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At least once a month we get out as a group on an organised outing of some description, and being a group of people who enjoy taking photos we usually come home with a very interesting and generally appealing selection of photos.  This blog is a record of where we have been and the photos we took at the time.

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Wire Wool Spinning

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So you want to have a go at wire-wool spinning?

What you'll need

Photo equipment

  • Your camera
  • A suitable lens (something wide probably)
  • Tripod
  • Remote shutter (not essential but definitely preferable)

It may also be worth considering a filter to protect the glass on the lens if you intend to get close to the action

Wire wool spinning by theywereinvisible, on Flickr



  • Plenty of wire wool, 'fine' works best
  • A metal chain for spinning - dog leads work well
  • Something to attach the wool to the chain - either a metal whisk or a large bulldog clip works
  • A couple of well-fuelled lighters

Clothing & Safety Equipment

Hot sparks will fly so you will want to cover up; long sleeves and a hood or hat are advisable.  IJWTGP branded hoodies are ideal, buy one here.

A powerful torch for safely moving around in the dark and to illuminate your focus points prior to spinning.

A fire extinguisher is recommended.

Choosing your location

Whilst spinning burning wire wool on the end of a long chain is not in itself illegal you need to choose your location carefully.  Smouldering chunks will be distributed far and wide so any wood, paper or trees nearby could potentially catch fire.  Ideally you want to be in an urban environment, remote and self-contained.

Wire wool spinning by theywereinvisible, on Flickr


Be mindful of who might be around as it may appear threatening to outsiders who may feel inclined to call the police if they think you are up to no good, especially in large groups.

Spinning and Shooting

Firstly, set up the camera.  Position the camera on the tripod where you want it, shine your torch in the area you will be spinning and compose and focus accordingly.  Once you have set up your shot switch to manual focus so the camera won't try to re-focus in the dark, then either set your timer to a long exposure or enable 'bulb' mode if you intend to hold the shutter open for the duration of the spin.

Once the camera is set up and ready to go you will need to stand in the spinning position and light the wool.  It might be worth doing a few practice swings before lighting so that you can make sure you won't be hitting any walls, ceilings or yourself.  When ready light the wool and start spinning- don't expect a huge flame from the wool as it really only smoulders at best, spin until the flame dies out, trying to keep your body as still as possible throughout to avoid 'ghosting', unless that is what you want in your picture.   When finished spinning check the vicinity immediately for any chunks that are still alight and extinguish them quickly.

If you have timed the exposure correctly you should see plenty of sparks flying in all directions.  Try getting creative by using different locations, bouncing sparks, spinning in different directions and using props and costumes.

Wire wool spinning by theywereinvisible, on Flickr


This behind the scenes video footage of a recent spinning session will help to give you an idea of what the spinning will look like whilst you're doing it, and the photos scattered about this article should give an idea of the expected results.

Credit for much of the advice and content must go to the contributors of this forum thread.

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