Thursday, July 2, 2009

Canada Day - Fireworks and Sparklers

Canada Day and Victoria Day are the two major events for fireworks displays. Each time they come and go, and I kick myself for not lugging my gear out to try and shoot them.

So last night was different! I finally gave it a shot. We left the little guy with the in-laws in Pickering and made our way to nearby Kinsmen Park for the show. I'd read many variations of the procedure for capturing fireworks, all more or less the same. So I had a pretty good idea how to set it up.

Here's the gear I used:
- my SLR mounted with my Sigma 17-70
- tripod
- remote shutter release

I'd seen the display at Kinsmen Park before, so I knew the show would be set off somewhere to the right of the main stage. So that's the general direction I pointed the camera mounted on a tripod. I started with the lens zoomed all the way to its widest setting and set its focus on infinity, turning off auto-focus. In manual mode, I set the camera to ISO 100 and f/16, and the shutter to bulb mode.

Once the show started, I tripped the shutter with the cable release for several seconds each time, capturing a few bursts in each exposure. Here are a few. Clicking on any of them will take you to a gallery with a few more.

Zooming in makes for a cool abstract.

I like how the spectators are all lit up!

So what did I learn?

- Infinity focus is not an exact science. I suggest you manually focus while looking through the viewfinder. Don't just use the mark on the lens barrel. Infinity focus also changes as you zoom the lens in and out, so you'll want to check your focus each time.

- 3 to 5 fireworks burst per exposure look the best. fewer and the scene looks sparse, more than that and it just gets too busy, and in some cases blown right out (the fourth image above, for example)

- It wasn't until towards the end of the display when I started to think about the scene as a whole. Next time I'll want to be somewhere where the fireworks display will be over water so that I can capture the reflections, and create a more compelling scene.

I also spent some time playing with sparklers. The setup was pretty much the same as above, except that I mounted a Sigma 500 DG Super strobe with a Gary Fong diffuser on the camera, and set it to rear curtain flash. That means the flash fires at the end of the exposure, not at the beginning. Again in bulb mode, I left the shutter open long enough to capture a sparkler trail, then I let go of the shutter release button to end the exposure. The flash fired right before the shutter closed, freezing the person waving the sparkler around.

Here are a few fun pics we made:

My son's name in lights!

I even got in front of the camera for this one!

Next time I'll want to do this in a very dark field, with no lights in the background. You can see how the figures look washed out, as the background is exposing first before the flash freezes motion.


No comments :

Post a Comment