July 14, 2013 by Rob Hurlbut
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.
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.
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.
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?
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 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!