San Diego Fireworks on July 4th 2013

July 14, 2013 by ·  

Coronado Bridge Fireworks 4th Of July 2013

Big Bay Boom Fireworks On July 4th 2013

    I’ve got to admit that the 4th of July and watching fireworks are my favorite things to do during summer. Comic-Con is fun and the stuff that goes on at the beach is also nice to see but fireworks, in my humble opinion offer the biggest bang for the buck. This year I was in California for the festivities, as I have been for six of the last eight fireworks shows I’ve attended. San Diego has their annual Big Bay Boom and after last year’s pyrotechnic malfunction, I was very ready to see a great show this year. I was south of Coronado, down in Imperial Beach for the show, not really on a photographic mission, just out to have a good time and perhaps take a few snapshots. That being said, I was all over the map with my camera settings, just having fun and taking hand held liberties that only photographers would find funny, or stupid. The photo above was shot at 1/4 second, 3200 ISO, 90mm.

Fireworks Crowd in Imperial Beach 4th of July 2013

Imperial Beach Residents Watch Fireworks

    I chose the extreme southern end of San Diego Bay for my vantage point, as did a group of other Imperial Beach residents. From this location we were all looking north, across the Coronado Bridge to see to fireworks that were exploding in the north end of the bay. We had the added bonus of seeing fireworks go off on the east side of the bay in Chula Vista. The marine layer had moved in so there was a great view of light hitting the clouds as well as reflections across the water. In the photo above you can see the crowd in the foreground, San Diego Bay fireworks in the background on the left and Chula Vista on the right. The shot details are 1/2 second, 3200 ISO, 8mm.

Fireworks Crowd in Imperial Beach 4th of July 2013

People Enjoying 2013 Big Bay Boom Fireworks

    As mentioned earlier, I wasn’t on a photographic mission, I was out to see the show and take a few snapshots. I had no tripod or gear other than my camera and lenses so technically speaking, I was traveling really light. I was using nothing but a steady hand to keep the camera steady. The above shot shows the crowd of people making a path for a bicyclist and was shot at 1/4 second, 3200 ISO, 55mm.

Big Bay Boom Fireworks in San Diego 2013

Slow Shutter Speed Fireworks

    The most important thing to remember in photography is to hold your camera steady. Above we see a shot where I must have sneezed as I took the photo. It was a 1/2 second exposure, ISO 3200 and 55mm focal length shot that while technically was a failure still looks kind of cool, right?

San Diego Fireworks 4th Of July 2013

Eight Seconds Of San Diego Fireworks

    Eventually, I decided to try some REALLY long exposures just to see how steady I could actually hold the camera. Above we see 8 seconds of exposure with an ISO of 200. In the previous shots I had been keeping the aperture wide open to be sure the foreground would get a little detail. For the shot above and the one below I closed it down to f-16 because I wanted only the fireworks to show up. The 8 second exposure with a wide open f-stop would have shown the fireworks as nothing more than a big blob of light.

San Diego Fireworks 4th Of July 2013

San Diego Big Bay Boom 2013 Fireworks

    That brings me to the end of one of the best and easiest 4th of July celebrations I’ve had in a long time. Being amongst the crowd on a cool San Diego night was a lot of fun for me. Trying to hold my camera steady for eight seconds at a time was also fun, as was seeing the highly artistic results. Above, the same firework pattern is shown twice thanks to the incidental movement of my camera during the eight second exposure. Cheers!

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How To Photograph Fireworks

July 3, 2013 by ·  

Fireworks Montage on 4th Of July

Fireworks Montage

    Fireworks are an American tradition that we use at least once year on the 4th of July. They are also a photographic tradition that many people shoot without a complete understanding of what it takes to photograph fireworks in all their colorful glory. It’s really not hard to do and in this post I’ll explain to you how to do it.

Flower Shaped Fireworks on IB Pier on 4th Of July 2011

Flower Shaped Fireworks In Imperial Beach

    The first thing to know is that you should have something in the foreground to give some scale and a sense of locality to where you are shooting. A big, bright fireworks show in the sky can happen anywhere so if you have people, a place or a thing in front of it, your audience will be able to know just how big and where it was. When you give your photo some scale, it will do wonders for the viewer.

First Fireworks On July 4 2011 off Imperial Beach Pier

Fireworks From Imperial Beach Pier

    All right, so no you have something in the foreground to give your fireworks photos some scale so what comes next? You need to figure out where you are going to be when the first fireworks go off because that just may turn out to be your money shot. Fireworks leave a lot of smoke in their wake so the first few bursts will be the clearest shots you get.

Imperial Beach People Before Fireworks

People Watching Fireworks On The Imperial Beach Pier

    Allow me to digress for a moment. Take the time to take a couple shots of the people watching the fireworks display you will be shooting as well as the place. Believe it or not, connecting with your audience is very important because they want to know they have been or can go to or were at the place you are photographing. In a world where every Tom, Dick and Harry has a camera in their pocket or an iPhone in their hand it is becoming very difficult to separate a professional photographer from a person that is not.

Imperial Beach People Before Fireworks

Imperial Beach Pier On 4th Of July

    If you want my honest opinion, professional photography is going the way of the Dodo bird. I’m not saying that is a good or bad thing, it just is what it is. Live your life and spread as much joy as you can until something bigger and better comes along is the best any of us can do.

Imperial Beach Portwood Pier Plaza Sign and Fireworks on July 4 2011

Fireworks On The 4th Of July

    At the end of the day, people will be looking at your photography so having a human angle will help you out in the long run. I live in the United States of America which is a country run by the people for the people so when we celebrate our birthday every summer, we want to see ourselves in the glory of the moment. We want to see where we were on that specific 4th of July. We want to know that what we did on that day may go down in history.

Hotel Del Coronado Christmas Fireworks

Hotel Del Coronado & Full Moon With Fireworks

    By this point you should be able to start putting it all together. Above we see the Hotel Del Coronado, a full moon and fireworks all in the same photograph. It’s pretty awesome isn’t it? By this point you should also notice that I haven’t said anything about tripods, shutter speed or aperture either. That’s because we are in the digital age where the what is far more important than the how. Just get out there and shoot! Most fireworks displays last ten minutes or more so with modern technology you have more time to get a great photo than most people in history have had to raise a family!

Hotel Del Coronado Christmas Fireworks

Fireworks At Hotel Del Coronado

    Get as close as you can and take photos the entire time because you never know what you’re going to get. You want to know how to photograph fireworks? You just point your camera to the sky and shoot. Cheers!

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