Shooting Fireworks

Independence Day 2010

No, not shooting off fireworks; that would be illegal in the city! It's best to avoid legal troubles and just enjoy and take shots of the pro shows. I grabbed this shot at the Round Rock Express fireworks display after the game on Independence Day this year. This was my first time shooting fireworks and I was pleased with several of my images. I read up on tips for capturing images of fireworks on several web sites and blogs before heading out to the show. Basically, it boils down to a long shutter speed and a little bit of luck! Here's how I did it.

1. I got as close to the field where they were being shot from as I could. I didn't want any of the stadium or parking lot lights to interfere with the exposures.

2. I used my Canon 10-22mm super wide angle lens. I had no idea how high the fireworks would be in the air so I wanted as big of a coverage area of the sky as I could get. I prefocused the lens to infinity and set it to manual so it wouldn't try to autofocus.

3. My camera was mounted on a tripod (an absolute necessity).

4. I used a corded remote shutter release. You'll want one of those too.

5. The camera was set to manual. ISO was set to 100. Based on recommendations that I found online, I used apertures of f8 and f11. At f8, I got some good shots at 3 second exposures. At f11, I got good results at 4 seconds. This shot is the latter.

It takes some trial and error to figure out what works. I waited until I heard the booms and hit the shutter release. My 3 to 4 second exposures worked well for the fireworks, but everything else is dark. Longer exposures would definitely be needed to capture surrounding details. This is tricky because going too long, particularly with multiple explosions, will result in badly blown out highlights.

Like anything else, it takes practice to figure out what works. I will definitely be taking advantage of the frequent fireworks shows after the baseball games around here to get some practice in for bigger shows.