Shooting Fireworks

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Well, there comes a time when we are all caught off guard by ill preparation.  I can list a long number of excuses as to how this happened, starting with working way too many hours for my day job, but the truth of the matter is that I didn’t give getting my blog posts ready ahead of time top priority and, therefore, it didn’t happen.

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So, I am about 45 minutes away from leaving for the airport.  I’m headed overseas on a business trip where my internet access may be limited and my time most certainly will be.  And, I have only photos of fireworks ready to post.

So what’s a daily blogger to do?

Well, I’ve decided to do some really short posts on the theme of “fireworks.”  We’ll see if I manage to get a post a day up!

For today’s fireworks-themed post, let’s talk about some things I’ve learned about shooting fireworks.

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First, if you’re going to be really close to the fireworks (in this case, we were within a .10 of a mile as the crow flies from where they were being fired), put your widest lens on your camera.  Since most of us now have cameras with 20+ megapixels, cropping to get tight photos is an option and there is a bigger problem with fitting all the action in the frame.

Second, if you know which way the wind is blowing, find a spot upwind.  This will help reduce the amount of smoke in your images.  Unfortunately, that was not a possibility for me, so I do have a lot of smoke in my images.  I managed to do some adjusting to reduce it’s appearance, but it’s still annoyingly visible.

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Third, your cameras metering is useless while you’re shooting.  It will jump all over the place as the fireworks create large amounts of light and then fade.  By the time you adjust exposure, it will be too late.  Remain calm.  Check your photos on your LCD early even if it means missing a shot of the next one going off.  It’s better to miss one or two getting your exposure set right than to get home and find that every shot you took was completely blown out or too dark.

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Let Your Colors Burst

As it turns out, the next shoot I did after the Mainx24 Parade was yet another parade.  Since I’m not ready to blog about another parade yet, I thought I would jump to the end of the evening and go with the fireworks display that closed the holiday celebration.

I always see these fantastic fireworks shots that have zero smoke in them and just streaks of color shooting across the sky.  I don’t know how they get those shots.  I’ve spent a little time searching for tips on how to prevent smoke, but none of them seem to help much other than the possibility of doing something in post processing to darken the smoke so it blends in better.  I guess I will have to experiment.

As it is, the video was made from the 550+ shots with no post-processing.  I will pick a few for post-processing later.  Today, I was only up for making a movie.

The irony of me making a movie out of my stills is that my camera will shoot video.  I have used it to shoot a video once so far.  I didn’t think I could see well enough to focus manually and I found the autofocus function quite disruptive.  I also discovered iMovie, the only video editing software I have, removed the feature to easily capture stills from video, so you have to go through a couple extra hoops and use another application to get a still from video.  I find this annoying.  Since I generally want stills, it seems easier to shoot stills and make a movie later if I want a video.

I didn’t plan to shoot the fireworks.  I just happen to have a great view of them from my balcony and it seemed a waste not to shoot them.  I did several things wrong during the shoot.

First, forgive me for repeating myself, I didn’t plan to shoot the fireworks. As a last minute decision, I was rushing to get setup on the balcony and failed to notice in the dark that I had part of the top of the balcony in the frame.  This is going to result in more cropping than I planned for.

Second, about half way through the show, I couldn’t remember if I had focused at any point or not.  This is not the time to have memory failure.  Although, I suppose it is better than at the end of the show.  I couldn’t really notice when the focus changed in the video, but the background buildings look blurry.

Third, I forgot to change the ISO setting from shooting very dark scenes and trying to get a faster shutter speed.  This led to much shorter shutter speeds than I would have liked.

Finally, I also forgot to set it on aperture priority and I was shooting so fast, I didn’t check the images.  Alas, I blew out the images with really bright bursts.

Other than that, my shots are great.  🙂