In this region, summer is the season that brings everybody outside to enjoy the natural wonders of the area. The boats are on the water, the hots and hamburgers on the grill, cold beverages all around; friends and family are with us.
We also have the biggest party of the year; The Ring of Fire, on July 3. The 4th of July holiday is one of the busiest picture taking days of the year. One of the things I enjoy taking pictures of is the fireworks and the action around the lake. There are fireworks everywhere you look, and they go on for hours. This is a great time to go get some exciting pictures.
Fireworks pictures can be difficult, they combine night time shooting, with bright lights, and action, along with crowds of people that are paying attention to the show, and not watching out for you.
To get any sort of quality image at all, you will need something to rest your camera on, like a tripod, or a beanbag, etc. The shutter will be open for longer than you can hand hold a camera, without moving it or shaking it. If your camera is capable of using a remote shutter release, wonderful, but most of us don’t have one of those. Time to pull out that manual and find out how to set your camera to take the picture with a small delay; typically 2 seconds. This removes the jiggling of the camera when you press the shutter, which will show up in your image.
Bring some extra batteries.
Find your spot. Stake out your spot. Get someone to help you keep other folks from bumping into you and your equipment, or walking in front of the shutter. You will be focused, so to speak, on getting the images, and not on the people around you. Get your camera set up while it’s still light. It can get very frustrating to fumble around in the dark, trying to get set up, even with a flashlight.
When you are setting up try to plan what it is you want to capture. A good picture or series of pictures will tell a story. What is your story going to be?
Determine what and where you will be shooting. I have 3 general scenarios.
Distance – for example the other side of the lake. Zoom in and try to fill the frame with your image.
Medium – the most common. Example: a typical town show. Set the zoom to capture the scene in front of you. You do not want to zoom in to close because you will just see bursts of light. Seeing part of the crowd watching or having something in the foreground gives interest, depth and scale to the image.
Close – backyard, beach. Set your lens to the widest angle you can, you want to be able to see the launch origin and the burst in the same image.
Initial camera settings:
If you have a Point and Shoot camera [a camera without interchangeable lenses] you will need to understand and be able to navigate through your menus.
First try setting your camera on the night mode in the settings.
If that doesn’t work well, you will need to take control and tell the camera what you want it to do.
Set your camera to manual or aperture. A good place to set your aperture is f/11, set your ISO to 200, set your white balance to “cloudy”. Turn off any image stabilization
I try to shoot in the range of 2-4 seconds. My rule of thumb is that as soon as I hear the “Whomp” of the launch, I hit the shutter. Leaving the shutter open for that long will enable you to see the trail into the sky, the explosion and the shower of colors.
Shooting fireworks [with your camera] requires patience [lots of it]. It will be trial and error, so take lots of pictures, and just erase the ones you don’t like. The ones that do turn out can be spectacular.