Out to capture the sparkle

The last time I watched the fireworks display run by our local Upper Hutt city council was 4 years ago.  So when Tammy Lynn read that the upcoming Saturday was fireworks night and showed an interest in going, I jumped at it.

Plans were made.

So this blog  post gives me a chance to perhaps help and encourage others  to have a go getting some images that please.

What does it take to get really good shots of a fireworks display?
     1 A dark night
     2 No wind
     3 Plenty of time to scout out a good place and to plan for the night’s shoot.
This means taking the following  into consideration
Make sure you’re far enough back so you can get all of the colourful explosions into the frame.
Stay up wind so the smoke doesn’t drift over you and your camera making for murky images.

So once you have thought your shoot through  you need to set up  with enough time before the event kicks off, So this leads us to the all important no4
     4. Set up while it’s still light and prefocus where the light show will happen and turn off your auto focus system.

Things you will need if you want to do a great job:

      1 A remote switch (optional) but still a very good and worthwhile investment.
Other wise you will have to keep the shutter button down hard while not moving the camera at the same time.
With a remote  you can stand beside the camera  and really enjoy the light show.
     2.  A sturdy tripod to keep the camera rock steady
     3.  A Camera that has a bulb setting (bulb means you push the shutter release down and the shutter opens and release the button again and the shutter closes).  If you do not have a bulb setting you can try this….Set your camera up on  a slow setting, such as set your camera on the highest F stop (most lenses = f22) and low iso=100, this will force the shutter to remain open  a long time to ensure you get a bit of the action recorded onto your digital sensor. Good luck with this and trial and error will be your mistress. The camera will want to make the sky a medium grey instead of a dark black so if you know how to underexpose the image by at least 2 stops, that would be a good starting point, it will pay to practice at home outside to find a workaround.
Click on the images  to read the settings I use  for the shots  and the time the shutter was open, so you can get an idea  how long the shutter needs to be opened for a decent shot.
Off we go.
Tammy and I arrived mid-evening with plenty of time to get set up.
The evening was perfect for the display.

Upper Hutt fireworks 2015

We marched into the grounds along with a good number of other fellow citizens of Upper Hutt.

Upper Hutt fireworks 2015

Once we got into the park proper we made our way to the front.
I was very brave and turned and faced the entire crowd and tried to look like I knew what I was doing and took a series of images  to stitch together later  into a panoramic of the crowd.

There was a good crowd of people, all in good spirits and well behaved.

Upper Hutt fireworks 2015

 A band named the Shenanigans was front and centre entertaining the crowd and continued to do so for the whole three hours until the fireworks got under way. They played a mixture of Folk and Celtic styled songs mostly covers and were very good at it.
Tammy and I really enjoyed them and they played with real passion and it was clear they were having a great time and that emotionally transferred to the crowd.
We parked ourselves right up front and I started taking  photos of the band  before we set  off to capture some of the locals having fun on some of  the carnival rides on offer.
The Shenanigans Band
Tammy, being a very good face painter, made herself up  as a fairy for the night.

Upper Hutt fireworks 2015

We went for a wander around taking shots of the rides and people, mainly the kids having a great time.

the scream machine was popular

Upper Hutt fireworks 2015

As far as facial expressions go, this ride was a winner lol

Upper Hutt fireworks 2015

this ride was fast and furious

Upper Hutt fireworks 2015

Theres always girls to take photos of, they are always obliging and excited to have their photo taken

Upper Hutt fireworks 2015

After I had finished photographing the rides, I went for a walk towards the back of the crowd to choose the best location for the night’s shoot. I then went back  to Tammy at the front of the crowd , content to take more shots of the band and a few kids dancing to the music.
Kids love having a live band to do dance too  lolThe Shenanigans BandPhotographing a band in failing light was a new experience for me, so I got into it with great gusto.  Night slowly ascended and so it became harder to get un-blurred shots of the band doing its thing.


The Shenanigans Band

Slowly I came to grips with the difficult conditions and made some head way.

The Shenanigans Band

The Shenanigans Band

as darkness fell the rides looked impressive

Upper Hutt fireworks 2015

The time came for the main event and we made our way to our predetermined spot to set up the gear while there was still enough light.
Last time I basically shot into the sky concentrating on the sky bursts , but this time I wanted to have humans in the frame as this gives scale to the size of the fireworks.
There is NO way of getting sharp photos of the crowd  and long exposures for the display all at the same time, so the people will always be blurry  but at least we can get  an idea of the scale of the explosions going on in front of us.
Click on the images to see the settings I was using and the length of time the shutter was open recording the bursts of light.
How to take the shots.
With the camera pre focussed and the system on Bulb mode, all one has to do is decide when to press the shutter and when to release it back when you feel you have enough sparkles in your image .
Try to time the shutter press as the firework shoots into the air.

Now I used to let go of the shutter much too early ending up with basically colourful spikes shooting into the air, they look cool but what is needed is the graceful shower of light and colour, complete with all the sparkly bits.

A short time spiky shot.
Upper Hutt Fireworks Display-63-Edit
A better timed shot with much more satisfying results. This is my favorite shot for the night, not the biggest or brightest but graceful , pleasing and having the crowd in the shot gives it scale as the people give a comparison to compare to the size of the fireworks

Upper Hutt fireworks 2015

Click on the images  to read the settings I use  for the shots  and the time the shutter was open, so you can get an idea  how long the shutter needs to be opened for a decent shot.

You don’t need great big explosions high up in the sky to make dramatic shots

Upper Hutt fireworks 2015

hot and intense is what I would call this

Upper Hutt fireworks 2015


I am now learning to judge when to release the shutter back to its comfy home.

the fireworks crew left the biggest to the last  and the final few were huge and it appeared that they exploded right over us.
Again having the crowd in the image gives it scale and draws you into the event.

Upper Hutt fireworks 2015

From our perspective  it seemed as though we were being showered by the explosion.

Upper Hutt fireworks 2015

Fireworks displays don’t last long and soon it was over it was time to pack up and head back to the car and home to check how the images turned out.
Over all I was pleased and I learned a bit more to improve my chances of getting better shots next time.
Plans are in the works to attend the big fireworks display in Wellington this next Saturday.

5 thoughts on “Out to capture the sparkle

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s