Shooting Fireworks

This past weekend was Independence Day weekend here in the United States.  It’s the day we celebrate our nation’s declaration of freedom with displays of fireworks!  Fireworks can be beautiful, and until this year, I had never tried to take photographs of them before.  I like the results I got!  Check out a selected gallery on imgur.

If you’re interested in how I got these shots, or you’re new to photography and want some hints on how to control your camera, keep reading:

Where:  These photographs were taken at India Point Park in Providence, RI – facing southeast across the Providence River.  The fireworks were being shot off over Pierce Field by the City of East Providence.

When:  July 5, 2013 between 9:30 and 10pm, with not a cloud in the sky.

Camera:  I shoot with a Canon Rebel T3 with the standard 18mm-55mm lens.

Protip:  When shooting in low light condition, stabilize your camera!  Tripods are cheap and easy!  Regardless, there is some motion blur on some of these simply because the action of pressing the shutter button moves the camera!  Next time, I’m going to be sure to pick up a remote shutter release.

Camera settings:  This is the fun part.  I’m usually pretty minimalist when it comes to photography.  The only reasons I even own an SLR is because the superior optics give superior control over my depth of field, and if I ever bother buying more lenses, I will be able to vastly improve my ability to shoot things that are either very, very close or else very, very far.  I believe, though, that gadgets and technology will only carry a photographer so far.  The real trick is being in the right place and the right time to capture the moment!

Anyway, for one of the few times ever, I put my camera into full manual mode and carefully selected my settings!  And they were:

  • ISO: 100 (needs a nice long exposure time)
  • f-stop: 5.0 (Wide open!  More Light!  Narrow depth of field makes focusing a challenge!)
  • White balance: Auto
  • Image size: Large
  • No flash (obviously!)
  • Shutter speed: 4 seconds

We got to the park early, and I spent the twilight hour tweaking and retweaking – especially the exposure time.  As night fell, it seemed to me that 4 seconds would get me some pretty good results.

Also, being a light-handed photographer, there is no post-processing or compositing in these images.

What do you think?  How do you shoot at night?  Please share your experiences (and photos!).  It’s true, I could have urged those colors to pop a bit more…  But I didn’t see a need.


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