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Hoping all my American friends and readers enjoy their July 4 holiday today! I grabbed this shot a couple of years ago here in Austin - still one of my favorite fireworks shots ever! And yes I have shared this one before - just don't have any new fireworks shots to share, so why not use an old favorite?
I thought I would try something a little different today. Instead of the usual "I went to some place and here's the photo of it" (which I love doing, BTW) I thought I would share a few tips on taking photographs of fireworks. Here in the US we are celebrating July 4 tomorrow which is our Independence Day, and so of course we all get out the fireworks and blast away.
Actually, that's not totally true. Mostly we go somewhere and watch an organized fireworks show, and that's what this one will be about. I have shot several fireworks shows, and just have a few quick tips to share on getting the most out it, photographically speaking.
1) Get there early
It's hard to find just the right spot, and if you arrrive 15 minutes prior to the fireworks starting, you are way too late. For the last couple of shows that I shot here in Austin, I arrived at least 2 hours before the show. Most folks don't plan that far in advance, so it gives you time to stake out the best spot. In every case, I have had other photographers show up and say "dang, that's a good spot".
2) Bring a tripod
Ok, that is probably really obvious, but I think we have all seen someone aiming their camera at the show (and the flash probably goes off), hoping to get something. The truth is that the best shots are usually 3-6 seconds (and maybe longer, depending on the light) in length, and if you can hold your arms perfectly still for that long in low light and get a clean shot, you should probably be a sniper or something.
3) Shoot in Manual Mode
I shoot almost exclusively in Aperture mode, since I am usually firing HDR brackets, but when it comes to fireworks I switch over to manual mode. It gives me a little extra control, and I have found that the little extra control goes a long way. The main reason is that I am going for the full rise of the fireworks, and having the shutter open long enough helps gather the entire light trail. That makes the photo a little cooler looking, in my opinion. Also, if you don't shoot in Manual Mode much, be sure and familiarize yourself with it before getting there. You want to be able to quickly change things around, if need be. Fumbling with dials in the semi-darkness is a recipe for disaster (and missed shots!).
4) Shoot at an Aperture around f/7.1
I found this to be a great aperture for shooting fireworks. It's not too tight (like f/16 or something) that it takes forever to get the light in, but not too wide open (like say, f/3.5) that it blows out all the good light and just looks like a big lit up mess.
By the way, since you are on a tripod (see #2 above), be sure your ISO is at it's lowest setting.
5) Practice as much as possible early on in the show
Most fireworks shows only last for a little while, so taking photos of them will by definition be a limited time event. That means you will be in full hyper mode for a little while, which is fun. So have your camera ready to go - get what you think is the proper amount of zoom, etc and be ready to fire test shots from the moment they begin. That way you can make adjustments once you figure out the normal height of the fireworks, since you want to catch the explosion at the top of your frame.
Also, keep in mind that depending on what time the show starts, it will likely be getting darker and darker as the show progresses. This means you will possibly be making constant adjustments all along, not to mention that your exposures will likely need to get longer as well. All 3 of these shots were in the blue hour as you can tell, and were 3-4 seconds at f/7.1. As it got darker, they were up to 6 seconds.
The other thing to keep in mind is that it's also important to shoot a lot early on for this reason - towards the end of the show, lots of fireworks are blasting off in rapid succession, which sounds cool, but if all the smoke stays in the area then your shots are not too clean, but rather filled with smoke. So get your good ones done early in the show!
Well, that's it. Like I said, it was just a few quick tips. I hope this helps and if you are out photographing some fireworks this week, I sure hope you get some great shots! Have fun, and Happy 4th of July!
Happy Independence Day to all the Americans out there, and hope everyone else is having a wonderful weekend. I am posting this on the evening of July 3rd, but let's call it a 4th of July post, shall we? All of the United States is having a holiday tomorrow, so back to my regular posting on Tuesday!
Ok, back to blue hour! This is the 4th and final shot in a mini-series of 4 photos of the W Austin Hotel taken at various times (and various light conditions) on the 4th of July - and this one is by far my favorite. I obviously have a bias towards blue hour, as you can tell from my previous posts, but all the street lights, building lights, soft sunset colors in the sky and everything else just made this shot for me. Thanks for visiting!
Though everyone enjoys the fireworks on the 4th of July, including me, it is hard to not be impressed when Mother Nature decides to kick off the evening with a show of her own. This is the 3rd shot (out of 4) of a mini-series taken on the 4th of July from this same spot, of basically the same thing. That is the W Austin Hotel and I was just taken by the beauty and color of the sky. Hope you enjoy!
This is another shot from the 4th of July, when I was overlooking Austin and getting ready to shoot some fireworks pics. This was the view looking left off the balcony, south and east and that is a very busy Congress Avenue below. All these cars were driving really slow in hopes of getting a view of the show, and there are a number of folks on the bridge on foot too. I was happy to be up there just looking at it!
This is the second shot (out of 4) of a mini-series of the W Austin Hotel taken from an adjacent high rise in downtown Austin on the 4th of July. The fireworks show was excellent and the view was stellar. The first shot was a full sunset shot and this one is what I would call post-sunset or golden hour. In reality they were taken only about 15 minutes apart. The sun had just dropped over the distant hills but there was still a nice warm light all around. The clouds were doing some cool stuff, and were very colorful, so I was quite happy to have them hanging around. The next shot coming in the series is a slightly different composition (this one and the first are nearly identical) - I turned to the right a bit to capture some more clouds, which were a brilliant pink color. That shot is coming next week, so please come back again! Thanks for the visits and support!
This is a 6 exposure HDR taken at f/10, with exposures from -3 to +2. They were merged into an HDR in Photomatix and adjusted in PSE and Aperture.
Well, I had planned to be done with fireworks shots, but came back to this one. Though the fireworks in this shot aren't amazing or huge, I liked the general shape and the placement in the photo. I also liked all the other lights, and you can see how crowded the bridge was with onlookers. Still have a few more from July 4th to go through, so you may see some more!
Ok, this is probably the last fireworks-related shot I will post. I am getting burned out on them and after a while they all start to look alike. This is from the fireworks show in downtown Austin. I really like that I was able to get a little of the city in the shot, though the majority of Austin's skyline is off to my right and behind me. Nonetheless, it was wonderful to be up so high and get such a clear view of the show. Can you see all the folks down there? The bridge was crowded and there were folks all over rooftops and everywhere. It was interesting to view it from up here. Certainly it was a new perspective for me and I really enjoyed it!