Fireworks for the Fourth

ISO 100, f/16, 3"2

Saturday was Independence Day here in the U.S. which, around these parts means big ol' annual family gathering at the lakehouse for food, fun, and duh— fireworks! Georgia recently decided to legalize the purchase, sale, and use of fireworks for all us common folk so this year's celebration, well... okay, honestly it wasn't much different than the last few years' because my pyromaniac husband and in-laws do what they want. Only THIS YEAR, we didn't have to worry about everyone getting arrested. Okay, honestly there's always a chance of someone getting arrested but THIS YEAR it would likely NOT be for shooting off the fireworks my father-in-law smuggled in from South Carolina. Maybe?

Anywho, after reading Jessica's tutorial for capturing fireworks, I decided to try it out for myself this year and whaddayaknow, IT WORKED! And not only did it work, it was surprisingly simple to do. If you're interested in doing the same, I highly encourage you to check out her fantastic post, but I also thought I'd share the gear and settings I used since my setup and results were a little bit different from hers. 

GEAR:

  • Camera with customizable settings or manual mode and ability to focus manually
  • Tripod
  • Shutter release remote

I used my Canon Rebel T1i with 18-55mm kit lens, a Joby GorillaPod compact tripod, and cabled shutter release remote.

SETTINGS:

  • Set camera to MANUAL shooting mode
  • Set lens to MANUAL FOCUS, focused to infinity ∞
    [or, just manually focus on something in the distance, say a mile away]
  • Set ISO to 100-200
  • Set aperture to f/8 or f/16
  • Set shutter speed to 1/8 or slower, depending on the effect you want to achieve

I played around with a few different shutter speeds, but for most of the shots my ISO stayed at 100 and my aperture at f/16. Be sure to take your surroundings into account when applying your ISO— I kept mine as low as possible because we were shooting the fireworks off the boat dock into an empty and dark sky over the empty and dark water. In other words, nothing interesting to see other than the fireworks themselves so I didn't want to risk a lot of grain in the black areas of my photos. However, if the fireworks you're attempting to capture are being shot somewhere with an interesting background, you might want to bump your ISO up a bit [400 or higher, depending on your camera model] to add visual interest to your shots. For example, fireworks shot over a city skyline or if you are far enough away to include the surrounding scenery, crowd, etc. As close as I was to the boat dock we were shooting from, I was having a hard enough time getting just the fireworks fully in frame, even with my lens set at its widest angle. Next time, I hope to get a few shots of the pyromaniacs in action, too!
*Click on any image to enlarge or see in slightly higher resolution, if you'd like.

ISO 100, f/16, 1"6

ISO 100, f/16, 1"6

ISO 100, f/16, 3"2

ISO 100, f/16, 5"

ISO 100, f/16, 3"2

ISO 100, f/16, 3"2

ISO 100, f/16, 1"6

ISO 100, f/16, 1"3

ISO 100, f/16, 3"2

ISO 100, f/16, 1"6

ISO 100, f/16, 3"2 - It was a bit windy at times, giving a few shots this "feathered" look

I was pretty excited about how these turned out, and while I still need a bit of practice on my timing and shutter speed [maybe stick to full stops next time, not funky in-betweeners], I'd say they're not bad for a first try! I had so much fun capturing these, I think I'm going to start dragging B along to every nearby event offering a fireworks show. I don't think he'll mind too much, even though he usually prefers to play pyrotechnician not spectator. But hey, now that it's legal, maybe we'll just light up the sky at the lake every weekend :) 

I'd love to know what you think and hear any additional tips you have! Have a lovely week, friends!
xo, Steve