Thursday, March 11, 2010

Black Card Photography II - Fireworks

Fireworks photography is a relatively easy theme in photography and the two most important gadgets needed are a tripod and any camera that has an adjustable shutter speed no less than a few seconds. The principle of fireworks photography is to catch the moving trail of fireworks from launch until it's finished exploding which usually takes a few seconds. As a long time exposure is used in fireworks photography, secure your camera to something that will ensure it doesn’t move during the photo shooting. If you have a better camera, there are a few settings to perfect the fireworks photography.

General settings:
Set your camera and lens to manual; focus on something in a distance (infinite usually works just fine); a low ISO (100/200) to get the cleanest shot possible; turn off Noise Reduction to maximize the number of photos you can capture (noise reduction can slow you down by half); photo format in RAW (an ideal format for post editing if needed, expecially for correcting white balance and noise reduction)
Aperure setting:
Set your aperture to f8-f16 with ISO 100, which gives you a pretty good depth-of-field. As the emission of fireworks is very bright, a mid to small range of F stop usually works well in such settings. The difference between mid (f8) and small (F16) aperture is that a smaller aperture gives thiner trails of light whereas bigger aperture fattens trails out.

Shutter speed:
Set the shutter speed to buld. A remote release in hand in buld mode gives you total control of shutter speeds, resulting in various fireworks patterns. (Details later)

Black card:
Unlike my black card photography part I, the application of a black card in fireworks photography isn't to get a balanced exposure in a great dynamic range of luminance between the lightest and darkest areas of the image but to black out smoke as well as to prevent an over-exposed image due to too many 'bursts' in one frame with complex exposures.



Left: over-exposed due to too many bursts at the bottom of the frame; right: the complete trails of fireworks in different altitudes were captured by using a black card.

Black card photography in fireworks, first, use spot metering mode to measure the exposure time of the foreground and follow the steps as follows:



Don't be afraid to try, you never know what you might get as a result. Good luck and let me know.

7 comments:

Protocol Snow said...

Very good tips! I'll have to look into this black card trick as it's the first time I've heard of it. I read "black card part 1" as well, very interesting!

Hanjié said...

I am glad you find it interesting. I would like to see some photos though; if you ever practice these technics, please add a link in the comments

Damian Synnott said...

Great tips, looking forward to trying out this technique. Thanks.

Angie Bonser-Lain said...

Thanks for the advice, Hanjie! After reading through your site, which was luckily in June, I took what I learned and applied it to my first attempt at photographing fireworks, seen here! http://www.flickr.com/photos/angie_bonser-lain/

These were taken in Fort Hood, Texas. Our entire state is suffering from a multiple-year-long drought, and finding firework shows in the summer has been a real challenge. I'm so happy I found your site in time to learn how to properly capture this rare Texas event!

For anyone catching their own show this winter, or next summer, I HIGHLY recommend getting a class 10 memory card. I used a class 6 for these, and waiting for a 2-minute RAW format exposure to write to the card was like fingernails on a chalkboard while BEAUTIFUL displays took place as your camera blinked "busy" at you.

Happy shooting, everyone!!

ali naqvi said...

Its really inspiring work...thanks for sharing.!!! Plastic Cards

A Ali said...

Great tips, looking forward to trying out this technique.
http://plasticcardmonster.com/

Secure Car Parking Manchester said...

Fireworks are really incredible to photograph. The thrill of capturing the right moment is invigorating.