San Diego Fireworks on July 4th 2013

July 14, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

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!

How To Photograph Fireworks

July 3, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

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!

Hotel Del Coronado Christmas Fireworks

November 29, 2012 by · 3 Comments 


Hotel Del Coronado Christmas Fireworks

    Hotel Del Coronado is the best neighbor to have in all of San Diego. It is the hub, the center of the wheel around which everything else revolves. Most of the amazing things you’ve heard about San Diego are on Coronado. If you have just landed at San Diego International Airport the first thing you should do, regardless of where you are staying is cross the Coronado Bridge, walk through The Del and then walk along the beach. You won’t believe your eyes and your remaining four senses will struggle to force your brain to accept what is really happening; you are having the best time of your life and Coronado is the best place you have ever been.

    Last night, there was a full moon so Hotel Del Coronado threw a Christmas party that was free and open to the public. The party was all things Christmas and culminated with a fireworks show. Yes, The Del rang in Christmas under a full moon with fireworks on the beach.


Sandcastle On The Beach Of Coronado

    Merry Christmas is what I say during the Christmas season. What is written on the sand castle above is something I don’t say and will not write on my blog. I’m taking a stand on this one and drawing a line in the sand. Basically my take on the whole politically correct thing is this; if you are not a politician looking for votes but still try or want to be politically correct then you are fucking GAY! That being said I want all the people that are dreaming of a white Christmas to realize that you don’t have to include OR exclude others from your holiday. Freedom of speech doesn’t mean you get to say whatever you want; it means sometimes you have to hear things you don’t want to hear. In America you can wish a group of people a Merry Christmas, even if that group is in a synagogue, a mosque or surrounding a sandcastle on a beach in California. No one has a problem with saying Merry Christmas, but there are people that have a problem with hearing it. God bless the former and God damn the latter for attempting to water down the most sacred event in all of Christendom and America’s favorite season. Merry Christmas!


Fireworks On Coronado

    So far I’ve gushed about Coronado and bitched about political correctness so now I’d like to talk about photography and what I was actually doing during this awesome Christmas party. I was making friends with the fireworks crew!

    They let me photograph the fireworks from their command station so I was something like 30 yards from the show with a completely unobstructed view of the fireworks and Hotel Del Coronado. The reason being this close was a treat was because I was packing my 8 mm fish-eye lens. The photo above shows the crew on the right, The Del on the left, fireworks up top as well as a full moon and Mexico in the background; just a typical night from my neighbor, Hotel Del Coronado.


4 Seconds Of Coronado Fireworks

    Earlier this year there was a fireworks show that went completely haywire. I’m referring to The Bungle in the Bay that was our annual 4th of July celebration here in San Diego. I was embedded with that fireworks crew as well, but I didn’t get any photos of the event because all the pyrotechnics exploded at the same time. I know that sounds cool and people that were far enough away got some great video of the debacle but for me and the crew I was with it was a little different. We were running for our lives! Don’t get me wrong, it was very exciting but I have no photos from the night so it was ultimately very disappointing for me.

Mouseover For Fish-eye vs. Human-eye

    I’m going to wrap up this erratic and disorganized post with an image that takes advantage the IMG Mouseover plugin for WordPress. The photo above is a lens corrected version of the original photo. If you hover your mouse over the image above you will see the original, as it looked through my 8 mm fish-eye lens. There are good and bad things about both photos, but the bullet point I want you to notice is that I was really, REALLY fucking close to the fireworks yet I managed to have to entire explosion, plus The Del and the full moon in the frame. That is the joy of a wide angle lens at Christmas.

    Merry Christmas and a happy new year!

Imperial Beach Fireworks on 4th of July 2011

July 5, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

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

Flower Shaped Fireworks On Imperial Beach Pier

        Imperial Beach hosted a gigantic fireworks display, launching fireworks off their pier for 2011 4th of July Independence Day celebrations and guess what? That’s a 7 minute bike ride from my house! I’m serious; my total commute time was a mere 30 minutes (because I made two trips) while automobile traffic was a parking lot nightmare. Getting out of Imperial Beach and Coronado; the entire Silver Strand looked like a cross between a drive-in movie parking lot and a Taco Bell drive-thru line at 2am. What is the lesson to be learned here? Next year, if you go to Imperial Beach or Coronado to see the fireworks on the 4th of July, ride your bike!

People Enjoying the Sun at Imperial Beach On 4th of July 2011

People At Imperial Beach On The 4th of July 2011

        Most people start arriving during the day, and even though it’s more crowded than usual, it’s never out of hand. In the photo above you can see people patiently waiting for darkness and fireworks as well as being issued a ticket for having alcohol on the beach.

Imperial Beach Woman With Amputated Arm

IB Woman With Amputated Arm

        The lady above is always around Imperial Beach pier and was enjoying the live music when a phone call interrupted her. I snapped this shot because the way she’s holding her phone, her white wrist wrap and the color of her fingers matching her hair did a trick of the eye on me, making me think she was a double amputee. The tattoo on her right arm is a classic frontier star with the word, “SHERIFF” in the center.

Fireworks staged on IB pier

Flower, Shadow, Sunlight, Bee, Blue Sky

        IB pier was gated off by the time I arrived due to the large amount of pyrotechnic booty that had been carefully placed about. Sunset was to happen exactly at 8pm and the show at 9. This is where the magic was going to happen, this is where we can all say, “Boom goes the dynamite.”

First Fireworks On July 4 2011 off Imperial Beach Pier

Fireworks Smoke Imperial Beach Pier July 4 2011

        During summer it’s not exactly dark at 9pm, so the opening barrage of fireworks had nice wisps of clouds behind them. The opening volley of fireworks is where you’ll find some golden moments of photography because during the explosion of the first set is the ONLY time you’ll have a smoke free sky, so you can actually include the sky in the background of your fireworks shot. As you see in the photos above, smoke becomes a problem very fast. The pic on the left was shot at 3200 ISO & the right at 1250 ISO.

Fireworks Imperial Beach Pier 4th of July 2011

American Flag Shirt at 4th of July Fireworks IB Pier

        I didn’t have a tripod so I had to find a combination of ISO and f-stop that would work with my self-imposed handheld photography shutter speed limit of 1/20th of a second. The f-stop turned out to be easy, wide open! For the lens I had that meant f/3.5. I wanted to include a lot of foreground/people in my photos so my ISO was determined by the lighting of the foreground; I cranked it up high, from 1600 to 3200 if the foreground was dark or dropped it to 200 if there was already ambient light around, such as those taken with people seated under lights. Whatever my ISO was, my shutter speed was always slow, 1/20th of a second or slower so I made sure to stand still, hold my breath and press the shutter release button with a surgeon’s delicate touch for each & every frame. What that did was keep my own personal movement and the movement of the camera to a minimum. These are the problems that I have to compensate for by not using a tripod. I sacrificed stability in favor of mobility since I was going to spend the entire 16 minute show running around.

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

Imperial Beach Portwood Pier Plaza Sign

        The photo you see above is the main sign at the foot of the pier, in the center of Imperial Beach’s Seacoast District and is an example of planning ahead in order to get ahead. I knew the show would last 16 minutes, so I made sure I was near the Imperial Beach sign at the 16th minute for two reasons: First, because I wanted shots of the sign silhouetted by the fireworks and second, because from that spot I was already off the beach and the pier. In other words it made for a great shot and a great escape! Cheers!

July 4, 2011 At Imperial Beach, CA Pier