Capturing a Fiery Light Show

by Sydney Kahl / Aug 03, 2013 /

After taking a photography course at my high school, I began to delve into the world of digital photography by experimenting with my new DSLR camera. I began to find my originality in making ordinary objects interesting, most commonly by perspective. As I learned more about what I could do with my camera and its numerous settings, I strove to find creative ways to shoot my pictures so that people would look at my photos and say, “Wow, how’d you do that?” I like playing with light; a favorite technique I discovered is to use steel wool.  The act of producing the unique image, as I’ll describe, is as rewarding as the final product.  

 

Capturing a Fiery Light Show

 

Capturing a Fiery Light Show

 

Capturing a Fiery Light Show

 

Through trial and error, I perfected the best method to capture a glowing image. I tie a whisk to the end of a string or rope and put steel wool inside the wires of the whisk. Then I take a battery that has positive and negative on the same side (a D battery works great), and light the steel wool on fire. Carefully, I spin the fiery steel wool in the whisk, by spinning the end of the rope in circles in front of me. To achieve the desired picture, my camera settings must be perfect. I set my shutter speed at around 5 to 10 seconds, depending on how bright I want the picture to be or the time of day. My ISO is usually at 3200, and my F-stop is around F16. Of course, the settings change based on the time of day. Usually I shoot at dusk with an interesting background in the image. You can achieve a similar outcome by putting a flashlight on the end of a rope rather than the whisk and flaming steel wool.

 

Capturing a Fiery Light Show

 

Capturing a Fiery Light Show

 

Capturing a Fiery Light Show

 

I also tend to shoot near water. I get the camera set up myself and then have an assistant press the shutter button for me, or I set the camera on a timer. When I stood on the end of my dock at our camp in Maine, I involved my parents. I asked my mom to splash water over our dock, so the boards wouldn’t catch on fire. On another occasion, I paddled to the middle of the lake and stood on a rock, while my friend snapped the picture. The next day some friends on the lake saw the image posted on Facebook and commented that the previous night when I had been taking the picture they were wondering what  had been making the orange light they saw from their deck.  So, they enjoyed both the process and the product.

 

Capturing a Fiery Light Show

 

Capturing a Fiery Light Show

 

One of the best parts about exploring photography is coming up with innovative artistic avenues to travel down; there is always something new to try. My discovery of flaming steel wool photos has been enjoyable, but now I’m going to move on to a new experiment. We’ll see what type of image will catch my imagination - and your eye - next.

 

Capturing a Fiery Light Show

(this photo taken at midnight with a 10 second shutter speed, ISO of 3200, and with an aperture of 8.)

 

 

 

 

Sydney Kahl is a member of the Youth Travel Blogging Mentorship Program

 

 

All photos courtesy and copyright Sydney Kahl