Disclaimer: Shooting drunk might lead to out of focus photos and is hazardous to your health & safety. 


01 Access: Planning ahead to make sure you can gain access on the exact spot you would like to photograph from is critical. You don’t want to arrive in an area only to find out it is already filled with other people shoulder to shoulder or some security tells you it is fenced off for a private function. Do your homework to avoid disappointment. Travel light so if you need to move to another location on short notice you pack up your gear and go.

Ojiya, Niigata, Japan Hot Air Balloon Festival in late Feb.

Ojiya, Niigata, Japan Hot Air Balloon Festival in late Feb.

02 EquipmentA DSLR Or Mirror-Less Camera with a 24-70 or 70 -200 mm lens range has always worked well for me in most situations. Shooting wide when I am too close to the fireworks above me or wish to show a photo with a wider sense of the surrounding space around the fireworks. Have a tripod that is not too light to blow in the wind but not too heavy to break my back are essential when going on foot. Having a tripod that can at least go to eye level also avoids you getting a sore back on shorter tripods. Also another advantage of a tall tripod is to be able to shoot at eye level and sometimes needed when fences are too high your view is blocked. A cable release or remote are also critical when waiting for those split second moments to capture a burst of fireworks. Sure you can use your self timer but sometimes your two or ten second timer is just a tad too late to capture that magic burst of fire.

Photoshop Composite of 3 images.

Photoshop Composite of 3 images.

03 Composition: It is important to always try and use the dark of the night sky as your black canvas background to bring out more contrast in your fireworks. That is why knowing your exact location and choice of lenses will assist in capturing a clean shot without any unwanted lights behind your fireworks. Placement of your fireworks in the frame will also add a better sense of balance. The space below, above or beside is better left black or dark to add a starker more dramatic feel to the burst of colour. Weather can also play a vital role in the quality of your image. Too much wind can blow away the smoke for a clearer sky but not enough wind can leave some of your photos looking too smokey. The Hot Air Balloon photos taken in winter in Japan were taken at around 1-2 seconds with the hope that the balloons would not move too much while the shutter was open. I was also hoping that some of the hot air balloons would fire up at the same moment the fireworks would burst. 

fireworks Alfonso2.jpg

04 ISO: Like most night photography shooting in low ISO’s like 100-200 will minimise your grain or noise. Sure, you can shoot at very high ISO’s of 1600 and higher but you might end up with an amazing photo you would like to print large but will end up with some grain even after you have applied some noise reduction filters. Your noise reduction filter is also usually left on your camera.

After you have done a photograph it will take as long to process your images as it does to shoot. This may slow you down if you have one firework after another simultaneously firing off every few seconds. Best idea is to turn off your noise reduction filter if you don’t wish to wait too long between shots.

fireworks Alfonso4.jpg

05 Aperture & Shutter Speed: Test your lens to check it’s optimum sharpness with an extreme depth of field. Most lenses shoot best at F8.0-11. Do some research (www.kenrockwell.com) about your make and model of lens to find out what the geek freaks say. Shutter speeds for fireworks can vary but I often shoot at around 1-2 seconds to avoid details blowing out in the highlight areas of the photo. A little bit of trial and error with only adjustments in shutter speed should get you out of trouble. Trigger off the shutter just as you see it flying up before it burst. Shoot in RAW and have your histogram (jpeg) on to check for details in tonal range. Pre determine focus manually if you are having trouble focusing on moving dark subjects prior to burst. Shooting in Bulb (Remote) mode will also allow you to open and close the shutter as you sit fit.

fireworks Alfonso7.jpg

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