Maine Photographic Workshop 2011

September 4-10, 2011

Learn to effectively see and use light to turn the ordinary image into exceptional. As digital cameras now have the capabilities to capture files with seemingly limitless possibilities in terms of tonal adjustments and layering, it becomes easy to lose oneself in the processing of images as opposed to the act of capturing images. Light can visually shape a story, enhancing the ability for the viewer to “read” a series of photographs. For more information please go here.

Fourth of July in New York

Fireworks in NYC. Panasonic GH2, 14-140mm lens at 17mm. ISO 160 f/13 at 45 seconds.

Here is my image from last night’s Macy’s fireworks’ display. I positioned myself on the sundeck at my gym, Chelsea Piers and shot north and west up the Hudson River. This fireworks display was incredible and very bright. I stopped down to f/14 and left the shutter open a little longer between the bursts so the adjacent pier would show detail. For this image the shutter was open for 45 seconds using the black card technique I described in my previous blog.. I included the pier because it gives the fireworks size perspective and a sense of location.

Photographing Fireworks

A fireworks exhibition in Las Vegas

Fireworks’ displays are the highlight of many celebrations in the United States. Cities feature these amazing light shows on New Year’s Eve, centennial events, and most notably, the 4th of July. Their various patterns and colors against the night background can produce stunning visual photographs – images that you can capture by following these easy steps:

Use a tripod and shutter release to keep the camera steady.
Set the ISO at 100-400 and the exposure on manual. (F/8 -11 is a good starting point at ISO 100).
Turn off the auto focus to prevent your lens from searching for a focus point in the black sky, and manually focus at infinity.
Turn off the lens stabilization; it doesn’t work well on a tripod.
Don’t use a wide lens or the bursts will appear very small in your frame.
Watch your framing, the fireworks usually explode higher than you think. It’s also nice to include buildings or vistas in the shot for scale and depth.

And now the big secret: lock your shutter open and hold a black card in front of your lens. When you see a good burst of color, remove the black card for a couple of seconds, then hold the black card over your lens again. Remove the card when you see another burst. Repeat this process of removing the card and releasing the shutter until you feel you have gotten a good set of bursts on that one frame. Usually three to five bursts per frame are enough.

Since fireworks are set off in very quick bursts, your shutter only needs to be open from 20-60 seconds to capture them. You can avoid delays in shooting your next frame by turning off the camera’s long exposure noise reduction. (See my previous blog on night photography to learn more about noise reduction) It is important to shoot as much as you can at the beginning of the fireworks’ display. As the show goes on, smoke builds up from the explosions, which gives the sky a hazy look.

Enjoy the spectacle and have a safe celebration.