Just catching up on some of the exciting work we have been producing during the Autumn Photo course. In this exercise we used wire wool to produce a dramatic spiral of light with a shower of sparks. Thanks to Emma and Martin for use of their images.


I will just run over our approach to this. You will need a kitchen whisk or egg beater; wirewool – this is grade 000 ; cord or rope; a torch; lighter or means of ignition; and the camera needs to be on a tripod.


This needs to be done away from combustible material in a large open area. A beach is ideal or next to the water of a lake. Gravel, rocks or damp grass are fine. But avoid tinder dry grass or vegetation in drought conditions. The sparks will not ignite dense material like solid wood but err on the side of safety.

I would recommend that participants use manual focus to fix on the person who will twirl the wire wool. Camera auto focus may have problems fixing on the action in the darkness. If this happens the camera may not fire at all. Settings are approximately ISO 100, 15 seconds and an aperture of f/8.

A portion of wire wool is loosely inserted into the ‘cage’ of the whisk. Air will need to get into the fibres of the material. When everyone is focused and ready the wool is ignited. Don’t expect it to burst into flame. It will glow rather feebly. It is only when it is whipped through the air that oxygen rushes through the material and sparks are given off. Fifteen seconds can be a long time when you are whizzing something around at full pelt so have a loose plan for what you will do. When the time is up do not touch the whisk. Any residual material inside it will be very hot and will burn you. Ideally dowse the whole thing in water. You will hear a fierce sizzling – testament to just how hot this gets.

Do check the area for any burning material that may be smouldering.

Good luck and enjoy creating these spectacular effects!