Epic Steel Wool Photography with a Graffiti Backdrop

The Images

Canon 6D, 10.0 sec at f /10, 24 mm, 100 ISO, Visico 300W Strobe to Camera left with 80x120cm Softbox
Canon 6D, 10.0 sec at f /10, 24 mm, 100 ISO, Visico 300W Strobe to Camera left with 80x120cm Softbox. Makeup: Kyran Tashea. Model: Priya Wallabh. Photographer: Zhi Lee
Canon 6D, 10.0 sec at f /10, 5 mm, 100 ISO, Visico 300W Strobe to Camera Right with 80x120cm Softbox
Canon 6D, 10.0 sec at f /10, 5 mm, 100 ISO, Visico 300W Strobe to Camera Right with 80x120cm Softbox. Makeup: Kyran Tashea. Model: Priya Wallabh. Photographer: Zhi Lee
Canon 6D, 10.0 sec at f /10, 5 mm, 100 ISO, Visico 300W Strobe to Camera Right with 80x120cm Softbox
Canon 6D, 10.0 sec at f /10, 5 mm, 100 ISO, Visico 300W Strobe to Camera Right with 80x120cm Softbox. Makeup: Kyran Tashea. Model: Priya Wallabh. Photographer: Zhi Lee

 

Canon 6D, 10.0 sec at f /10, 5 mm, 100 ISO, Visico 300W Strobe to Camera Right with 80x120cm Softbox
Canon 6D, 10.0 sec at f /10, 5 mm, 100 ISO, Visico 300W Strobe to Camera Right with 80x120cm Softbox. Makeup: Kyran Tashea. Model: Priya Wallabh. Photographer: Zhi Lee

 

Idea and Theme

Following from our fiery dark angel shoot that also involved fire, I wanted to build on the experience we already had shooting at Corbans Estate Arts Centre.  (For more info on our previous hip hop themed shoot, check out this blog post).  And so we set out with a casting call with the keywords “Epic”, “Dark”, “Graffiti” and “Fire”.

Kyran Tashea Makeup Artist responded with these concepts when I asked for a gangster / rock-and-roll look.  The final makeup on the day differed slightly as we had to improvise with water resistant makeup that wouldn’t run in the rain.

Makeup Diagram by Kyran Tashea Makeup Artist
Makeup Diagram by Kyran Tashea Makeup Artist

Warm-up Profile Shots

To get into the groove, we warmed up with a few profile shots that Kyran and Priya could use in their portfolio.  As this was an unpaid collaboration, I feel it’s important for everyone to take something valuable home (apart from the fun we had on-set of course!).

Canon 6D, 1/160 sec at f /7.1, 58 mm, 100 ISO, Visico 300W Strobe to Camera Right with 80x120cm Softbox, YN 568 EX II model rear right with 30x30cm Softbox (no baffle)
Canon 6D, 1/160 sec at f /7.1, 58 mm, 100 ISO, Visico 300W Strobe to Camera Right with 80x120cm Softbox, YN 568 EX II model rear right with 30x30cm Softbox (no baffle). Makeup: Kyran Tashea. Model: Priya Wallabh. Photographer: Zhi Lee
Canon 6D, 1/160 sec at f /7.1, 58 mm, 100 ISO, Visico 300W Strobe to Camera Right with 80x120cm Softbox, YN 568 EX II model rear right with 30x30cm Softbox (no baffle)
Canon 6D, 1/160 sec at f /7.1, 58 mm, 100 ISO, Visico 300W Strobe to Camera Right with 80x120cm Softbox, YN 568 EX II model rear right with 30x30cm Softbox (no baffle). Makeup: Kyran Tashea. Model: Priya Wallabh. Photographer: Zhi Lee
Canon 6D, 1/160 sec at f /7.1, 58 mm, 100 ISO, Visico 300W Strobe to Camera Right with 80x120cm Softbox, YN 568 EX II model rear right with 30x30cm Softbox (no baffle)
Canon 6D, 1/160 sec at f /7.1, 58 mm, 100 ISO, Visico 300W Strobe to Camera Right with 80x120cm Softbox, YN 568 EX II model rear right with 30x30cm Softbox (no baffle). Model: Vijay Prema. Photographer: Zhi Lee

 

Preparation

Having asked for permission from Corbans Estate Arts Centre (Henderson, Auckland), we set out to meet at 8pm on a Friday, despite the rain.  Vijay and I pulled up in different cars to a lone car parked in the upper carpark.  We knew it had to be our model, Priya Wallabh, or makeup artist, Kyran.  It was Kyran.

