I saw a movie on YouTube the other day of a guy with sparkles around his head and thought, this is something I would like to do too. Who doesn`t want to try that :)? It started with a trip to the grocery store.

The trick behind the sparkles flying around in the air is quite simple. Regular fine steel wool ignited with a battery (or a lighter) makes small sparkles that can be quite exciting when photographed with a long shutter. If you add some high pressure air or swirl the wool around exposing it for some centrifugation forces, the result can be sparkles being “shot” out of the wool as it rotates.

The trick does not cost much, you need a good fluffy portion of steel wool, a 9V battery (or a lighter), a cord and a container for the wool. The container can be a metal-net, tea-strainer or other suitable items that does not melt, but can be attached to a cord. Ignite the wool with the battery/lighter, spin the net around, get your long exposure photo ready and give it a shot.

second attemt

Second attemt….oops, forgot the headlights, but better ignition. I made the wool a bit fluffier.

Finally I got the things to work better.

Steel wool action

Conducting a steel wool opera in the woods F 8, ISO 200, 15 sec

Note to next time

  • It seems the fluffier the wool is, the better ignition you get
  • A location with more horizon/perspective is probably better than the woods
  • A location where the sparkles can be reflected in water, ice or in a tunnel is also something to consider


PS! If you try this, we take no responsibility over the outcome. It is recommended to use necessary safety precautions, protection goggles/clothes (at a wet location). You do this at own risk.

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