Steel Wool Photography

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.

Here are the results: