Fireworks, July 1/07, Kanata, Ontario

Fireworks, July 1/07, Kanata, Ontario

Fireworks checklist before leaving home:
1) Bug spray
2) Flashlight
3) Tripod
4) Camera with fully charged battery
5) Compact flash or SD cards
6) Release cable or remote release
7) Blanket or folding chair

Checklist upon arrival:
1) Check direction of wind.
2) Take charge of your location – use blanket or chair or both to establish possession of enough space for your tripod!
3) Set up tripod and camera

The set-up process:
1) Decide on what type of shot you want – wide angle landscape, portrait view, whole fireworks, cropped fireworks.
2) Decide on the focal length of the lens to use to achieve the type of shot you want.
3) Take a test shot while light to see if there is any movement in the tripod.

That was the easy part 🙂

What to do next:
1) Switch camera settings to MANUAL.
2) Switch shutter release time to BULB.
3) Set ISO to 200.
4) Set F to f8.0 or f11.0
5) Put camera on a tripod.
6) Attach you release cable or set up your remote release (if you have one)

The rest is timing. Depress shutter when you see the shot going up in the sky. Release the shutter as soon as the display is over. Your shutter is open probably from 3-6 seconds but not critical. You are exposing for the bright light not the night sky so if the centre burst is badly overexposed, your picture is overexposed. NOTE: The overexposure is an error in the ISO/F-stop settings and has almost nothing to do with the time that the shutter is open!!! Therefore, if overexposed, reduce ISO if you can or try F16.0 and experiment.

If you get the exposure right, the centre burst point is very small and everything else works out okay :-).

If you are late in your timing (or late on purpose) your shutter opens after the burst and you end up with the void effect of no center in the shot. Useful effect if that is what you want.

Problems that occur:

1)Don’t have flashlight with you so can’t see your settings in the dark,
2) Don’t have enough memory card – 100 -200 shots per fireworks not unusual.
3) Pointing to the wrong spot in the sky,
4) Standing downwind of the fireworks – lot noisier but also smoke then gets between you and the launch area and ruins your shot (unless you really want the smoke effect.
5) Standing at 90 degree angle to the wind – interesting effects of fireworks going sideways if that is what you want but not usually as pleasing.
6) Chimping too much or not at all – if you are chimping you may be missing shots – if you don’t chimp a bit you might be getting everything overexposed or pointing in the wrong direction. – I don’t look through the viewfinder all that often once I have things set up – easier to time shots and enjoy the event if looking at bigger picture.
7) Trying to get every burst – probably miss more shots by moving the camera than you gain.
8) Thinking you need a telephoto lens. Depending on the distance from the fireworks, 25 -55 mm works well with the wider angle useful when you are trying to get some ground level infrastucture in the picture. Of course, if you are a half mile away a longer focal length likely needed.

Equipment which I used for these shots taken in Kanata on July 1, 2007:

Nikon D200 with Nikon 58mm f1.2 Noct-Nikkor lens
58mm-noct-nikkor F1.2

Manfrotto Tripod with Manfrotto Ball Head

About Ron

Ron has long had an interest in photography and traveling and, in recent years, has had more time to devote to both activities. Long a Pentax user, Ron switched to Nikon gear when he went digital. The advent of the digital SLR camera, and the ease of the internet blogging process, has provided a venue for sharing his photography and travel experience at the local, national and international level. More about Ron
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