Christmas season and the advent of the New Year call for some grand celebrations the world over. And one of the most popular things added to celebrations to spike up the festivities are fireworks. In many cities all over the world, New Year’s countdowns are usually accompanied by some form of these bright, flying firecrackers. Until the clock strikes 00:00 and a barrage of lights are unleashed in the sky, lighting up buildings or rivers or fields.
Fireworks make a visual feast, so naturally, it makes a great subject for photos as well. You can be sure to capture unique images each time you fire your shutter thanks to fireworks’ ever-changing shape and colour. The following are a few tips to help you seize the moment perfectly through your camera lens.
Frame your shot
More often than not, fireworks are just going to come from one place in a venue. If you already know where the light show is going to be, then it helps to arrive early to find your spot. Are the fireworks going to be fired above buildings? Or perhaps over the river? Maybe it will be lit above a vast open field. Put in the early work and get familiar with your location, ideally before the vast throngs of people who will be partying arrives. Doing so allows you to find the best place to capture the fireworks. It allows you time to plan your shots, your focal range, etc. Most importantly, it gives you an edge over finding a great view not only to capture the lights, but also to simply watch and be awed by their grandness.
Use a tripod
Now that you know where you plan to stand to shoot the fireworks display, you can start setting up your gear. (Doing so also shows others that you have staked your territory and you are now mounting your proverbial flag. In other words, it screams “Back off!”) A tripod is always a helpful accessory when shooting fireworks. Not only does it help keep your shots steady and sharp, it also helps free your hand of long and continuous hefting of the camera. Set it to your desired height and angle, but make sure to keep the head unlocked so you can swivel the camera from side to side. This will allow you to capture different segments of the landscape as the fireworks lights it up.
Set your shutter on bulb
Keep your ISO as low as possible since grains explode in darkness. Aperture is ideally kept in the mid-range around f10, since the lights will be bright and exposures will be long. The setting of the shutter though is perhaps the most crucial when arranging your exposure. A shutter speed that’s too fast will result in premature buds of lights, and you will barely capture the fireworks’ bright, blooming arms. A shutter speed that’s too slow will result in a hazy, confusing explosion of light on your LCD, with no defined fireworks. The best is to set your shutter on bulb and go with your gut. Fire your shutter as the fireworks do and hold for as long as you deem necessary. After two to three shots, you’ll get a good feel for the rhythm of the fireworks and be able to time yourself to it.
The advantage of a remote trigger
One accessory that can make or break your shot without you even being aware of it is a remote trigger. Yes, your camera’s already on a tripod, that should be steady enough. Well, not all the time. Since you will be shooting on bulb that means your finger will be pressing on that shutter for several seconds at least. It’s almost impossible for your hand to stay absolutely steady for that long a period of time. Besides, do you even want to risk it and at the last millisecond get a spasm on your finger that ruins the shot you’ve been working on for how many seconds now? Not worth it. A remote trigger on the other hand allows you to fire your shutter without your hand on the button. This means that the whole time nothing is touching your camera and there will be no risk of movement, resulting to sharp and steady shots for sure.
Now that you know what to do, all that is left to go out there and find the most promising fireworks display show around. Best of luck, and a Happy New Year to you!
Julia Escano – Shoot The Frame