July 4, 2012


Some of the local fireworks nearby my home.  They were not easy to shoot as they came in from multiple directions, and were sporadic.


Nikon D5000 with a Nikkor 18-70mm F/3.5-4.5G ED lens shot at F/6.3 and a 5 second shutter speed.  ISO 250. Focal length: 18mm.

I guess I’ll begin with what is probably the best shot of the night.  This is looking northeast right into the wonderful blue twilight, a bright firework framed nicely by the black trees.  A lucky, grab shot, indeed.  Please note I bumped my ISO up from 100 to 250 for a little more sensitivity.  What could have made this a really good shot is if the tree on the left would have been sharp.  It’s blurry because it was windy.  There’s nothing I could do about that.




Nikon D5000 with a Nikkor 18-70mm F/3.5-4.5G ED lens shot at F/8 and a 5 second shutter speed. ISO 250. Focal length: 18mm.

Here’s something educational (since I brag about that on my title page).  Note how the firework is somewhat washed-out?  My F-stop is too low/I exposed this too long.  Fireworks are brighter than you think, and since it’s dark outside, it’s difficult to think of higher F-stops.  I should have been closer to F/11 for this shot (and maybe lowered my ISO back to 100), which is shown here mostly to give you some scale.




Nikon D5000 with a Nikkor 18-70mm F/3.5-4.5G ED lens shot at F/8 and a 5 second shutter speed.  ISO 250.  Focal length: 52mm.

The local kids fired off another and I was ready, with my remote shutter release in hand, and with my trusty D5000 firmly mounted on my Manfrotto tripod.  I zoomed in a bit on this, and I cropped it slightly to display better framing.  It’s rather difficult to frame local fireworks displays (duh!), so you have do some cropping in post-processing.  The reason this image is not over-exposed like the second one is because I only exposed it for a short burst (actually, it was right at the end of the firework burst).


As seems to be the norm as of late, this was a difficult shoot.  I shot from 4 different deployments nearby; one facing southwest, one facing northwest, one facing northeast, and one facing southeast.  One direction would fire away for a while, then stop, then another would start, so I’d run that direction, then they would stop, etc.   Giving the mosquitoes something to much on was also an issue. 


Here are some thoughts on fireworks photography:


• It’s not that hard to do…just point and click.  Usually you can see the shell after it’s been launched (even with amateur local displays) , so fire away with a long exposure (3- 10 seconds) after you see it in the air or hear it launched.

• You don’t have to go to NYC…look at my first shot.  Most major fireworks displays begin well after the blue of twilight, but the local amateurs will fire them off during that wonderful time (providing you have someone who shoots them off).

• Focusing…can be tricky, especially with auto-focus, which is useless in darkness.  Put your camera in manual focus and trend towards infinity.  Use a larger F-stop value to keep things sharp.

• Tripod…if you don’t have one, you are totally wasting your time here.

• Remote shutter release…these are very useful and serve as a “cable release” for your camera.  The Nikon remote release, the ML-L3, are cheap on eBay.  Purchase one.  Be aware; sometimes you need to be close to the camera to use it (and you have to tell cameras such as the D5000 that you want it to react when you use it; consult your owner’s manual).


• Watch that F-stop…as you saw in the second image, these things are rather bright, so check your Instant Image Review often.  This also relates to the next point…

• Keep it simple…it will be tempting for you to fire long exposures in order to capture a lot of bursts, but that might be too much, and over-expose your shot.  Besides, the best images usually are simpler than that, so try to capture both.


• BULB…or “TIME” exposure is the way to go, versus the longer exposures set by your camera.  That way you can control how long the exposure is, and end it before too many fireworks bursts take place in your shot.


• Watch your focal length…and adjust as needed.


Have fun!

all images © Scott Woelm – July 2012