Photography: Leave a little sparkle wherever you go 📸✨

in #ocd3 years ago

I promised you some photography posts, and this will be the first one. Last summer I got the idea to finally do something with some steel wool photography. I've seen so many pictures on the web with people doing this I wanted to create some of these cool looking shots by myself!

Leave a little sparkle wherever you go

Because you’re working with “fire” I thought it would be easier to try this with at least 2 persons. One to compose the shot and the other to rotate the steel wool. @dboontje just left for his family holiday in France. I did send him some examples through Whatsapp from the idea I had and of course he wanted to join me with this spectacular shoot. Later when he returned home from his holiday, we picked a date and a night of fun, and excitement was planned.

The idea behind spinning some steel wool is actually pretty simple. Well simple... You just need to think about it. I would have never thought to try and light up some steel and put it in a whisk attached to a chain and start spinning with it. That’s actually all it is to create some unique images.


  • Tripod
  • Uv-filter (protection, I damaged my lens a bit…)
  • Lens hood
  • Remote for your camera
  • Steel wool 0000 (make sure it is this type of wool, because it is very thin)
  • Whisk
  • Chain or a solid piece of rope
  • Safety glasses
  • Pair of working gloves
  • Flashlight
  • Water or a fire extinguisher (if something catches fire, you’ll need this!)
  • Lighter or a 9 volt battery

I think I don’t have to mention this but don’t forget your camera and lenses because they aren’t on the list.


You can attach the chain/rope to the whisk. While fluffing the wool a little bit so you’ll extend the volume of it and the fire will be able to grab some oxygen. Put the wool in your whisk and from here the fun will start. We had all the fun while using a lighter, but during our night there was a lot of wind so the lighter didn’t always work. Our spot was at the ocean side so we could have expected this but didn’t think about it on forehand. With a 9v battery you can create some short circuit that will light up the wool as well. When the wool is on fire, you can rotate the wisk above your head and start playing with it. Low speed, high speed, start walking around etc.

Reminder never put the lighter and/or 9Volt battery in the same pocket as the steel wool. It will light up before you know it and believe me that won’t be a party! Your jacket will be on fire before you can say any word. Also choose your location carefully. We choose our spot at the water on purpose. The sparkles are extremely hot and sometimes the whole package of steel wool flies out of the wisk. This doesn’t create sparks but complete fireballs! The grass will be on fire before you know it.


Better to think on forehand about your location, because it will be dark when you’re shooting. And believe me it isn’t always easy to find a nice composition in the dark at a spot you don’t know. It’s better to think of a specific spot on forehand. We did but the spot failed because there was a sailing yacht at that pier and we were afraid the sails would catch fire. That's why it would be even better to have multiple spots on walking distance so you can play around with different settings and compositions.

Sunset at our first spot
Shot taken at our first location during sunset, as you can see the pier was taken by this yacht

Our backup location was one of our surfspots and it has some interesting objects we could play with and our primary location didn’t have this. So in the end our secondary location was way better for this shoot. Still at the water to add some nice reflections but we could also play with heights and constructions like tunnels. Something we would like to add the next time we're shooting steel wool are some objects so you can play like a superhero with some kind of shield or umbrella and fight the sparkles.



As you have read above this part you need to play around with different settings/setups and the spinning itself. Always make sure the spinner is standing on stable ground because the spinning isn’t without danger. Yes the sparks do fly away from you while spinning but they can bounce back!


So what kind of things you can experiment with during a shoot

  • Speed of spinning
  • Walking during spinning
  • Rotate during spinning
  • Make use of objects in the environment
  • Bring some attributes
  • Make use of multiple spinners (crazy sparkles everywhere)
  • While using multiple spinners let them do other movements for the spinning

The results

We had some great fun during this night out. @dboontje already had multiple shoots since our first one, so I bet he enjoyed it even more than I did!

During the last picture in this post there where no cars damaged at all. Because you're working with long shutter times you can time it carefully. This way you will capture the carlights first and after the car passed you'll start spinning. Otherwise I guess the owner won't be happy with some possible damage to his car.

So I hope you enjoyed this post. Now I'm looking forward to see some of your own results. Go out and have some fun while creating some stunning shots!

Pedestrian Bridge

PS. As you might have heard, I'm not 100% healthy at the moment. A reply at a comment can take a while. Sorry in advance for that... ?


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