Sam Hammer with an impressive aerial at Point Pleasant, New Jersey - © Matthew Lang

Steel wool photography with Nikon D3100 – how to steel wool tutorial.

Steel wool photography with Nikon D3100 – how to steel wool tutorial.

 

This is a tutorial on how to do steel wool photography with Nikon D3100. Hence the title, ‘Steel wool photography with Nikon D3100 – a how to steel wool tutorial.’ 😉

 

The steel wool photography technique is one which is sure to massively impress your friends. It looks amazing, but the truth is – it is really easy once you know how to do it. But hey, so is speaking French…

 

Steel wooling - by Nicole Lisa Photography
Steel wooling – by Nicole Lisa Photography. How to do steel wool photography with Nikon D3100.

 

– Steel wool?

Are we talking the material used to scrub stained pots and casseroles? We most certainly are. Steel wool is first and foremost known as a practical material. It consists of fine strands of.. you guessed it – steel.

 

Funny thing is, these strands are highly flammable and produce a high amount of ‘safe’ sparks when you set fire to it. Based on the glimmer in your eyes, I can see that I’ve caught your attention. “I see fire” and all that.

 

When you spin these strands in a low light situation, preferably outside at night, you should be able to perform some amazing ‘steel wool photography with Nikon D3100’ – just remember to use a long exposure setting. If you don’t know how to take photos with over 30 seconds exposure, you should know that you need a remote shutter timer to do so for most cameras (press HERE to learn more about long exposure over 30 seconds).

 

Long exposure means that you have a slow shutter speed, allowing the sparks to fly in all directions against the dark background – resulting in a unique steel wool technique photo. Adjust the exposure time based on how much you want the background to show.

 

This article will cover everything you need to know in order to perform spectacular steel wool photography with Nikon D3100. Photos in the article are provided by Nicole Lisa Photography, be sure to check out here website, facebook or ask her questions directly in our forum.

 

The categories include:

  • Introduction

  • Steel wool?

  • Equipment needed for steel wool photography

  • How to set long exposure over 30 seconds?

  • Step-by-step setup for steel wool photography with Nikon D3100

 

Seeing that we’ve covered the introduction, we should get down to business. First of all, we’re going to ensure you’re setup for baffling your friends and fans with your fantastic steel wool photography with Nikon D3100.

 

Ruins with steel wool photo effect - by Nicole Lisa Photography
Ruins with steel wool photo effect – by Nicole Lisa Photography. How to do steel wool photography with Nikon D3100.

 

“Words are only painted fire; a look is the fire itself.”

– Mark Twain

 

This is the necessary equipment needed for steel wool photography with Nikon D3100:

 

1. DSLR CAMERA

Presuming that you reached this article via a search engine, you searched ‘Steel wool photography with Nikon D3100’ because you either have a Nikon D3100 or you want a Nikon D3100. That is great – you are ready to roll. But if you don’t have a DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) camera, things are more difficult – because most point and shoot cameras don’t allow you to set the necessary shutter speed / exposure time needed to capture steel wool photography. However, if yours does, we would love to hear about it in the forum – so that we may spread the good news.

 

2. STEEL WOOL

The MAIN ingredient. Without it, there will be no steel wool photography with Nikon D3100.

 

There are a couple of things you need to think about when utilizing steel wool for steel wool photography with Nikon D3100. First and foremost, take care with the sparks and take precautions – it is no fun getting black burn patches on your clothing or your friends’ clothing for that matter. Use common sense.

 

Secondly, we recommend the ‘super fine’ variant of steel wool for best results. A good example of the best steel wool is Red Devil Steel Wool (Super Fine) – seeing that it is high quality and contains super fine strands of steel wool.

 

Night sky steel wool effect - by Nicole Lisa Photography
Night sky steel wool effect – by Nicole Lisa Photography. How to do steel wool photography with Nikon D3100.

 

3. WHISK

Yes, indeed. One of those balloon whisks that you might have in your kitchen already.

See, what you need the whisk for is the – spinning effect -. By wrapping the steel wool around the whisk before setting fire to it, allows you to keep a safe distance to the sparks and also ensures you get proper speed on the gyroic movement needed to sling the sparks as far as possible – and voila, you are shooting steel wool photography with Nikon D3100. Oh, but there are some more key points below. You better read those as well.

 

4. REMOTE SHUTTER TIMER

All photographers should have a remote shutter timer. It is essential for stability when shooting long exposure photos and also allows the photographer to be far away from the camera – for example if photographing birds or wildlife.

For steel wool photography it is important due to the fact that you might not always be able to run back and forth to your camera before setting fire to the steel wool. With the remote shutter timer you are able to trigger the camera from far away, ensuring you get timing right every time. Tip: The remote shutter timer also grants you the possibilities of doing long exposure over 30 seconds and time-lapse photography.

 

5. TRIPOD

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again; “stability is king.” You need a sturdy tripod to prevent weather conditions or shaking from destroying your photos – a slight tremble is enough to make certain areas of your photo go blurry or out of focus.

 

If you are serious about your photography, you should invest in a good tripod. We recommend the Ravelli 70″ Tripod with Adjustable Pistol Grip Head and Heavy Duty Carry Bag because of its sturdiness and ability to perform in tough conditions. It comes with rubber and spiked feet – which allows for extra stability when you need it the most.

 

6. SAFETY GOGGLES

There is nothing cool about a spark in your eye. Safety is essential, so make sure you wear protection.

“The fire within us can only be lit by our true passion in life.”

– Alexander Van Dorph (Author of ‘Cognitive Disturbance‘)

 

How to set long exposure shutter speed over 30 seconds?

Like mentioned earlier in the article, most cameras can not be setup for a slower shutter speed than 30 seconds. You will need a shutter release timer to set the shutter speed to over 30 seconds. See point 4 in the equipment list to learn more about shutter timers.

 

Mountains of steel wool - by Nicole Lisa Photography
Mountains of steel wool – by Nicole Lisa Photography. How to do steel wool photography with Nikon D3100.

 

Step-by-step setup for steel wool photography with Nikon D3100

Once you have the necessary equipment listed above, you should find a suitable location. Try to think of enthralling, interesting backgrounds that will appeal to the viewer. An abandoned ruin perhaps? In the middle of the gloomy forest? Your creativity is key. We would love to see the photos you got out of this article – so if you want, please post them in our FORUM.

 

1. Set your camera’s shutter speed to at least 10 seconds or more.

 

2. Trigger the self-timer via a shutter release timer or simply use the auto-timer setting on 10 seconds or more.

 

3. Light the steel wool, which is properly stuffed into the whisk (in broken strands), with a match or lighter. The more you break up the steel wool, the more the sparks will vary in their direction and intensity. Experiment a bit to find the way you like it.

 

4. Spin, spin, spin that whisk! The sparks should fly in all directions and make for quite a lightshow. The slow shutter speed that you’ve set the camera to will capture all the sparks’ paths and display them beautifully in the end result – your first steel wool photo. We’re so proud of you.

 

5. PS – Be sure to play around with the shutter speed to get different results – for example if you want to highlight the night sky or background. Good luck!

 

Steel wool at the ruins - by Nicole Lisa Photography
Steel wool at the ruins – by Nicole Lisa Photography. How to do steel wool photography with Nikon D3100.

 

Article: Steel wool photography with Nikon D3100 – a how to settings tutorial.

Comments: Please post comments or questions in our FORUM. It is much appreciated.

Words: Nicole Lisa Photography & Alexander Van Dorph (Author of ‘Cognitive Disturbance‘)