Fireworks With Your Digital Camera
Fireworks with your Digital Camera
With the advent of the digital camera, the ability to see what you just shot is indeed an advantage over shooting on film which limited the number of shots you were willing or able to take and made you wait a day or two to see them. Even though with our new digital cameras we can, and should, shoot many pictures of the fireworks (which is definitely the best single piece of advice in this entire article!) and even though we can immediately see our shots and make corrections in our shooting, we need to review the basics and think about what standard equipment and procedures are needed to do the job right!
A nice lawn chair, a tripod, and a shutter release cable (or wireless shutter release) are pretty basic standard equipment. Fireworks are shot at longer shutter speeds. An SLR (Single Lens Reflex) camera with interchangeable lenses and the ability to adjust aperture and shutter is certainly best, but experimenting with smaller point-and-shoot cameras can definitely be fun. We want to capture the movement of the explosion in the air but also minimize, or best, eliminate, our own motion (that old hobgoblin, "camera shake"). For cameras without a shutter release. use your camera's self-timer.
Finding your shooting position is important. Keep wind speed and direction in mind. Think about where the crowd is going to be and position yourself to avoid heads, headlights, background clutter, and similar distractions. Take lots of shots. Set your shutter to the "bulb" setting (named for back when photographers used an air "bulb" release to squeeze-off photos using slow film and long shutter speeds). The "bulb" setting lets you keep the shutter open until you release it allowing for a timed-exposure and thus multiple bursts in the same frame. Cool!. Use a fairly wide angle lens to capture the bursts. Check your playback screen and adjust for framing and/or exposure if necessary. Also, remember you are taking a rectangular shot use both horizontal and vertical format.
Gee, lots to think about!
Scope out the firing area checking for wind, people, background etc., unfold your chair, set-up your tripod, attach your SLR camera with your 18-55 lens, fire-up your wireless shutter release, and get ready to shoot the action. Start with an aperture setting of f/8. (First rule of photojournalism: "F/8 and be there!")
SPECIAL NOTE: Plan to wear your black/dark felt baseball hat!
.. OK, the fireworks are starting!
Hang your hat over your lens and lock your shutter release open on "bulb." As the plume of fire is ready to burst, reach over and remove your hat from the lens and wait until it flairs. Just as the flair just starts to dissipate, replace your hat back over the lens. Repeat this procedure several times for shots with multiple bursts. Single bursts can be done the same way. After the exposure has been made, release the shutter. Now you are ready to continue throughout the show!
One last thought! The cool thing about a digital image is that it can easily be cropped to show parts of a single image. In the heat-of the moment, it is sometimes easier to take wider angle shots and crop than to sit and constantly adjust your camera's position.