So its the build up to Guy Fawkes night, a celebration we have each year on the 5th November here in the UK.
Its history begins with the events of 5 November 1605, when Guy Fawkes, a member of the Gunpowder Plot, was arrested while guarding explosives the plotters had placed beneath the House of Lords. Celebrating the fact that King James 1st had survived the attempt on his life, people lit bonfires around London, and months later the introduction of the Observance of 5th November Act enforced an annual public day of thanksgiving for the plot’s failure.
As a photographer this gives me a yearly opportunity to take some great pictures of the fireworks themselves. You dont have to go far in England to find a decent display this time of year. Schools, community groups, young people all have fireworks somewhere around as they are easily available in the shops during this time.
This year I went out to a local school display. I say went there but rather than spend the entrance fee to see them up close I chose to stand in the next field which happens to be parkland and get a view of them from slightly further back.
Setting up the camera I followed the following points.
My camera doesnt have a noise reduction but a low ISO eliminates a bit of this need.
The main thing I realised would be an issue is knowing exactly where the firework is going to explode. This is a bit tricky.
Wanting to give a good range of fireworks, the display organisers would obviously choose different heights and explosive power to impress the viewing public.
Using live view on the camera was the best solution to this. Once I could get a rough area of the sky observed, a press of the cable release and wait 3–5 seconds on each exposure meant that 75% of the time I would get something in full frame and have interest in the image. The arm of the tripod quickly allowed me to adjust the camera up or down according to where the display was the busiest.
A few points I would add to the above list would be
7. Use manual mode and set your lens to manual focus.
8. Focus to infinity so that you dont have to worry about the lens being out of focus or hunting around in auto focus risking missing the shot.
9. Use BULB mode on the shutter speed setting so you can control the length of the exposure.
The lens used on the pictures in this article was a 50mm prime. On my Canon camera which isn’t a full frame sensor, made it nearer 80mm so going further away from the actual event was the best option.
Once over, I imported the pictures into Lightroom. The RAW setting on the camera gives me a vast palette of options in the software and I could reduce the glare in the sky by reducing the blacks slider and playing with other settings such as contrast a vibrancy brought out more of the colour of the explosion. There was a slight wind so this helped blow some of the smoke generated by each explosion away allowing the next shot to be clearer. With some smoke on the edges of the shot, I could bring out some coloured light reflection in Lightroom.
Overall I think firework photography is now my new favorite thing to photograph! Simple, random, effective and punchy, I look forward to taking better and better shots each display.
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