Saturday, August 4, 2012

huntsville fireworks + how I shoot fireworks photos

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Okay, I promise, these are the last Independence Day fireworks photos I'll post until next summer. I'm not saying I won't post any scrapbook pages of them, though- haha! Fireworks are seriously one of my favorite things to photograph, and once you get the settings and timing down, it's so very, very easy.

I use my big camera (I have a Nikon D3), a telephoto lens (70-200 f/2.8 Nikkor), and a tripod since they're fairly long exposures. I also use a remote shutter release to a) avoid camera shake and b) allow me to watch the fireworks while still photographing them. To avoid focusing issues with such a dark field, I put the lens/camera in manual focus mode and focus the lens to infinity. The on-camera exposure settings I usually use are manual mode, f/14, ISO 200, and the shutter in Bulb mode. Bulb mode means that the shutter remains open for as long as I have my finger on the shutter release button (which is why I use a remote release). I vary that time based mostly on feel...there's a delay from the time that the rockets are launched to when they explode, and I try to time it such that I get just a little bit of that trail in the photo along with the entire burst. Sometimes I leave the shutter open for multiple bursts, but be careful about leaving it open for too long (especially when shooting finales) as it can really blow out the photo, leaving you with a bunch of massive white blurs.

It'll take a few shots to get the timing down (every year I have to re-learn it myself), but eventually I fall into a click-release pattern almost on auto-pilot while watching the show.

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Now, about this particular show...so the fireworks in my hometown (the ones after the 5K I run there every year) are always on the Saturday before the 4th, meaning I'm usually back home in Huntsville in time to see the display at the Space and Rocket Center that are actually on the 4th. It's seriously cool the way they shoot them off right over the massive Saturn V (though last year it was much cooler when they left the lights on around the rocket so you could really see it). This year it was $20 a car, though, to park at the USSRC and watch from the rocket park, so we made alternate plans- the crowds and the cost just didn't sound like much fun to us at all.

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So, in true Darren-and-Melissa style, we did something completely different- we parked at the university (thank goodness for Darren's grad-student parking decal) and hiked a mile and a half or so by foot over to the hotel right next to Space Camp and watched from there with maybe just a dozen or so other people around us. I'm sure we looked seriously nuts- Darren was carrying our two fold-up chairs, and I had my camera and massive lens in my backpack with my somewhat bulky (but not too heavy, thanks to magnesium and carbon fiber) tripod lashed to the outside. Did I mention that we were both wearing toe shoes? :)

Even with the hiking, I think that we still got back home before most of the people who were in the rocket park- they had to wait for traffic to clear to leave, and we were able to simply walk around all the cars that were sitting at a standstill- love it!

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I took more than 150 photos that night, and I'm sharing just a few of my favorites here. I especially love the ones near the end where the rocket is silhouetted so well.

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Thanks for stopping by today! I'll be back tomorrow with Geek Girl.