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Old Jul 5, 2008, 11:04 PM   #1
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I live in an area where fireworks are strictly forbidden, so I rarely get a chance to shoot fireworks. However, I'm not home this weekend and had an easy opportunity to try my hand.

I reviewed some guidelines posted around and felt really well prepared. My notes suggested a long shutter speed - anything from 1 sec to 30 seconds. Another note was to use smaller ISO, so I left the camera on "auto". With shutter speeds that slow, a tripod or some type of support is required, so I loaded my old, heavy,video tripod into the car when we packed up for our weekend trip. Also,fireworks are bright, so a smaller aperture is better with such a long shutter speed.

Another note said to use a wide angle lens, so I made sure that I had the 12-24 with me, and took the kit lens as an alternate. The K20 doesn't allow you to turn off the noise cancellation option (where the camera takes a black frame to map out the hot pixels) so I chose to use the K100 for my primary camera.

About a half hour before the fireworks started, I wandered outside and set up the tripod on the sidewalk. I only had a vague idea of where they were going to shoot off the fireworks, and made some assumptions where they would be. I decided that I'd use the K20 with a shutter speed of less than a second (arbitrarily chose 1/6 sec), and leave it on top a metal electrical vault that was next to where I set up. So I turned off the SR on both cameras, mounted the K100 on a tripod with the DA 12-24, the 50-135 on the K20 and took a couple of test shots. I don't put the lens hood on either lens - who needs it in the dark, right? WRONG!

That's where things started to unravel. The spot I set up was across a street from the fireworks (and about a mile away) and the street lights caused problems. No problem - cross the street and set up in the vacant lot, I still had about 5 minutes beforeit was supposed to start. Set up the tripod, turn on the cameras, set them both to manual mode and manual focus,take a couple of pictures with the K100 to make sureit will work with the shutter speed set to 5 sec. No problem, I'm cool and collected.

Fireworks start - in a different location than I had assumed.OK, I can deal with it - move the tripod. The shells are exploding much lower than I had expected, and further away. The DA12-24 is WAY too wide andI didn't have enough time to change lenses. No problem, I can fill in with the K20. Except I forgot that I had turned off the SR and there was no place toput the camera in the vacant lot. After a couple of shots with the K100, Idecide they areover-exposed andwant to stop the lens down. I haven't used the K100 in a while and it took me a moment to remember how to change the aperture in manual mode (there's only one wheel!). I finally manage it. By this time I'm a basket case, the camera on the tripod has the wrong lens on it, my settings were a bit off and I'm trying to hand-hold a 50-135 lens at 1/6 sec, without SR.

Moral of the story - DO YOUR RESEARCH AHEAD OF TIME! Know where the fireworks are going to be set off, know how high. When someone says "wide angle", don't assume it means really wide angle - think kit lens. If you are a mile away, think telephoto! And pay attention to what you are shooting against - if the fireworks had been set off where I assumed they were I would have had a reasonable sight line. Instead I was shooting over all kinds of very bright lights. PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR CAMERA'S SETTINGS and double check EVERYTHING just before the action starts.

So how did they come out? The K100 pictures would have been very good if I had used the right lens. As it was, they were fine with significant cropping.

Here's an idea of the conditions: (K100, DA12-24, 5 sec.)



The fireworks reflected on the side of the Red Rock Casino in a way that fascinated my husband. As you can see from the picture above, the lights in the distant parking lot were REALLY bright, and the DA12-24 (like many wide angle lenses) suffers from flare. On the picture below I cloned out most of the flare,but left one (between the firework and the building) to give you an idea of what they looked like (there were about 6 of them). To be honest, I'm not sure that the lens hood would have made that much difference, but I should haveleft it on (it doesn'tbother anything to have it on)- it would have been MUCH better to use a longer lens that's not so sensitive to such things:



I did manage a number that looked reasonably well, though not brilliant. This was almost 100% crop:



Now to the K20's pictures. The K100's 5 sec shutter speed worked quite well, I thought it was a good choice. The 1/6 sec on the K20 didn't work at all well. I knew I was going to get one burst, but it was too long for sharp, stop-motion and too short to give the feel of the fireworks. It's also way too long to hand-hold without SR. Most of my pictures looked much like this one. I post it because it's actually OK as an abstract, though horrible as a fireworks picture:



I hope you are now laughing hysterically. I actually managed to get a couple of shots with the K20 that worked reasonably well, and I didn't have any lens flare. Needless to say, my rate of keepers was very low. I like this one even though it's a bit soft:



Notice how for the most part, the shutter speed is too in-between to be really appealing. This was about the best picture I took with the K20:



So that's my tale of woe when it comes to shooting fireworks. I don't think they would have been half so challenging if I had been properly prepared. Maybe next year I'll mange to get some really good pictures.
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Old Jul 5, 2008, 11:26 PM   #2
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There are a lot of good lessons in your account Harriet but I have to say I really like that first shot. The lens flare of the parking lot lightsadds something to the shot. I have not had much luck with fireworks either. One of my main issues has been wind that drifts the displays and makes the long shutter speed shots look wrong.

