best way to capture fireworks?

Caporegime
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Hi people,

whats the best technique to capture fireworks, with November the 4th coming up i've got about a month to practice. And i'm going to go to every fireworks display possible!

Ive got a 350D - any advise greatly appreciated.
 
Associate
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pick a spot, not necessarily close to the front, find a good spot that not blocked view by people in front of you

tripod > long exposure of around 15/30second > usually set it to your widest angle (18mm on the kit lens) if you're close to the action.
 
Soldato
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I would go for an exposure of about 2s-4s. ISO200/400 and f/8. Just quickly check the display to try and see how the pictures are coming out and make adjustments as you go.

Another method is to set it to bulb mode. Use a shutter relase to start taking the picture and then close it after a big firework has gone off.

The problem with longer exposures is that if too many fireworks go off in the same place then you just get a big white blob. Also if the aperture is too wide you lose a lot of the colour/shape of the firework and you just end up with white streaks.
 
Man of Honour
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yak.h'cir said:
I would go for an exposure of about 2s-4s. ISO200/400 and f/8. Just quickly check the display to try and see how the pictures are coming out and make adjustments as you go.

Another method is to set it to bulb mode. Use a shutter relase to start taking the picture and then close it after a big firework has gone off.

The problem with longer exposures is that if too many fireworks go off in the same place then you just get a big white blob. Also if the aperture is too wide you lose a lot of the colour/shape of the firework and you just end up with white streaks.

Sensible advice there. I've got some shots from a professional dispplay that I took a couple of weeks ago, I think I still have some of the duffers about so I'll try and post a sort of "what happens if I use that setting" type of thing if I can.
 
Man of Honour
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OK, here's the how it can go wrong (I'll post how they should look in another thread shortly).

1) ISO200, 2s @ f/5.6
105_0107.jpg


The fireworks are overexposed, they give a nice amount of light to the surroundings but they're just a mush themselves. Pulling the exposure by 2 whole stops gives better definition on the firework so I should have either dropped the ISO or stopped down the aperture a bit more - the latter is easier to do usually.

2) ISO200, 1/2s @ f/10
105_0164.jpg


The exposure is fine but there's just nothing really happening in the shot. The shutter speed is quite short so the light trails from the firework are quite short, although you can make out just how breezy it was by the motion blur of the smoke. This was an experimental shot due to the number of simultaneous fireworks being set off to try and reduce the number of bursts captured in the one shot. This one doesn't really work but with a bit more luck in the timing it could have been OK.

3) ISO100, 2s@f/9 (-0.9 stop exposure comp in RAW conversion)
105_0372.jpg


After the tweak the exposure looks OK but this highlights two of the big problems I had with this particular display. I was too close for the lens I had (24-70mm on a 1DMkII) and there were too many simultaneous bursts to get a clean shot. The first is relatively easy to fix, either I should have taken a wider lens or moved back - something to be rectified next year. The second you're stuck with, once you get a decent position and a reasonable set of parameters going on the camera the rest is down to luck. Timing opening the shutter so that you get the whole of a burst takes a bit of getting used to so it can be a case of just shooting almost continuously for the whole display. The shots above come from a set of 325 taken in about 20 mins - with a 2s exposure you can see that the shutter wasn't closed for that long :eek:
 
Associate
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Buy a copy of Practical Photography, october issue (on sale now) and flick to page 32 / 33. Some very good advice there. :)

EDIT: Beaten to it :(
 
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Associate
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10-15 seconds at f/11 should be a happy medium...

There are some terrific firework displays on in Blackpool at the moment as they are holding the world championships.

I was taking some shots on Friday when it was the Chinese's turn, hopefully next week some will be appearing on my Photoblog.
 
Associate
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Not the best example, but if you can get water between yourself and the fireworks, it adds an extra dimension with the reflections.

Taken with my IXUS 400 resting on a wall, it was a bit windy and the camera moved, hence the streaks from the fixed lights, but it caught the firework pretty well.

18mm
F/4.5
13sec.



Firework.JPG


Firework2.JPG
 
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Man of Honour
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Sysagent said:
10-15 seconds at f/11 should be a happy medium...

Not really, even at ISO100 you're going to be at least 2 if not 3 stops overexposed. 10s is just too long to have the shutter open for, you'll end up catching too many fireworks within the one shot and it's just be a mess of overlapping trails.

Chocki said:
Not the best example, but if you can get water between yourself and the fireworks, it adds an extra dimension with the reflections.

Yeah, that is a nice effect. I tried to get something similar last year at my local display but the tide was out, you don't get the same reflection from mud :(
 
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