I’ve been wanting to try steel wool photography for a while. Since I’ve continued to wake up in the middle of the night and sometimes struggle to get back to sleep, I decided to go out and shoot some more. This time trying steel wool shots.
This is easy to do – just get some steel wool. In my case I used super fine grade (I think it’s packaged as “0000”), get a lighter or 9V battery to get it to burn, a whisk to hold the steel wool, and your camera setup. You definitely need a tripod and a good place to shoot. Also a good idea to have some water or a fire extinguisher handy in case sparks start something burning. Trust me, there’ll be plenty of sparks if you do it right.
While I’m thinking about it, there’s a chance you’ll get burned, or at the very least, hit by some of the sparks. Gloves, long sleeves, and maybe even a hat are a good idea. You’re literally playing with fire, something we were all taught as kids not to do. To get the best spark effect, take the steel wool piece and spread it out a bit before lighting it. Definitely pick a spot where you can do this safely, and hopefully without getting in trouble.
Setup focus, then switch to manual. In my case, I shot at 30 second exposures, about the max time I found the steel wool would burn well. I was alone, so my camera remote shutter release was critical. Otherwise you’ll need to use your timer or bring a friend to help you. So far f/8-f/11 seem good f-stop settings.
I intend to try this again, after scouting some more spots, mainly intending to find darker locations. Light pollution is definitely a challenge here. And since I tend to shoot before sunrise, waiting for later sunrise times should help.
I’ve wanted to shoot sunrises and sunsets lately, and really haven’t felt like going to the Mississippi River to do it. But I’ve struggled to find a good location that has the foreground, etc. that I’d like. I was out Friday night, on short notice without a chance to plan where to shoot, and at first seemed like I’d just wander around and shoot nothing worthwhile.
Then it hit me – use the car as my subject, and try my hand at light painting the car. I’d seen others do that and wanted to try it, and luckily thought of it. So I parked the car and tried a couple of light painting methods.
Not bad for a first try. I like the red on red from the top image, and I also like the headlight and tail light starbursts from the bottom image.
Next time I’m out at night and complaining about having nothing to shoot, maybe I’ll try light painting whatever’s around.
Sometimes I have trouble getting back to sleep after waking during the night. Instead of tossing and turning, I started going out and shooting.
I’m not an experienced enough photographer yet to have settled into a set style or genre, but night photography seems to be my thing.
So I guess it’s ok that I go out and shoot at night, except of course missing out on some sleep. In a way that doesn’t matter because I’ve found I can clear my head while I’m out shooting, and when I get back from a late night shoot I usually go back to sleep quickly. Sometimes the shoots wind up being an early start to shooting a sunrise.
I’ve done everything from my first try at star trails, more interstate light trails, and more light painting, and even started working on time lapses.
Check these out:
I will get some others uploaded when I can, just to show a broad selection of the different shots I’ve gotten.
As a matter of fact, I’m writing this while out on a shoot. I have two cameras going right now, so maybe I will get something worth posting later.
Late night photography probably isn’t the textbook cure for insomnia, but it’s helping me.
You may be noticing a recurring theme – I really enjoy long exposure photography, especially at night. I love reading/watching tutorials on different photography and video topics. Light painting is, well, awesome. And there are a ton of different light painting tutorials out there.
A while back I was up in the middle of the night because I wanted to try capturing lightning in the night sky. That didn’t quite work out as planned, but I decided to kill some time by trying some light painting.
I started with a DIY lightsaber of sorts – a clear plastic tube used to store fluorescent light bulbs, some semi-transparent wrapping paper (blue), 2 small flashlights inserted into each end of the tube, my trusty Nikon D5300, tripod, and wireless remote. The 2 flashlights, tubes, and paper cost around $30. And I have enough to try many different color combinations – single or multiple tubes, you name it.
light painting involves trying over and over
a little orange flare added in Lightroom
kind of looks like I’m standing in the middle of a giant flower.
this is my favorite of the bunch.
late night light painting
late night light painting
I picked a spot nearby with a bridge leading to a man made island, with a beautiful tree, fairly well lit at night. A couple of comments on my own shooting/setup – I should’ve worn darker clothing, and also should have set the ISO lower. I thought I’d overridden the Auto-ISO feature (I intended to shoot at ISO 100), but I didn’t. One thing’s for sure, I’ve made plenty of mistakes while shooting, and I have learned as much from my failures as I have from my good images.
I’ll try again soon and see what difference lowering the ISO makes. Each shot was at 30 seconds.
No great technique or post processing, just some fun trying something different.