Wild Wednesday 27/52 Happy Independence Day!

©Copyright Deborah M. Zajac, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Independence Day in the United States is today. On July 4th families and friends will get together to celebrate this holiday. Plans are being set in motion for pick-up games of baseball, volleyball, or swimming. There will be picnics, and barbecues/grills will be fired up. Dads all over will be grilling hot dogs, and burgers, watermelons will be split, seed spitting contests will ensue, and the colors of the day will be Red, White, and Blue.

When the sun drops beyond the horizon the celebrating doesn’t stop. Countless cities and towns will put on a great show of fireworks, and many families and friends will be gathered in their favorite viewing spot to watch the show, and many of us want to photograph them.

4th of July Fireworks

Settings for image above: f/10, iso 200, 14seconds-DSLR lens 18-200mm on a tripod

With just about any camera you can photograph fireworks.  I’ll share some tips for  getting the most out of your  DSLR or compact camera.

If you have a compact or Point and Shoot you might have a “fireworks” scene mode that you can summon either on the dial, or in the menu. Adding + 1 or +2 to Exposure Compensation will give you a longer shutter speed to add more colors, and longer fireworks trails. Then find something to stabilize your camera.  Most likely your shutter speed will be slow so, to avoid any blur you’ll need to have a solid base for your camera that doesn’t move while the shutter is released. A tripod is best, but a table, rock, ledge, or car hood works in a pinch.

Be sure to turn your flash off!

Night mode with Exposure compensation set to +1 or +2 to slow down the shutter will work pretty good too.  If you don’t know how to set that you’ll need your user manual.

Fireworks at Disneyland

Settings image above: f/8, ISO 3200, 1/4s, 35mm f/2 lens. Holding my DSLR over my head and shooting.

Using a SmartPhone-  Video is the best way to shoot the fireworks when using a cell phone. You can grab stills from your video. If you shoot a Time-lapse using your cell phone use a tripod!

Using a DSLR:

You’ll need your tripod, I recommend a cable release, or remote release, and full manual settings.

If you want foreground select a wide angle lens. On a Full Frame camera 24mm to 35mm in portrait orientation should be wide enough.

If using a Crop Sensor camera something in the range of 16mm to 18mm would be equivalent.

In Manual Priority choose an Aperture of F/8 to F/11, ISO 200, and a shutter speed of 8 seconds- you many need longer or shorter depending on the speed of launches, but 8 seconds is a real good place to start.

If you want just the fireworks in the sky select a lens with a range of 70-200mm.  If you have a 24-120mm, or super zoom like an 18-200mm lens that may be all you need for the night.

Once you have your camera set up with the settings dialed in you’re ready for the first launch. If you got to your location early you can sit back and wait. I hope you’ve packed something to eat! 😀

Once the sun goes down get ready for some fun! But, first we need to pre focus. When you hear the very first Whhomp! of the firework launch  follow the  contrail trail and when the firework explodes focus on the firework, and press your shutter release, or back button focus button if that’s how you focus to lock that in, and depress the shutter to make the image! In all likelihood that image isn’t very good. That’s okay, you’re just finding the place where the fireworks will explode and focusing there.  Now lock your camera down so it’s aimed in that spot, and switch your focus mode to Manual Focus! When it gets dark it may be too hard for the camera/lens to lock focus and it will hunt. You don’t want that. So, by using that first firework to pre-focus on you should be good to go the rest of night in manual focus.

Fireworks_20130704_4470

Settings for the image above: f/10, ISO 200, +1 Exposure Comp, 10 sec. DSLR w/ 300mm lens on a tripod

I release my shutter at the sound of the launch whhomp! If your camera is finished before the firework explodes and it blossoms to its full glory increase your shutter speed a bit.  Or if the firework is finished before your camera is decrease your shutter speed.  It’s a balance of timing and settings.  Within the first few fireworks you should be able to find the sweet spot of settings then you can shoot and enjoy the show.

I am planning to photograph the fireworks tonight with some friends. I hope you get out with your camera too! 😊

I hope this helps and if it does please post some photos, and tell us about your experience on your blog or photo sharing site,  then please share link here in the comments so I and others can see your images too!

I hope all my friends in the USA have a Happy Independence Day!

Cameras Nikon D700, and D300s.

more to come…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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” Just Be There…”

…with Steven Christenson”

Independence Day in the United States is just around the corner. On July 4th families and friends will get together to celebrate this holiday. Plans are being made for pick-up games of baseball, volleyball, or swimming. There will be picnics, and barbeques will be fired up. Dads all over will be grilling hot dogs, and burgers, watermelons will be split, seed spitting contests will ensue, and the colors of the day will be Red, White, and Blue.

When the sun drops beyond the horizon the celebrating doesn’t stop. Countless cities and towns will put on a great show of fireworks, and many families and friends will be gathered in their favorite viewing spot to watch the show. Many of us will want to photograph these.

Steven Christenson an avid night, and astro-photographer who is a longtime resident of the San Francisco Bay Area shares with us one of his experiences about photographing fireworks, and gives us some tips on how we can capture these stars bursting in air .

Rain on Golden Palms

Photograph by Steven Christenson

Q. Tell us about this location.

Steven: Oyster Point Marina in San Francisco, CA. It was a local radio station KFOG event called Kaboom. An annual outdoor concert held in May. In addition to the concert there is a Fireworks show which is synchronized to a soundtrack broadcasted by the station.

The reasons for choosing this location were twofold: 1. Get far enough away to be able to fill the frame and ideally somewhere that we could be sure to have an unobstructed view (nobody could get in front of us without getting wet!), and 2. Get reflections in the water. HOWEVER, to get good reflections, you really need to be well above water level and it helps if the water is calm. We had roaring wind that day!

And it doesn’t hurt to make it a social occasion! I had set up a Photography Meet-up event around this KFOG event.  Anne De Lemos, a photographer in our group would have become a Popsicle if people hadn’t brought extra blankets.

Q. What time of day?

Steven: Just after dark at 9:20 P.M.

Q. How difficult was this to capture?

Steven:  Fireworks are always challenging, especially if you’re a first timer at taking them on. Fortunately, I had cut my teeth on several prior fireworks events, including the KFOG Kaboom event the prior year. Manual exposure is the only way to go, and I sometimes fiddle slightly with the settings after chimping a few shots (i.e. looking at the histograms).

Q. What camera and lens did you use for this shot?

Steven: A Canon EOS 40D with a 70-200mm f4L IS USM  lens

Q. How did you expose for this shot?

Steven:  121mm, f11, 2.5 seconds, ISO 200, Manual Mode

I learned that two things are important:

1) A relatively small aperture – this increases the contrast since the fireworks are very bright,

2) A reasonably short exposure (1-6 seconds).

The not too long exposure allows enough time for the firework to bloom, but not so much time that later fireworks or overall glow weaken the contrast in the shot.  I usually fire the shutter as soon as I see the burst. The lag time between when I see the burst and when I press the cable release button is just about perfect to get the firework bloom just as it has expanded enough to be noticeable, but is not completely formed.  Another shooting strategy is to continuously expose 2-4 second shots. Sooner or later a few good ones result.  On this night I used two cameras and both shooting tactics. This image was from my human actuated shutter, however.

Use a sturdy tripod, and a remote cable release or remote to trigger your shutter to avoid shake.

Read more about Steven and see more of his Night Photography here: “BLOG.StarCircleAcademy.com“.

Copyright © Deborah M. Zajac.  All Rights Reserved.

Photograph used with permission for this blog article

Photograph Copyright © 2010 Steven Christenson