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Tips for photographing fireworks

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  #1  
Old 06-03-2008, 06:10 AM
duwayne duwayne is offline
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Tips for photographing fireworks

With the 4th of July coming up, I would like to try capturing images of fireworks. New experience! Any tips or suggestions would be appreciated. Specific issues are which camera shooting mode, exposure and shutter speed and when to fire the shutter.

I have a Nikon D-80 with 18-135mm lens, stable tripod and an infrared shutter release to work with.
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Old 06-03-2008, 06:52 AM
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crazyfly1 crazyfly1 is offline
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Re: Tips for photographing fireworrks

Hi Duwayne, I've been out a few years shooting them. It depends on what you want. If you want a shot of a clear blossom with all the individual sparks or do yo want the whole thing coming from the ground with the trail. If you want the clear ones then I would go with an auto/burst mode where your camera fires off 3 or more pics at on snap. You'll want to start with the ISO setting and a few test shots so that you sky is black and you can still see the fireworks. You'll be shooting with one of your cameras fastest speeds and F2.
If you want trails its the same thing but single fire and a slower shutter speed and lower ISO.
As far as when to fire, what I found is that I either shoot the fireworks or watch the fire works, you really can't do both. I just stay glued to the camera and snap snap snap. By the time you see the firework it's generally to late to fire.
I have some pics I can dig up and post with the camera settings later today if you think that will be usefull.
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Old 06-03-2008, 08:52 AM
Mike Mike is offline
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Re: Tips for photographing fireworrks

Place the camera on a tripod. Aim at part of sky where fireworks will go off. Use a lower ISO, adjust f stop to maybe 8 or 11 (check this after a shot or two, change as needed). Remember that the explosions are very bright, its easy to overexpose. Use a combination of f stop and ISO to adjust your exposure. Place shutter on "bulb" hold down release button till after fireworks goes off, then release button.

One can hold the button down for several explosions or just capture them individually and them combine in Photoshop. One can also remove any unwanted details very easily.

This technique allows the image to "paint" itself onto your sensor.
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Old 06-03-2008, 09:33 AM
charlbury charlbury is offline
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Re: Tips for photographing fireworrks

I agree with Mike above but you must set your focusing before you start taking your fireworks shots. Your camera won't be able to able to focus on the dark sky, so, when you hit the shutter it will not fire as it tries to focus. You must set your lens to Manual Focus and focus just a fraction before infinity then leave it there.

Also, you should use bulb mode, but the best way to take the shots is to have the shutter locked open indefinitely with a shutter release and then drape a dark coloured scarf or cloth or hat over the lens (be careful not to move the camera when doing so). When you hear the firework go, remove the cloth, when the explosion is complete cover the lens with the cloth again and wait for the next firework, when you hear it go, remove the cloth. This way you get many fireworks in one shot and can really light up a scene.

Even if your shutter release does not lock the lens open indefinitely, it's worth using a shutter release so you can watch the fireworks launch and better time your shutter releases.

And a final tip, turn up early and think about the position you want to be in to get your shots, make sure your are upwind so the smoke won;t obscure your photos and think about getting some foreground/background buildings into the shots.

So, I think a summary of tips so far is :

* Low ISO
* F8 or F11
* Bulb mode
* Manual Focus
* Sturdy Tripod
* Shutter Release
* Turn up early
* Point the camera to where you think the fireworks will explode
* Use a cloth or hat to cover the lens between explosions

You can see some of my fireworks shots at the links below:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/iboogaloo/1847541393/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/iboogaloo/1877480037/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/iboogaloo/1877483713/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/iboogaloo/288751056/
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  #5  
Old 06-03-2008, 10:01 AM
duwayne duwayne is offline
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Re: Tips for photographing fireworrks

Wow! What great replies. Thanks everyone for the good ideas and thanks charlbury for the summary. I hadn't even thought about the smoke and background. BTW - very nice pictures of your fireworks. I hope mine come out half that good.

I like the idea of multiple exposures but think I'll try Mike's idea of using bulb for single shots and combine then in Photoshop.


Thanks again for the ideas.
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  #6  
Old 06-03-2008, 01:37 PM
Mike Mike is offline
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Re: Tips for photographing fireworrks

I knew that I had forgotten something, and focus was it, guess I just needed to focus a bit more on the question....
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Old 06-03-2008, 02:40 PM
Tpage Tpage is offline
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Re: Tips for photographing fireworrks

If possible also cover the viewfinder to prevent stray light from entering and affecting your shots. I tend to get to know the lens in question so that setting the manual focus is a little less hit and miss - 'just short of infinity' can lead to a memory card full of out of focus shots - even at f11. I use some matt black mount card to cover the lens when using bulb exposure.
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Old 06-03-2008, 08:12 PM
Mike Mike is offline
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Re: Tips for photographing fireworrks

If you are on bulb and the shutter is open, the mirror is up so no light should be able to come through the viewfinder and get to the film plane.

If the shutter is closed and the mirror is down, light could come through the viewfinder and affect your exposure if you have the camera on one of the auto exposure functions.
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