05 July 2010

Marblehead Fireworks

Hello everyone. Here is a picture of the 2010 Marblehead fireworks, and a quick lesson to help you take clear fireworks pictures next year :-)

The most important thing is that you have to be on solid ground (or a very large boat -- and I mean like a cruise ship).

1. You need a solid tripod
You need one that is heavy, that will hold your camera, and will not shake just
because you pressed the shutter release button. Many beginning photographers
buy a tripod that is “recommended” to them by the sales person. Although most
of these tripods are fairly decent, they are good for shooting family portraits and vistas during the day, with adequate sunlight or with flash. However when we shoot fireworks we do not have sunlight and we definitely NEVER use flash...

2. Remote control or Cable Release
Many consumer DSLRs come with either a remote control, or a connection for the cable release. Refer to your camera’s manual on how to use either of them. Although the cameras equipped for “remote control” come with the remote control, you will have to purchase the cable for the cameras with cable release.
Why you need it? Simple. Both approaches allow you to shoot without touching the camera, preventing any movement in your images. More often than not, even when you do not realize it, just by touching the camera you cause it to move/shake.

3. Exposure (f-stop and speed) and Lens Selection
Here I will be assuming that your camera has manual features. Most, if not all, DSLRs do. You need to get acquainted with your camera’s MANUAL setting. Learn how to set it to BULB and how to set the aperture.
The way I shoot fireworks is the traditional method. In other words, I determine how many seconds the shutter will be open. Although some will tell you to count the seconds, I wait for the particular firework to go out before I release the cable. This way allows me to have better control of what is included in the shot. If you want long trails on the image, then you wait for the firework to go out, if you want shorter, then you release the cable earlier. On average it only takes about 3 to 5 seconds.
Instructions on how you set up the manual exposure in your camera is in your camera’s manual.

Determining the F-STOP... Trying to understand how the f-stop is measured in not necessary now in order to shoot fireworks.
My lens of choice is a 28-105 lens. How you set it (zoom in or out) will depend on how much of the environment you want incorporated in the image. If you just want to photograph the fireworks you just zoom in, otherwise you go wider.
The aperture I use is f-8. You can use the first fireworks display to set up the right aperture for your camera, lens and location. Unfortunately, with big firework displays taking place about once a year you do not have much room for experimentation.
You can use an f-16 aperture for about 10 or more seconds, but you will get too many fireworks and a lot of ambient light which may ruin the contrast. If you have a wide open lens at f-2 and 1 or so seconds, you will get plenty of light in and not much detail. That is why I always recommend the f-8 (give or take) and approximately 3-5 seconds.

So, now that you have learned these few tricks, attach your camera to the tripod, face it towards the part of the sky where the fireworks will be displayed, and attach the cable release cord or set up your remote control.

For a "low-res" slide show of the fireworks, please click HERE

www.andreasthanos.com -- Commercial Photography
www.marbleheadphoto.com -- Portrait and Event Photography

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