To add to the challenging conditions, we had to push start Kyran’s car as her battery went flat while waiting with headlights on.  Turning up to a shoot early, that’s dedication!  Priya arrived shortly after and as it was still pouring, the best course of action was to have makeup done in the car.  More trying conditions!

Makeup in trying conditions - What can you do in the rain, right?
Makeup in trying conditions – what can you do in the rain, right? Makeup: The talented Kyran Tashea.

Lighting

Finally, with a bit of patience and luck, the skies cleared up at 9pm.  There were 2 walls to choose from – a low colourful wall that turned out to be too overwhemling with the sparks so I made it monochrome …

Canon 6D, 10.0 sec at f /10, 24 mm, 100 ISO, Visico 300W Strobe to Camera Right with 80x120cm Softbox
Canon 6D, 10.0 sec at f /10, 24 mm, 100 ISO, Visico 300W Strobe to Camera Right with 80x120cm Softbox. Makeup: Kyran Tashea. Model: Priya Wallabh. Photographer: Zhi Lee

… and a much taller black and white one.  We decided to go for the latter because it gave us good height as a backdrop, and the top of the wall was conveniently the upper deck of the carpark, which allowed us to spin the steel wool from a height.

This was the final lighting setup, a powerful strobe at 3/4 power to the right of the model.  Initially, we started out with a 20 second exposure, which was very challenging for Priya, as 20 seconds is a long time to keep absolutely still.  We then dropped it to 10 seconds, but that required more fervour from the steel wool swinger, getting as much sparks flying as possible within the shorter amount of time.

Canon 6D, 10.0 sec at f /10, 24 mm, 100 ISO, Visico 300W Strobe to Camera left with 80x120cm Softbox
Canon 6D, 10.0 sec at f /10, 24 mm, 100 ISO, Visico 300W Strobe to Camera left with 80x120cm Softbox. Makeup: Kyran Tashea. Model: Priya Wallabh. Photographer: Zhi Lee
Canon 6D, 20.0 sec at f /10, 5 mm, 100 ISO, Visico 300W Strobe to Camera Right with 80x120cm Softbox
Canon 6D, 20.0 sec at f /10, 5 mm, 100 ISO, Visico 300W Strobe to Camera Right with 80x120cm Softbox. Makeup: Kyran Tashea. Model: Priya Wallabh. Photographer: Zhi Lee

The Crew

Thanks to these outstanding people who made it possible:

Model: Priya Wallabh
Makeup: Kyran Tashea
Photographer: Zhi Lee http://zhi-lee.com
Assistants: Vijay Prema, Sirina

Canon 6D, 10.0 sec at f /10, 24 mm, 100 ISO, Visico 300W Strobe to Camera Right with 80x120cm Softbox
Canon 6D, 10.0 sec at f /10, 24 mm, 100 ISO, Visico 300W Strobe to Camera Right with 80x120cm Softbox
Canon 6D, 20.0 sec at f /10, 5 mm, 100 ISO, Visico 300W Strobe to Camera Right with 80x120cm Softbox
Canon 6D, 20.0 sec at f /10, 5 mm, 100 ISO, Visico 300W Strobe to Camera Right with 80x120cm Softbox

Safety

Precautions were taken with a fire extinguishing can on standby.  Vijay and I had practised on a separate set beforehand so we knew what we were doing.  Never attempt steel wool photography on dry grass or near flammable items.  We had the safety net of wet walls and floors that were the aftermath of the rain.

Equipment

All you need is a bunch of steel wool caged within a whisk.  Set it on fire and then swing the whisk around (carefully), with a lanyard clipped into the end of the whisk
All you need is a bunch of steel wool caged within a whisk. Set it on fire and then swing the whisk around (carefully), with a lanyard clipped into the end of the whisk

 

For more information on how to do steel wool photography, check out one of these videos on Youtube.


 


  • Aperture: ƒ/7.1
  • Camera: Canon EOS 6D
  • Flash fired: yes
  • Focal length: 40mm
  • ISO: 100
  • Shutter speed: 1/160s

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Zhi Lee

Award winning NZ wedding, travel and portrait photographer. Creating images for the enjoyment of others really gets me going. It is through photography that I get to connect with people and express a little bit of creativity.