It was off and on rain this year so I did not take either camera out. We don't go to the professional display as so many people in my neighborhood shoot of thousands of dollars in (illegal) professional grade fireworks that we just walk to a good vantage point and watch them compete. I may be a cop but I love the Independence Day tradition of thumbing your nose at the gov't :-).

Tim
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Old Jul 5, 2008, 11:57 PM   #3
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Well at least you tried and I think you succeed very well in the first and third ones. That last one has a strange kind of inferno beauty of it's own.

Rodney
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Old Jul 6, 2008, 8:24 AM   #4
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LOL! What a great attitude about 4th of July. There were a number of people shooting off what are probably illegal fireworks, but not that many. I don't know why, but I was surprised by how many people drove up and parked on the streets around the Red Rock's professionally done display (I was not the only one in the vacant lot).

The light flaring I objected to isn't the "star", it's the strange shapes above and to the left of the building. Here's a full frame resized picture from the K100 that has had no other processing. As you can see, the lens, even at 24mm is WAY too wide, and the reflected light/flare spots are pretty small. The 100% crop inset shows a couple of them in their full size - as you can see, they aren't part of the fireworks.

I had the long exposure/noise reduction turned off, and there were some hot pixels here and there. However there weren't very many and and weren't very obvious, due to the subject matter.
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Old Jul 10, 2008, 10:43 PM   #5
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Actually, ya did mostly good. Only a couple real mistakes and I think you mostly know what they were. #1, not having the fireworks location pegged before you started.

Here's a few pointers. Forget the telephoto; you won't have enough light left at distance to make an impression. Wide angle is more like 28-55, near standard. Get 800 feet away from a burst and only shoot a few burst at a time.

Being 800 feet away (relitive distance) you want your camera up in the air above ground light. The back of a pick up truck. At 800 feet you can point you 50mm at the burst and with the first couple burst, zoom to whatever fills %65 of your frame on average.

Set ASA at 100, 200 tops and f16-22. USE a remote shuter release. Don't bother looking through the veiwfinder after your averaged your frame fill, just watch the sky with your shutter release in hand.

Listen for the cannon fire and hit the release on bulb. You want the shutter open already when the burst starts. Alow the burst to play completely through. Remember, no matter how long your shutter is open, you are only exposing a tiny part of the frame at any peice of a second in time. You can keep the shutter open as long as you want as long as....... back to listening to the cannon fire. Count the number of cannon fire and alow exactly that many fires to complete thier burst before releasing the shutter. See if you think these turned out.


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Old Jul 10, 2008, 11:24 PM   #6
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Oooh, very nice! Certainly better than mine.
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Old Jul 13, 2008, 9:31 AM   #7
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igo wrote
Quote:

Here's a few pointers. Forget the telephoto; you won't have enough light left at distance to make an impression. Wide angle is more like 28-55, near standard. Get 800 feet away from a burst and only shoot a few burst at a time.

Being 800 feet away (relitive distance) you want your camera up in the air above ground light. The back of a pick up truck. At 800 feet you can point you 50mm at the burst and with the first couple burst, zoom to whatever fills %65 of your frame on average.

Set ASA at 100, 200 tops and f16-22. USE a remote shuter release. Don't bother looking through the veiwfinder after your averaged your frame fill, just watch the sky with your shutter release in hand.

Listen for the cannon fire and hit the release on bulb. You want the shutter open already when the burst starts. Alow the burst to play completely through. Remember, no matter how long your shutter is open, you are only exposing a tiny part of the frame at any peice of a second in time. You can keep the shutter open as long as you want as long as....... back to listening to the cannon fire. Count the number of cannon fire and alow exactly that many fires to complete thier burst before releasing the shutter. See if you think these turned out.

Exellent advice and excellent shots!! Love that last one!...Don
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Old Jul 13, 2008, 9:33 AM   #8
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mtngal wrote:
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Oooh, very nice! Certainly better than mine.
Some of these turned out pretty good Harriet. I love the 2nd to last one....looks like a star going supernova in a dense galaxy...dreamy looking......cheers...Don
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