What you'll learn
What wire wool spinning is
How to safely take wire wool photos
What to consider in your Wire Wool scene
Wire wool, or Steel wool is a great tool for long exposure photography and with some care, you can create some awesome effects. We sought advice from Triggertrap user Jessica Miller who has become an expert in wire wool spinning. Here’s how she creates her awesome photos.
What you’ll need
A sturdy tripod
A cable release - TTM app + cable
Wire/Steel Wool - plenty. 000 grade, or super fine
A cheap balloon whisk
A metal dog leash, shoe laces, or rope
Jessica also recommends:
a torch or led light that you can keep on you
Steel wool is a really neat material, usually used in decorating. However it has some really interesting properties in the way that it burns. Once ignited and then spun round, wire wool burns vigorously and sparks fly. The sparks tend to fly outwards, so it’s surprisingly safe for the person doing the spinning!
By using a long exposure - at least five seconds - you can create incredible photos similar to light orbs but with streaks of sparks flying in every direction. These photos are best taken at last light (possibly with an ND filter) or at night, and in non flammable, people free locations.
Safety first! You’re spinning something that will be on fire around. Make sure that there are no flammable surfaces within range. Think of places made of concrete and brick and places over bodies of water. Make sure there are no people nearby. Also think about where you will be standing. You need to have swinging space, and also a couple of paces in every direction around you.
Jessica recommends getting to your location at sunset so you still have some light to help you get set up, and so you will be ready to go by last light.
Make sure that the camera is really secure on the tripod. Any movement at all will ruin the shot.
Now compose the shot and ensure everything on the tripod is locked down. Place an item, such as your whisk, where you plan on standing so you can focus on this point, then mark the spot.
Set the camera to manual focus and ensure the focus is set correctly.
Set your camera to manual and/or Bulb mode. Set the ISO and Aperture for the effect you’re hoping to achieve. Take into consideration you will be shooting in low light or after dark. For more infor on manual camera settings see our other tutorial.
Jessica recommends ISO 100 and an aperture depending on your scene.
Connect your intervalometer to your camera. If you're using Triggertrap Mobile, connect your kit from your phone to your camera and open the Triggertrap Mobile app.
Now open Star Trail mode. You’ll want at least 40 frames and an exposure of 8 to 15 seconds with the minimal interval time that your camera can manage (if you're unsure, try 1 second).
Make sure that this connection is nice and secure so the whisk won’t go flying once you start spinning. Do a test spin to make sure everything is safe before trying this with wire wool.
The finished setup
You should now have star trail mode setup and connected to your camera, and your spinning tool ready to go.
Capturing the photos
You’ll see an ember growing. Start spinning! Try spinning in a circle in front of you. You can spin the wire wool in any direction, at an angle or over your head. Keep spinning until the wire wool stops throwing out sparks.
When you’re done with the wire wool, if it’s still alight then tap it out on a non flammable surface or plunge it into water.
Return to your camera and stop the star trail mode if it hasn’t finished.