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Old Jul 6, 2016, 6:59 AM   #1
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Default July 4th. . . my first ever successful fireworks shoot

Hi All,

I don't know how many times I've tried to shoot fireworks with absolutely no success. Sure, I could have looked up some tips, but I doggedly wanted to figure it out for myself . . .

These were shot with the K-1, but could easily have been done with just about any camera, once you understand the technique. The K-1 was nice though, with the little LEDs that aid in setting up in the dark.

I hadn't been planning to even go out to watch any fireworks because it continually gets to be more trouble around here as the years roll by. An old friend invited me this year, and she said she would drive and hassle with the parking, so I went along.

I brought the K-1, DA 12-24 (which covers the 35mm frame from 18-24mm), and my old FA 28-105 f 3.2-4.5 which is actually a really decent extended range kit zoom -- not as good as the new DFA, but I already had it. . . and it easily fits in one of my photo vest pockets, so it's easy to carry.

Anything I'd read about shooting FW had said that a tripod was necessary, but I wanted to shoot handheld. I knew it would be a challenge because I was planning on starting at 1 sec and go longer from there.

We tried getting in near to where the show was located, but it was a zoo, so we drove about 1 1/2 mi away to the next closest public park and found a place pretty easily. This turned out to be perfect. I started with the DA 12-24, but saw this was way too short, so I changed to the FA 28-105 right away. I focused on the lights at the first park, then turned AF off. I set the camera for TAv at 1 sec and f8, and left the Auto ISO at 100-64000, letting the camera choose, and hopefully it would hit on a good ISO at least some of the time. Center weighted metering and Jpeg Best, with my normal tweaks. I kept the shutter at continuous high.

When the fireworks started, I could tell that 1 sec wasn't going to be long enough, so I bumped it to 2 sec, and the shots were overexposed, so I stopped down to f16, then also added - 2 stops of Ev comp. At this point, all I had to do was wait for the thump of them firing a new rocket, and I'd trip the shutter, and if another rocket got fired during the exposure, I just kept the shutter button pressed and let it take another one after the 2 sec exposure was finished. I played with the FL, finding that 50-60mm was covering things pretty well, and just continued to shoot, chimping every once in a while to see how things looked. I was shocked to see how well things were turning out, and how easy it was to do this type of shooting, and even the handholding was okay.

Next time, if I remember. . . I'll go with Auto ISO at 100-400 and maybe go a little longer in the shutter speed, and maybe even a smaller aperture, but this set up worked. In PP, I only had some minor cropping, some significant brightness adjustment both ways, and I bumped up contrast quite a bit on most to hide the smoke.

Pics in answering posts

Scott

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Old Jul 6, 2016, 7:13 AM   #2
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Here are some of the pics. out of about 200, I got @ 60 that were pretty good. Most of the non keepers were experimental shots to get the setup at first, then a bunch at the end when multiple bursts in the finale caused some massive overexposure. I'll be better prepared for that in the future.
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Old Jul 6, 2016, 7:15 AM   #3
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Some more. . .
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Old Jul 6, 2016, 7:19 AM   #4
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and some more. . .
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Old Jul 6, 2016, 7:31 AM   #5
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and some favorites. . .

I can't believe that I had so much trouble getting any results before.

Hope you enjoyed these.

Scott
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Old Jul 6, 2016, 9:44 AM   #6
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Nice work!
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Old Jul 6, 2016, 12:41 PM   #7
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Hi Scott, nice to see you around.

Those pictures turned out really well!

I have made a few attempts to get FW pictures, on New Years Eve which we always spend at my brothers place, a small suburbish village where my brothers neighbours treats us with their expensive and extensive fireworks.

My technique, which is pretty simple and not always but sometimes successful, is to put the camera on a tripod, point it at a dark portion of the sky, put my brother with a piece of cardboard besides and then tell him to cover the lens front with the cardboard. I put the camera in bulb mode, press the trigger and wait. When a rocket is launched within the frame, I ask my brother to remove the cardboard for a second or two, and then to put it back. Since this is at midnight after a festivity dinner with the occasional snaps this is not done in a very disciplined way and includes some mature men's giggeling, but it has actually worked to get decent pictures.

Kjell
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Old Jul 6, 2016, 10:20 PM   #8
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Very, very nice! They came out very well, especially considering the hand-hold and shutter speed. The time I tried hand-holding, I couldn't keep the camera steady enough, so I've always used a tripod. I haven't tried in a few years, I haven't been anywhere over a holiday that allowed fireworks. This year I was out of the country on the 4th, so didn't have any opportunity this year. But your shots are really inspirational.
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Old Jul 7, 2016, 2:31 AM   #9
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Hi Billy, Kjell, and Harriet,

Thanks for taking a look, and for the compliments.

I'm still kinda in a state of shock how easy it was to shoot these, and how well they came out. Only a couple of these were crops that approached 50% of the full frame, and the great majority of them were full frame or very minor crops to center the burst a bit better. Since I was essentially shooting blind pressing the shutter as soon as I heard the thump at the launch point, I had to guess where the burst would occur, and the trail of the rocket had yet to ignite before the mirror flipped up and blacked out the VF. Luckily, there isn't a lot of horizontal spread in most fireworks displays, so it worked out well, and most were pretty well centered.

I didn't realize until about midway that I could shoot with both eyes open and actually watch the fireworks go off while I was still shooting with the VF up to my right eye. This would have helped a lot, in addition to allowing me to see the show live. Live and learn. . .

One last general tip for posting since file size is pretty restrictive on this forum -- take a look at JpegMini. It's a jpeg compression optimization program that can significantly shrink the size of already processed and downsized jpegs without any real visible image degradation. This means that you can PP you shot, then save the final jpeg at max quality, then recompress it with JpegMini so the file size can comply with file size restrictions. There's a free version that restricts you to 20 recompressions a day, but should be good enough to get you by for forum posting.

http://www.jpegmini.com/app

Scott
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Old Jul 17, 2016, 8:35 PM   #10
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Scott - Great to see you posting again, and some really fine results from your capable hands (and your careful thought and planning).
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