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I'm a Cairns, far north Queensland, Australia professional photographer specialising in travel, editorial and environmental portraiture.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Tripods and fireworks

Of course the ultimate tripod shot is one of these. Fireworks. You really do need a completely un-handholdable (are bloggers allowed to invent their own words?) shutter speed for these babies.

You also need to have a Bulb setting on your camera. Pretty much all digital SLRs have them and a lot of point and shoots as well. You'll usually find it only in Manual mode. Not manual focus but actual Manual mode where you have to set the Aperture and Shutter Speed yourself.

When you put it into Manual mode dial your shutter speed down as slow as it can go. Once you get to 30 seconds (which looks like 30") you can actually go one step further. This setting is called Bulb and it lets you leave the shutter open as long as you like.

You'll need a cable release for this trick. You push the shutter once to open it and then lock the cable release. This will leave your camera open until you take the lock off again.

Set your aperture to about f8 and open up your shutter until a firework goes off in the picture. It can be pretty hit-and-miss but if you know roughly where the fireworks are going to go off point the camera in that general direction, open up your shutter and close it once you've recorded one or two bursts.

For more than two bursts you leave your shutter open for a loooong time and in between firework bursts place a piece of black card in front of your lens, to stop any light getting in. Just take the card away every time another burst goes off. This way you can go crazy and put as many fireworks in the one photo as you like. Just remember that the longer the exposure with digital cameras the more noise you tend to get in the pic.

This photo above was taken at Lake Toya on the island of Hokkaido, Japan. During summer they have a nightly fireworks show for all the guests staying in hotels along the banks of the lake. Worried that your hotel is too far away from the show? Don't worry because the fireworks shoot out from a little boat that makes its way along the shore so that no matter where you are you're guaranteed a front row seat. This was taken off the balcony of our hotel and I photographed it in my Japanese robe pyjamas with my two little boys having a whale of a time! Exposure was 10 seconds at f8 on 100 ISO with a 28mm lens. I took a series of shots but this was the best of the lot. Like I said, it can be pretty hit-and-miss!

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