Sunday, July 4, 2010

Independence Day Fireworks

Too Close
People love fireworks.  In my neighborhood, any good excuse to light the sky brings out the pyromaniacs.  Photographing fireworks will account for a lot of shutter snaps this weekend, and not wanting to be left out, I went out to the beach last night and set up the tripod for some of the “warm-up” displays.
Red Tide
I have plenty of photography featuring fireworks, so once again, the challenge was to find something unique or particularly attractive other than the average shot.  I was attracted to the first shot because of the perception of the person being engulfed in the explosion.  No worries, it just appears that way because of the long exposure; no one was injured.
Sky Flower
I like the second and third shots for several reasons. 1.  I like the water reflection and the milky appearance of the water resulting from the long exposure.  2.  Including the flag in the shot is appropriate for the celebration, and 3. The onshore wind made for some interesting light streaks.
So here are some tips for shooting fireworks this evening:
  1. Use a tripod and a remote shutter release to eliminate camera movement.  If you don’t have a remote shutter release, you can use the exposure release timer, but you may miss some shots.  As a last resort, careful manual release will work.
  2. Use a wide angle lens, particularly if you are close to the fireworks.  Your goal should be to fill the frame with the light and include some reference objects to provide scale.
  3. Turn on the camera’s long exposure noise reduction.
  4. Use a low ISO; 100 to 200
  5. Set your camera to manual and experiment with different aperture and shutter speed settings.  I like exposure times of between 5 and 8 seconds which allows you to capture the launch trail, explosion, and movement of the light. After selecting the time, I shifted the aperture until I arrived at the exposure I was looking for.  In these cases, it was 5.6 on my 50mm f1.8 lens.
Go make some great photography, and don’t get too close to the fireworks.

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