A small weekend exploratory project to travel different parts of Malaysia eventually brought us to a broken jetty by the waters.

Steel Wool

Steel Wool Photography by the (broken) Jetty. (2 shots digitally blended)

At the start of the trip, the goal was to shoot the Milky Way with this as  the foreground. But because of the cloudy condition, we are only able to see bits and pieces of the milky way. Eventually, we started shooting steel wool (prepared by one of the group member).

*It should be noted that steel wool photography itself carries risks of getting burns or maybe more severe accidents. As such, the person performing the act must be at least well informed about the precautions matters.

By the time we are ready to shoot some pictures, we realized that not alot of time is left before Sunrise. Once the sun is out, it will be very hard to see the sparkles created by the steel wool. We shot from different angles around the jetty and eventually settled down.


The trip here also allowed me to learn how difficult it was to focus in the dark. All these while in Singapore, there is rarely a chance to focus in the dark. All streets are lighted up brightly with street lams at every few meters interval. In the dark, it’s also very challenging to compose your shot. Seeing almost nothing thru the viewfinder and live view (If there’s anything that can be seen in the viewfinder, it will be the few powerful torchlight that we shine on the pillars for focusing).

With time not on our side, I didn’t have the luxury to shoot and adjust slowly. The only thing that really mattered for me during that moment is to make absolutely sure that the focus in ON and the composition is the best of what my eyes can see.

Shooting steel wool is pretty much like shooting fireworks. You shoot the scene (usually I shoot the blue hour which is like 1-2 hours before the fireworks starts) first, then followed by the fireworks. Finally, blend them with software. Just that the situation is reversed now. We shot the steel wool first. The main issue for me is, when I took the shot, it looks pretty fine… It was until I exposed for the whole scene then I realized that my horizon is completely off. Too late for anything to be saved.. Post processing tilting pretty much kills what I’ve composed for. So I just left it as it is..

But all these challenges does help to prepare me mentally for the upcoming Mt. Bromo trip where I will be facing probably the same situation like today. Better to fail earlier than to fail during the ‘mission’.

Other Technical Stuffs

I was shooting mainly with my Samyang 14mm f2.8 on my 5Diii for pretty much the whole night. The other lens with me is 17-40L. It didn’t really have alot of showtime since at this situation, I need all the light I can gather.

Lighting conditions wise, For the jetty is pretty much like ISO1600, f2.8 and 30s… What I usually call, pitch black. Ideally I would like to have it at ISO100, f8 and XXXseconds of long exposure to expose the scene. But with time not on my side on this exploratory trip, I just have to push it to 30sec max at f2.8. Exposure for Steel wool will be like fireworks, but abit longer because it isn’t as bright as the large scale fireworks.

Focusing, one of the most troublesome thing as we have to depend on torchlights shone on the pillars to aid the focusing.

Once the focusing is set, the rest will be like shooting fireworks…. Shoot, blend, done. *Easier said than done -_- No amount of reading online articles helped in preparing me mentally when I was on scene there.


Now I’m really looking forward to the Mt. Bromo trip that will be happening in a few weeks time…