"Black Hat" fireworks photography tips.

Tod’s “BLACK HAT” fireworks photography:
Independence Day and the fireworks shows that come with it are here! Nothing gives our kids a bigger thrill than a great aerial display. We often go to The Tacoma Rainiers Game on the third, and a different place each year for the big Independence Day Display... or to family’s house for BBQ.

To photograph fireworks you need a camera with MANUAL shutter speed, f-stop and focus control along with a tripod and remote release. Look for a vantage point that has no wires, or streetlamps obstructing, or a view with interesting obstructions. These may make fascinating black silhouettes in front your sky. One of my favorites was a paddle wheel on the Missouri river. I was actually close enough to flash expose for the nameplate, "Mark Twain"

Choose 100 or 200 ISO. Preset your camera and lens on the tripod to capture approximately the area of the sky where you envision the bursts to occur. Generally a medium telephoto lens (75 to 105mm) works best. If you're shooting digital, try many variations.

Manually focus to infinity, manually set the shutter speed to about 5 seconds or "bulb" or "B" and use your remote release. Set the camera so you may hold the shutter open for as long as you like (try many 10-30 second exposures). Set the aperture manually to f-8 or f-11. You may "bracket" between 8 and 11 if you choose. Watch the fireworks and determine the exact location in the sky. Fine-tune your positioning. Get ready.... SHOOT! Hold the shutter open for one complete burst.... 8 to 12 seconds (press the remote release and hold...let go when your exposure is finished). Now lock the shutter open and cover the lens with your BLACK HAT! Reveal a burst in a new portion of the sky, keep it covered to block bursts you wish to leave out of your shot. Paint the bursts of choice on the "canvas" of your film or sensor. Experiment, have fun and enjoy shooting on the FOURTH of JULY!

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04 Jul 2013

By Tod M. Wolf