Tell Me Tuesday features one or more of my photos with information on how it came to be. How and where it was taken, technical information, and if any post-processing was done will all be shared. Sometimes before and after shots will be shown.
Then it becomes your turn to critique the photo (don’t worry, I have a thick skin) which can be anything from “I like/don’t like it” to a discussion of how you might have handled the same shot and/or done something differently. Since this is art, anything you like or don’t like is valid. And while I enjoy your praise, it is only your constructive criticism which can help me continue to grow as a photographer.
And finally, you will be given the opportunity to join in with your own Tell Me Tuesday post. It can be any type or topic you like. You don’t need to be an advanced photographer, just someone who takes photos. You don’t need a fancy camera. You don’t need to share the technical data if you don’t want … just how and/or why the photo was taken. We would all love to hear your story. Simply add your link below (and feel free to grab the logo to use in your post).
At one point or another, we all enjoy fireworks, and I am no exception. However, after more than 4 decades of photography, I had not taken any usable fireworks photos. It’s not that I didn’t know why my attempts had all failed, it was always for the same reason – you cannot shoot fireworks handheld and expect a proper result. I knew this. I even had a tripod which I barely ever used.
Last year I decided to bite the bullet and try to take proper fireworks shots. Luckily, I frequently visit Walt Disney World where you can find a great fireworks show almost every night. However, I wasn’t going to carry my heavy tripod around with me so I did some homework and found a lightweight but steady travel tripod which I could attach to my camera bag without much inconvenience. In fact, my current photo backpack has a connector for the purpose of attaching a tripod.
My first attempt at fireworks came on a cold night in December. I picked a spot to watch the nighttime parade and be all set up for the fireworks show which followed. I did get some wonderful shots, but I wasn’t happy with the location as it didn’t allow me to get what I wanted in the shot (such as the castle) without too much added that I didn’t, so most of the shots were closely cropped on the fireworks themselves. Happily I do visit often and knew that I could use that information to help the next time.
Next time came 4 months later, and once again I found myself in the Magic Kingdom getting ready to photograph the fireworks. This time I picked a spot further down Main Street, closer to the castle, but not in the hub area. This produced some good shots as well, including these three.
You will notice that most of the settings for these shots are the same … ISO 100 (the slowest setting for the Nikon D3100) … f/11 … 32 mm … manual mode … and the shutter speed speed set to BULB … and, of course set up on a tripod. If these settings seem counter-intuitive they are until you realize what you are photographing. Fireworks are, in reality, simply points of bright light and your settings need to reflect that. But it is more than that, as if you simply had a short shutter speed, all you would capture is that bight point of light, and not the trail it leaves behind which is what we picture when we think of fireworks, so you need a shutter speed slow enough to follow that point of light through its travel. That is where the BULB setting on your camera comes into play. By using BULB (and a remote shutter release to eliminate any camera movement that would be caused by pressing the shutter release on the camera) I keep the shutter open while the entire firework is formed. I generally open the shutter before the shell’s initial explosion (based on the sound of its launch or seeing the shell climbing in the sky) and keep it open until it had reached its full formed state. Since the sky is dark, all you are exposing is the burst.
Setting up for the photos includes making an initial decision about what will be included in the shot. This can be adjusted later as you see the results. You must manually focus as the camera will not have anything to focus on during the show and shots may be missed or simply not taken. I set my lens to infinity (the farthest focal point) and then just back off a tiny bit. Sometimes you may have a reference point to use to focus on – as the top of the castle spire in these photos. You will also want to set your lens’s focal length at this point if you are using a zoom lens. Once again, that – along with all of the other settings – can be adjusted as you go as well.
And finally, I use my camera’s live view so as to lock the mirror (since I am using a DSLR) in the upright position to eliminate the possibility of the mirror’s movement causing any vibration.
It helps if you know what to expect during the show, and since Walt Disney World’s fireworks show remains the same for years, having seen it many times, I do know what to expect and am prepared for it.
As far as post processing, I take the RAW files into Photoshop and make small adjustments. I generally set fireworks photos to VIVID in Adobe Camera Raw. Most of the work on exposure relates to the highlights as the long exposures needed can often overexpose the highlight areas, but not blow them out, so the necessary information still exists in the RAW file.
The last thing I do, if necessary, is crop the files and then they are ready to show.
So now it’s your turn to critique these photos.
Also, add your Tell Me Tuesday post to the links below. I look forward to seeing your photos and reading the stories behind them.