. Since none of us had tried it before, the idea was to get familiar with the nuances and work on technique before we tackle our more ambitious creative ideas. It turned out to be some of the easiest fun I’ve had with photography in a while.
After some quick googling, I found out it was pretty simple to put together. There are of course way more elaborate ways of doing this but I very much prefer the path of least resistance. This means less time tinkering, and more time practicing photography. All you really need is some steel wool, a wire whisk, some steel wire/cable and a lighter. It turns out I already had all I needed laying around the house.
Steel wool burns very fast. We did almost two dozen takes. Each take lasted mere seconds but were a veritable light show, even more so on camera as you can see. I set the Canon 5D Mark III on a tripod. My Model, Jenny, held a candle in front of her face while standing on a predetermined spot. This helped me acquire focus on her in live view. I then switched to Manual Focus, and set my shutter to about 5 seconds. This covered most of the take from start to finish. I would light the wool for her, jump out of the frame and trigger the shutter, using and infra red remote control. We got the hang of things pretty quickly. We are definitely ready for our more creative ideas. I can’t wait!
Molten steel embers/sparks can be very very hot. Although they are generally too small to be of any concern, some larger globs/chunks/drops will break loose and continue burning where ever they land. I kept a water hose close by just in case I had to put one out. I also keep several canisters of fire extinguishers on hand at all times. You cannot be too careful. Please allow ample space and nothing flammable around you.