February Photo First – Steel Wool and Sparklers

1 Feb
First off, I’d like to say I’m glad I have a few friends that do an art exchange with me on the first of each month.  It forces me, no matter how lazy or tired or busy I am, to at least have ONE photo, piece of writing or other creative work to submit by the first of each month.  As small as that may seem, it’s nice to have someone to answer to so I have to at least create SOMETHING before month’s end.
I’ve never really played around with any kind of fire and long exposure photography, and after finding some sparklers buried in the bottom of a bag of yarn and books that I took on a road trip to Memphis, I decided it was time!  Juli wanted this month to be Valentine’s themed (which is my favorite holiday by the way!), so for one of my sparkler photos I made a heart, trying to step to the side as I went so it would be more dimensional. I like the green from the streetlight contrasted with the orange sparks, and also the threads of fire coming off from it.  Also, I have like eight legs!  This was done on Bulb on 200 ISO.  Jeremy helped and triggered the shutter with my camera remote.  (He also played with some sparklers on other photos in this series!)
While doing some research on long exposure photography, I learned for the first time about steel wool long exposure photography.  Click here to see examples.  It’s truly amazing what a few simple household tools can accomplish.  While my humble photo isn’t anything on par with what inspired me, it’s a start and I had a ton of fun fumbling in the dark with Jeremy while trying to find the lighter, get my goggles on, set the camera correctly, and hoping my lawn didn’t catch on fire or the neighbors didn’t call the cops while we did all this.  To accomplish the effect I put a bit of steel wool in a whisk, attached a dog leash to it, caught the wool on fire and spun it around.  My camera was on the same setting as before, Bulb with 200 ISO.  The first few tries weren’t that impressive or the camera was set up incorrectly.  This one turned out better.  It looks like I’m surrounded by a crazy, giant ball of orange yarn.
Looks like Yarn!
The next try I added more steel wool to the whisk, and by then we had the camera set up correctly so the sparks weren’t all gone by the time the shutter opened.  I spun this one until my arm got tired (not long — I’m a wuss), and I was much happier with the results.  I got the spray of sparks I wanted, you can’t see my legs as much, and the light from the trees, house behind us, and street light make the color pretty varied.  Again, it was full-on night when these were taken.  I plan to do more with steel wool photography, and Jeremy knows of a tunnel about an hour from here I’d like to try it in.   A few more steel wool and sparkler photos are on my flickr!  Have you done this before?  Do you have any tips?

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9 Responses to “February Photo First – Steel Wool and Sparklers”

  1. kccccc February 1, 2011 at 4:46 am #

    ! Awesome! I had no idea about the steel wool. Let’s catch things on fire and take photos of it very soon.

  2. Jill D February 1, 2011 at 5:59 am #

    OH MY GOSH! These are ammmmmmmazing! They are so awesome and rad.

  3. cvalentino February 1, 2011 at 2:30 pm #

    Kan – YES! We definitely need to do this. And in your fenced in yard we wouldn’t have to worry about the cops getting called! Woot!

    Jill – thanks sweetheart!

  4. sfw February 1, 2011 at 5:55 pm #

    Awesome post and photos Brandi (Jeremy!) Thanks for the links too. My soon-to-be 16 year old has been helping me in regard to teaching me some techniques such as this. I need to practice and read up more, obviously.

    • cvalentino February 1, 2011 at 6:01 pm #

      It’s definitely fun. I found soapless steel wool in bags at Ingles by the hardware type stuff. They didn’t have any in the sponge aisle where you’d think it would be! Can’t wait to see your shots!

  5. Juli February 3, 2011 at 12:00 am #

    These turned out great! I love it! And I’m definitely ready to catch stuff on fire and photograph it with you guys…

    • cvalentino February 3, 2011 at 2:43 pm #

      Hells yeah!

  6. lawlorboy March 23, 2012 at 1:18 am #

    Hey, have u done anymore of this? I’ve just started. It’s very cool :)

    • cvalentino March 31, 2012 at 3:28 am #

      Nope! I haven’t tried any more since this! I’m working on some cross-processing shots and hoping to do some bokeh stuff soon! I do want to try this more soon though! Hope your shots turn out!

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