Flaming Steel Wool Photography with Tom Keller

We love our Instagram community and wanted to spotlight the work of Tom Keller who’s been doing some really cool things with steel wool, his camera, and lighter! So here’s Tom’s images and what he has to say about them. Enjoy!

I first came across a picture of steel wool on Instagram. I’ve never seen this
before and was very intrigued by it. After doing some research my Fiancée Marissa and I
went out and got the necessities. We experimented in our back yard that night but
quickly got the hang of it and ventured out into the nearby neighborhoods. Places like
parks, bridges, rivers, and train yards offer interesting backgrounds and features to
photograph with. It’s usually j ust the two of us with one spinning while the other sets the
timer and possess.

001

The spinning vortex is one of the first pictures that Marissa and I shot in the backyard. I
started spinning at the back of our yard and randomly decided to walk towards the
camera while spinning. This became one of many successful experiments.

002

After a couple weeks of experimenting with steel wool my fiancé and I started getting
creative. We came up with the idea of using an umbrella to get a force field effect
creating this image under a bridge here in Sacramento; “Protector of Art.”

003

The exposures we use are between 15-20 seconds long and it can be tricky posing still
for that long. In this colorful picture done in my backyard, you can see that I shifted
positions while spinning causing a partial ghost effect but my fiancé did great.

004

Spinning orbs are amazing; it’s like an explosion of sparks! The way to spin an orb is to
find a set point on the ground (like a leaf or rock) and spin slowly around it with the
bottom of your spin hitting the top of that point. We found this Underpass interesting and
did a lot of experimenting here.

005

This silhouette shot was taken in a large storm tunnel in Houston Texas. I posed while
Marissa (my partner in life and in late night shenanigans) spun behind me creating the
silhouette and flaming water effect. We both got soaked this night, but getting down and
dirty is all part of the fun.

006

I always carry my GR1 Ruck from GoRuck and Canon EOS Rebel T2i with a Sigma 10-
20mm lens. After a lot of trial and error throughout the months, I developed a plywood
cut out that mounts 12 spinners and fits perfectly in my Ruck. This makes for an easy
“reload,” to cut down wasted time during the night. The actual “spinners” are made up of
an ordinary wire cooking whisk stuffed with 0000-000 gauge steel wool tied on a long
rope. A few other musts are a tri-pod, headlamps (not only to see but to focus the
camera) and lighters. Also, be sure to only spin after rains, during the winter months, or
near large bodies of water to prevent possible fires.

007

This over head spin was done alone in Lake Tahoe, CA. I learned from this experience
that the mechanics of this photography works much better with a partner. For this
picture I had my headlamp positioned facing the rocks to get a little more color from
them.

The Steelwool Photography community is still small but very innovative and filled
with great artist. Marissa and I have come up with many new ideas using the various
techniques we’ve developed so far and can’t wait to experiment with them this summer
in new adventurous places.

-Tom Keller, TK Photography

To keep up with Tom and his fiery shenanigans:
Follow him on Facebook
Follow him on Instagram: @tomkellerphotography
Send him an email: Tommokeller@gmail.com

For a cool tutorial on steel wool photography from our friends at Photojojo, Click Here!

Become a part of out Instagram community by following @tamracphoto right now!