I hope everyone that celebrates it had a Merry Christmas, or a Happy Hanukkah, Kwanza, Solstice, Yule, Bohdi Day, Pancha Ganapati, or any of the many other holidays celebrated in the Decemberish time. If I missed yours it is nothing personal.
So on to the topic, fireworks and how to capture them. As usual I recommend a tripod and a remote. It can be done without either it is more hit and miss. I will get an idea of where the fireworks will be exploding and if possible set up before nightfall. This is easier to do during the 4th of July than New Year’s Eve. This helps with setting up background and foreground if desired. Generally the fireworks are far enough away that focusing on infinity works well enough, if you aren’t a fan of that then focus on a building nearby the launch site then lock your focus. For aperture I use f8-f11 to keep the focus area large and a low ISO to keep the noise down. Here is where the tough decisions come in. If it is windy then a faster shutter speed will keep the definition of the fireworks better. Notice below the firework trails are being blown to the left and gravity is having it’s hand at pulling them down too.
Now I use a bulb setting so that I can control the shutter better. Sometimes I want a single firework other times I want multiple and often I am deciding while the shutter is open. If a set shutter speed is used the only way to control it would be to put a black card/think paper of the lens during the exposure. The few times that I used that technique I didn’t really enjoy it and took away from enjoying the show. It is an option though.
Another decision that needs to be made is whether a foreground interest will be in place. If so a way to do it is with two separate exposures. One of a properly exposed foreground then one of the fireworks. I recommend taking them around the same time so the blending process is easier. Using a rear curtain flash is also an option depending on how far the subject is.
Above notice that the lines are more defined, it was at least partially because of the faster shutter speed. I can’t recall if or how fast the wind was that night so that is out of the equation.
Above I took caught a picture with my Father in law and my nephew watching the fireworks. The first one is the composite, the second is the original, and the third is the orange firework. The same idea can be used with different foreground.
Lighting pictures are not hard once you know how to do them. Reading about it is one thing doing it is completely different. So with the New Year coming in there are usually some fireworks which is a good chance to try this technique out. Have a Happy New Year everyone. I would love to hear some comments or questions.