Long Exposures and Spinning Steel

I had been wanting to try my hand at long exposures with burning steel wool for a while now, but I figured in Houston that might not go over too well. Luckily we visited the Clevenger Farm in Avery, Texas this past weekend so I had my opportunity to shoot away without any worries... or so we thought.

I will tell you the technical aspects of the shots in a minute, but the real adventure was really the preparation itself. We (Lauren and I) wanted to be standing on a dock when flinging the flaming steel wool that way it was landing in the water and not in the grass. Our backup plan was to carry a 5 gallon bucket down to the ponds too, just in case a fire was started we could scoop up some pond water to put it out. Little did we know that the handy little bucket would be a fatal flaw in our plan.

We set out with gear in hand and started our nice chilly stroll to the first pond. The moment we went through the gate and into the pasture we were greeted with 5 hungry cows and a tag along calf. We had missed out on the little detail that in the Clevenger cow herd a 5 gallon bucket = delicious treats. Our denial of the tasty morsels left the cows perplexed and perturbed, so they followed us... closely. We picked up our pace and so did the cows to the point that Lauren frightfully whispered "I can feel it breathing on my leg!"

Finally we made it to the dock, our safe haven, but our friends had followed us all the way there and were waiting at the edge... impatiently. One even contemplated joining us out there, but a weary first hoof made it think better. At this point we felt trapped. Like a we were stuck in a tree with large angry alligators waiting for us below.


(Left) The brave photographers with whisks and spotlight in hand. (Right) Evil cows waiting for their first victim.

Lauren said "throw the bucket to them and they will see it is empty and leave". So I did, but they did not do as promised. They obviously believed I was hoarding their treats in my pockets. At the same point in time we decided we wanted to head to a different pond in a completely different field, so an exit strategy was made. We turned the "fear" tables on the cows by "testing" my steel-wool-in-a-whisk contraption and sending sparks all over the place, which gave us enough room to flee from the dock. Lauren ran ahead and I went and retrieved the slobbery bucket from the enemy before catching up to her. We narrowly escaped and managed to close a dividing gate behind us so we could go shoot at another pond in peace.

Here is what we created! Technical details are after the pictures. 


 To make these shots here is what you need:
-A whisk with the string attached to it
-Steel wool; the finer grade the better
-9V Battery to ignite the steel wool
-A safe place to shoot

Camera specs:
-You need a tripod and a shutter release will come in handy

- We used f4.0, ISO 100-400, and shutter speeds ranging from 10-30 seconds