Steel Wool Light Painting Can Be Bad For Your Lens

Bank Shot

One of the best ways to make interesting light painting is to get a piece of steel wool on a string and spin it around on a long exposure (see tutorial here).

While we always warn folks to be cautious and wear goggles and long sleeves while spinning a piece of burning metal we never actually talked about camera safety.

Photographer Jon Beard learned that the lens needs to be protected as well the hard way. One of the sparks from the spinning wool hit his $2,000 Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G glass and stuck on the front element. Hit the jump for more details and a lens close up.

“As I was spinning, I saw a nice bright flash from my camera. Even though I couldn’t be sure where it hit exactly, I was pretty sure it hit the lens. When I took a look, sure enough, there was a chip in it (well, what I thought was a chip at the time anyway.) When I was able to pull this shot up on a large screen it was pretty obvious where it was hit (check out the faint blurry, angled streak near the top right.)

I cleaned the lens and could feel texture from the spot so I was pretty sure it had gotten pockmarked, but when I took a macro shot I could see the texture was outward instead of inward. It wasn’t a chip. It was molten steel that hardened and stuck when it hit the glass. So now I’m working on finding out how to best remove it with minimal damage to the glass… Suggestions? #

Good news! (kind of...)

This is just another point in the everlasting debate of weather using filters on quality glass is actually giving any protection.

Thanks for the tip, Leonard.