In this final night photography lesson we will talk about one of the most spectacular man made light effects: fireworks. Capturing some exciting fireworks images needs careful planning and, why not, a bit of luck. As fireworks are usually set off at night, this does give the chance to use long exposures without fear of over exposure unless there is a large amount of ambient artificial lighting showing in the image or traces of daylight. The long exposure is necessary if you want to capture the whole pattern of a burst which takes about 5 seconds to complete. Most of the times you will want to capture at least 2 bursts in one shot for a much impressive photo, so the exposure will have to be longer.
Depending on the features available in your camera, there are a number of ways of shooting fireworks. For example some cameras may only have set shutter speeds up to 30 seconds, other cameras may have a B setting, which allows the shutter to stay open as long as the photographer wants.
The most typical way to shoot fireworks at night is by using the manual set of the exposure time. First of all you will have to put the camera on a tripod to avoid shaking. Use a wide angle lens to capture as much of the sky as possible and. Switch off the Auto Focusing and set the lens to infinity. Than put the camera into manual mode and the aperture to a fairly high f-number of at least f16. This will reduce the exposure of any ambient lighting. Now set the camera shutter speed to the desired speed, which should be long enough to expose a few bursts (15 to 30 seconds should be enough, but sometimes you will want more). If would be a very good idea to take a test shot to see if the framing and exposure settings are ok. The final step is to press the shutter button when the fireworks set off and don’t forget to keep your hands off the camera while the exposure is taking place.
Another way to shoot fireworks at night is by using the “B” mode of your camera. The procedure will be the same as above, except this time the camera is set on “B” mode and the shutter can be kept open as much as you want. It is recommended to use a remote release that will keep the shutter open manually. You can also use the “lens cover” method. With the camera set on “B” mode you will use the lens cover as a shutter. The disadvantage of this method is that you will have to maneuver the lens cover very carefully not to shake the camera. With this method you can multiple expose the same photo and add much more bursts in it. There are also cameras that have a multiple exposure mode which makes this procedure much easier.
I hope this series of lessons about night photography helped you all see the night from a different perspective, a more creative one. If you have any further questions please feel free to contact me, I will be very pleased to help you.