More of the Same


Continuing yesterday’s list of tips on photographing fireworks . . .

Fourth, think carefully about depth of field.  If you’re shooting wide and trying to get the landscape into the photo at all, you’ll want to stop down the aperture as much as possible.

Fifth, as a contrary point to the above, be aware that because the fireworks are so bright, you aren’t going to be able to get a single exposure for both the fireworks and the landscape unless the landscape is brightly lit (like the city lights).  Some photographers solve this by combining two photos manually later.  Be aware the HDR settings will not be very helpful (although may be interesting) because of the motion of the fireworks.  To combine the two manual exposures, you would need to be able to layer them together in an application like Photoshop.


Sixth, fireworks move.  To get long, bright streaks of light in the sky, you need a fairly long shutter speed.  This helps with the fourth tip–you get more depth of field as a bonus.  I’m pretty happy with the size, shape, length of the streaks I get at about .4 seconds.  However, there are some types of fireworks that look better with longer exposures.  The only downside of exposing longer is that you get more smoke showing up in the process.


Seventh, I once missed about ½ of a fireworks show trying this trick, but maybe it will work better for you.  Supposedly, you can put your camera on bulb and use a piece of paper or your hand to cover the lens in between the rockets being fired.  Then, you can get multiple fireworks into one shot.  This might have worked last night when I was in very close proximity to the launch point.  However, from a further distance, I just got very dull looking fireworks that were often barely visible.



I am on a quest to get the exposure I want.  The scene is one I enjoy daily, but this particular day there was a stunning cloud display in the background.

The problem is a classic one.  A camera cannot correctly handle the same range of light that our eyes can.  Especially not when I’m looking at the world through polarized sunglasses. 🙂  It’s an issue that photographers have struggled with since the beginnings of photography.  You see a stunning sky and a lovely foreground view.  The camera can only properly expose one or the other.

I took shots of the scene with multiple exposures, hoping I could combine them successfully into one image.  High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography has been both rejected and embraced by the “serious” photographers of our time.  I believe it’s not the combination of exposures that troubles more traditional photographers but the special effects that can make an image hover on a line between a drawing and a photo.  I get this impression because many traditionalists extol the value of having a camera that will combine multiple exposures into a single image but have no interest in “HDR” post processing software like Photomatix.

Not that anyone is looking to me for guidance on the subject, but I continue to be on the fence.  I don’t care for photos that make you wonder if it’s a photo or a drawing. but I don’t mind an image that looks clearly like one or the other.

I also don’t like spending hours editing a photo I could have captured in the camera in by making better decisions.  However, when it comes to the age old problem of limited range of proper exposure when I really want to see the sky and still see the details in the foreground, I feel a little more fond of HDR processing.

For today’s exercise, I made an attempt to get a photo that combined the dramatic sky with enough detail in the foreground to keep it interesting.  Unfortunately, I forgot I’d changed my camera setting to JPEG, so I’m afraid I have limited resolution to work with and each edit step diminishes the resolution further.  But, I’ve given up on ending up with something I want to print and hang on the wall at this point.

Attempt 1:  Underexposed image with the shadows lifted a lot, the highlights pulled down a little, and a few other minor adjustments.

Attempt 2:  Overexposed image with the highlights pulled down a lot, the shadows lifted a little, and a few other minor adjustments.

Attempt 3:  3 images 2 stops of light apart combined in Photomatix with no other post processing.

Attempt 4:  2 images 2 stops of light apart combined manually in Photoshop Elements (and looking very weird).

Attempt 5:  3 images 2 stops of light apart combined in Photomatix (with different settings than attempt 3) and then adjusted further in Aperture.

In the end, let’s just say I wish I had a camera that could combine two exposures.  🙂