Twisted Firestarter

Armed with a stock of steel wool, a butane torch, some rope and a whisk… it wasn’t your typical Friday night romantic date! Something I’ve always wanted to try out and Sue was only too happy to oblige. In fact, acting as my ‘Firestarter’ she risked life, limb and an expensive gortex jacket for the sake of art 🙂

Our first go at spinning steel wool yielded some very satisfying results and gave us the bug and inspiration to bring it a step further next time. I’ve decided that it’s all about location. Pick a spot that would look amazing anyway in a photograph and then add the stunning pyrotechnic visual that is a steel wool spinner… looking forward to take 2!

My twisted firestarter x

By the lake, love the reflections of the sparks

steelwool spinning moon

steel spinner long exposure sparks

Steel Wool Spinning Photography Waterford

Caught an amazing halo on the moon that night too…

long exposure moon halo

Things we learned…

  1. Safety first, always have a fire extinguisher to hand or at least water, we used a lake!
  2. Sadly our whisk has disintegrated, going make a cage something like this for next time.
  3. Protective clothing, hat, glasses, gloves… especially gloves… Sue has the scars to prove it.
  4. Faster spins give more sparks, but more more spins means more light, so shorter exposures.
  5. Shorter exposures means clearer more defined lines. Getting balance between ISO, Shutter Speed and Aperture is the key, it will take a little experimenting. Most of the above pics were between 20-30 seconds, f5-f8, ISO 400 or so.
  6. Ambient light is cool, especially from the moon! Use that long exposure to your advantage.
  7. Reflected sparks in water and/or puddles make great features.
  8. Getting focus right is really important, shine a bright torch on the person (try not to blind your girlfriend in the process), focus the camera and then set it manual and don’t move it.
  9. Speaking of torches… adding in some light-painting with LED torches is good fun.
  10. And again location… the location has to be interesting to start with, otherwise you could be anywhere.


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