July 4th and the associated fireworks are always great opportunities to push your photographic boundaries. A quick list of some tips you might consider to increase your chance of keepers:
- Location, Location, Location – My preference goes one of two ways here. Either go completely barren – where you’ll have unblocked view of the sky with no intereference (OR) select a landmark or noticeable feature near you, and use that to frame your images. Could be anything from a natural structure to an archaeological. Above all, be sure you are safe, in a location where you can safely (and legally) park your vehicle, etc Check out this image from last year at the New Hope/Lambertville Bridge on the PA/NJ border. Fireworks in Lambertville, NJFireworks in 2013 at New Hope/Lambertville Bridge
- Stability – you’re going to need some long exposures, or longer than is typically able to be handheld. Use your tripod (preferably with cable release) or firmly place your camera on something stable.
- Bulb Mode – Find this setting on your camera, which will allow you to control the length of exposure manually. When I started I used to keep a fixed number of seconds per image, but now it is much more by feel. When I hear that “WHOOMP” of the shell launching, I usually fire my shutter and hold it open until the explosion is nearly complete. Keep it topen too much and you’ll get blown out white detail. Some of my exposures for solo shots might be 2 or 3 seconds, but many are shorter than that, 1 second or less.
- Settings – You can start with these, but take some test shots and see what works for you – I use ISO 100/200 depending on light; focus to infinity; F/11 on Manual mode.
Above all, remember to have fun and be safe. When you’re done, it will be totally dark – did you remember to bring a small headlamp or flashlight to help light your way when you’re packing up and heading back to the car? A blanket or chair so you can be comfortable during the show?
Let us know what you think of our tips and if these are helpful to you!