Spinning wire wool creates a circle of fire. Ask yourself, “How can this geometric shape relate to the surrounding landscape?” For my iconic image shot at Lake Rotoiti, I made a long exposure of the stars circling the Southern Celestial Pole then mimicked these concentric circles by spinning the wire wool.
lake rotoiti“Let there be light.”

Ask yourself, “Do I want to appear in the photograph?” If not, wear black clothing, gloves, and a balaclava.


Once you have a composition planned, lock down the camera on a sturdy tripod. Hang a small LED light from the tripod to make it visible. Focus on where the fire-spinner will stand, then switch to manual focus on the lens barrel. A wide-angle lens is preferable.

Set the camera’s mode dial to Manual, with a shutter speed between 20 and 30 seconds. Apertures can vary from f/2 to f/11. Set the ISO between 50 and 800. Any higher and digital noise may become an issue. For color temperature, choose a ‘Daylight’ setting, or drop the Kelvin temperature down to about 3500K.

If you’re the photographer, wait for your assistant to light the wire wool and begin spinning it in a circle, then fire the shutter. Both of you should switch off your headlamps so they don’t interfere with the photo. To mitigate light leaking into the viewfinder, hang a baseball cap over the top of the camera.

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