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Another Steelwool Revival



We were back out with photographer Nicholas Lee from PicNick on a steelwool photography quest. This time to try some different effects using some of the same tools but with a few new add-ons.

Steelwool photography rig
Still using the same rig as I've shown before in my how-to post “Sparking Interest and Sharing Ideas”, we added a soup can with both ends removed together with the fire poi to see if we could tone down the light cast by the burning wool and get a stronger effect from the fire poi instead.

Steelwool photography with fire poi
If you look to the left, the fire poi is quite obvious and the soup can has reduced the light from the burning wool as I had predicted. It also reduced the amount of sparks that the wool gives off due to the reduced amount of oxygen that it receives.

Steelwool photography
Here the fire poi went out rather unexpectedly and you can see I didn't account for the shadow of Nick's tripod, so there were a couple of fails. Yet it shows that the soup does reduce the light from the burning wool and still creates some interesting effects.

Steelwool photography
Steelwool photography
Steelwool photography
Steelwool photography
Steelwool photography
These were all shots in a tight space trying slightly different techniques and seeing how it might affect the end results.

Steelwool photography
Here are the most obvious comparisons. With the soup can and fire poi on the left, just with the soup can in the centre and my standard rig on its own for the one on the right.

Steelwool photography
Steelwool photography
Here were a couple of attempts to do a globe with the soup can in place. I liked the way it toned down the light, yet it does lose some of the dramatic effect that the burning wool in just the basket creates.

Steelwool photography
See what I mean? This photo much like many I've done before really has the larger shower of sparks that spread much further out.

Steelwool photography
Our final shot of the night was this by the big gun. As I try to promote this art form, I also wish to promote the safety for the people doing it. That bright streak is a spark that came darn close to hitting the UV filter that I have on my lens to protect it. The UV filter was only around $20 and yes, easy to replace and would have needed to be replaced should that spark have flown only a tiny bit closer. The burning wool is 1000 degrees Celsius and capable of scarring glass. So a few words to the wise…

1) Wide angle is cool, just make sure you don't bring the camera in so close that it is at risk.
2) A cheap filter is far easier to replace than a costly lens, so use one if there is even a remote chance of a stray spark getting near.
3) Using a whisk as shown in many of the how-to videos on YouTube isn't the best way to go. The wool burns down and becomes smaller till the whisk no longer holds it, allowing the last chunk to fly out and you will have absolutely no control on what direction that will be in. If you can't find a basket like I'm using, I suggest fashioning some rat wire to the end of the whisk to keep that from happening.

Please be sure to play safe and avoid setting your surrounding environment on fire even as you keep yourself and your equipment safe. If you’ve enjoyed these images, I suggest you check out the FB page Steelwool Photography Global. You don't have to make the art to join. We always appreciate any kudos, constructive criticism, ideas and suggestions.

As always, I welcome comments below and if you would like to have some of your steelwool photos featured here with a write-up and links to see more of your work, be sure to contact us. Just use the link at the top of the page that says "Get in Touch".

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