Photo sto­ries

Dale Mears uses lit­tle more than a stain­less steel whisk and some wire wool, plus his trusty D700, to cap­ture his award-win­ning light spi­rals

NPhoto - - Contents -

Learn what it takes to be the best wire-wool spin­ning pho­tog­ra­pher in the UK

An in­ter­est­ing ar­ti­cle in

N-Photo a few years back prompted me to have a go at spin­ning wire wool. I thought it looked re­ally cool, so I in­stantly wanted to try it. Af­ter pick­ing up a whisk and some steel wool from a lo­cal hard­ware shop, I was ex­cited to try my first spin. Look­ing back I didn’t have much of an idea of just how in­volved wire wool spin­ning could be, but nev­er­the­less I was hooked straight away.

Steel wool spin­ning in­volves pack­ing a stain­less steel whisk with wire wool, ty­ing a length of string onto the han­dle, and then set­ting the wool alight and spin­ning it around at arm’s length as it burns.

You can spin the wire wool ver­ti­cally, hor­i­zon­tally or while you walk, to ‘paint’ dif­fer­ent shapes into the photo. Long ex­po­sures en­sure that all of the streaks and spurts of light are cap­tured, so you need to keep the cam­era steady. When sparks spray out it looks cool, but it’s also a re­minder of why you have to wear pro­tec­tive cloth­ing and eye­wear at all times.

My first wire wool photos were taken in a se­ries of aban­doned ice tun­nels in the grounds of Wol­la­ton Hall, in Not­ting­ham (the hall has since been used in Bat­man movie The

Dark Knight Rises). The tun­nels were ideal for the shoot be­cause they were nat­u­rally dark, and af­ter a bit of trial and er­ror I had some rea­son­able shots.

For my next set of shots, my good friend Paul Clark and I had no­ticed four ex-military he­li­copters [2] on the site of a cross-coun­try ad­ven­ture race that we were both at. We didn’t want to pass up the op­por­tu­nity of pho­tograph­ing some wool trails here, so we spoke to the land own­ers and they were happy for us to shoot the he­li­copters. We went to two lo­ca­tions to try to make the

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