19 December 2014

Spinning the night away: my intro to steel wool spinning

One of the nicest things about social media (as opposed to all the downsides like getting addicted to it, potential stalkers and the like!) is meeting like minded people who share common interests who you never otherwise would have the chance to meet.

Blogging was like that to begin with, though blogging has somewhat died a bit of a death for a lot of people this year), and this year meeting up with other photographers I've found on Instagram has been awesome too.

A few weeks ago, three lovely NZ photographers from Auckland (IG tag: lilminxy), Tauranga (IG tag: rach_stewart_nz) and Hamilton (IG tag: brentpurcell_le.nz) descended on the Capital to photo up a storm. And that they did even though the storm and wind of Friday night/Saturday was pretty crazy and put a few restrictions on their photo taking opportunities.

I'd caught up with them (plus a few local Wellington IG photographers) for a drink on Friday night and then spent most of Saturday afternoon and evening with them too. The walk to Korokoro dam to take photos had to be quashed with over 100 km/hr wind and driving rain making the 1 hour return walk seem less appealing than a black banana. Instead we holed up at Chocolate Fish Café to wait out what we hoped was better weather to come later in the day.

If there's one thing photographers are good at it's sussing out the weather. The Metservice rain radar information was closely studied and analysed and we decided that it was all going to come right at about 7pm - hopefully in time for sunset. Actually it was even earlier than that, by the time we got back to town and took some photos around the boatsheds, the skies were clearing.


After a walk down Wellington's own graffiti lane, we headed to a newish restaurant in town called Mexico for dinner - the plan being to get out to Princess Bay for sunset. We were a bit late leaving the restaurant and unfortunately the best colour in the sky was during the very fast (only slightly speeding!) trip out to the coast.

That being said, the light was still lovely for a shot or two even without the fiery skies!

The one thing I'd been really looking forward to was to try steel wool spinning for the first time. I'd seen some of these friends' photos of other times they'd tried it and I was super intrigued to get some shots of it for myself. A couple of the Wellington crew (IG tag: thelongsilence  and IG tag: indigo_id) had been up to this fort before a few weeks back and said it would make a great spot for spinning. They were right!

Fort Balance is an old abandoned fort up high on the north end of the Miramar peninsula, apparently built in 1885 after fears of an impending war with Russia. It's covered in graffiti and I cannot wait to go back up there in daylight and take some shots too - it's got photo opportunites galore!

But we were here for the spinning and spin we did. It's quite intriguing but the concept is simple - take a kitchen whisk, stuff it with fine grade steel wool (that you can buy from Repco or the like), attach it to a metal chain, and light it up. Spin like crazy for about 30 second or as long as the sparks fly. Not satisfied with this show, Brent has also developed his own automatic version which is basically a drill with a long piece of metal attached to the drill bit that has two whisks on it. Twice as many sparks and twice as fast! Wowzers.

After trying a few different techniques with the drill including one brave member volunteering to go into the hot seat, a few of us had a go at some manual spinning - it was super fun and not scary like I thought it might be.

This is my spin in this photo above!

For the finale, we wanted to go out with a big bang and do something worthy of the occasion. We found a circular room (almost like where you'd have expected a cannon to be set up with the ability to swivel 360 degrees) which looked like it would be the ticket. Getting up on top of the walls however proved a little more tricky which involved some of us climbing up a rather flimsy metal ladder with camera gear in tow, while the rest of us bush bashed our way up and then had our camera gear handed to us from below.

After one false start where Brent nearly set himself alight and we laughingly joked we may need to call on our only other male to wee on him from above to put out the fire, we got our spectacular finale. Boy was it amazing watching the sparks fly out in all directions while Brent lay on the ground holding the drill above his head. So worth the effort to get up above to take this shot!

By this time it was getting near to midnight, and I reluctantly had to farewell my photo buddies, but feeling very much on a high after an evening of conquering new photography techniques! It's something I am definitely keen to try again one day!

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