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Fireworks PhotoTips

Gear For Photographing Fireworks

  • Camera – a model equipped with manual modes is ideal
  • Lenses – a wide-angle lens will capture the entire scene and if it’s not wide enough try a vertical composition. A telephoto can capture isolated images of fireworks against a night sky (both work well)
  • Tripod – stabilising the camera is essential due to the long exposures required. It must be steady enough that your camera won’t move in the wind.
  • Memory card – Don’t forget to put a card in your camera. A faster card will help you capture fireworks that happen one right after another.
  • Remote release – anytime you use a tripod, a remote release can help get an even steadier shot.
  • Torch or headlamp - so you can see your camera’s controls in the dark

The Best Place to Be

Work out the best position based on the weather - ideally upwind from where the fireworks are being launched to avoid smoke between you and the fireworks. Look for features like a reflection off water that would add interest to the scene.

Be there early to claim to your spot and set up your tripod – extend the legs and keep centre column as low as possible then adjust the legs to ensure your tripod is level – you don’t want crooked horizons.

Camera Settings

Mode

  • Use MANUAL

ISO

  • use 100 to reduce the noise that long exposures give

APERTURE

  • Start with an aperture of f/8. As you shoot, check your exposure and adjust as needed. Choose a larger f-number (a smaller opening) if the shots are too light

SHUTTER SPEED

  • Pick a slow exposure, anywhere between 2 – 10 seconds, in order to capture the light trails. The longer the exposure, the more lines will appear and the longer they will look. Any faster would not catch the extended moment of the fireworks exploding.
  • Do a test shot before the show starts and see if the sky is too dark or too bright and adjust the exposure time accordingly.
  • Alternatively switch to Bulb and just open and close manually when you feel you’ve captured enough bursts in one image. To use ‘Bulb’ Mode, turn your camera to manual mode then turn the shutter speed all the way down until you see B or Bulb near the shutter speed display.
  • Turn off ‘long exposure noise reduction' as it wastes too much precious time
  • Turn off the live view on the LCD to avoid wasting power

MANUAL FOCUS

  • Photographing fireworks requires manual focus as cameras can’t focus on the dark and they can’t focus on a firework that hasn’t even exploded yet
  • You don’t want to be messing with focus in the dark so focus your lens ahead of time on the point where the fireworks are expected to burst.
  • If your images are going to include objects such as buildings or tress make sure they are in focus as well as the fireworks

There is going to be a certain amount of readjusting and fine-tuning the settings over the course of the fireworks show but make sure you have your settings locked down by the time the show reaches its grand finale.

Timing

One of the most important things when it comes to shooting fireworks is timing. Always keep an eye out and get used to predicting when a firework will burst – you don’t want to capture it taking off or when it has finished. You want to photograph a firework as it makes its colourful burst. With some practice you will be able to record some stunning and attractive images.

After the Fireworks - Writing with Sparklers

This will likely take some experimenting. Get the "writer" to stand with their body centered and directly facing the camera/tripod. They need to hold their arm outstretched to the right and write backwards from right to the left. (The camera picks up the writing left to right!). Cursive works the best! The camera picks up all of the sparklers movements, so you can’t stop to create space between letters. Keep the sparkler flowing and moving consistently and loopy!

In practice, the person lighting the sparkler would light it and then move out of the way back to the camera. The person writing would simultaneously position their hand where they wanted to start and tell the photographer that they are ready. The photographer opens the shutter. When the writer finishes writing they should just keep their hand still (holding the sparkler) until it goes out.

HAVE FUN !

for OLYMPUS OWNERS ONLY:

Many Olympus cameras have the Live Composite feature that allows you to create a long exposure or multiple exposure image without having to worry about overexposure.

Live Composite starts off by creating a “base exposure” of your scene, and once that is locked in, moving forward for the duration of the exposure, only changes in light are recorded to that base image.

Shot by Olympus Visionary Mike Boening. OM-D E-M5 Mark II, M.Zuiko 14-42 EZ F.3.5-5.6 II. F7.1, ISO 200

Shot by Olympus Visionary Mike Boening. OM-D E-M5 Mark II, M.Zuiko 14-42 EZ F.3.5-5.6 II. F7.1, ISO 200.

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