Like most people, I love fireworks. And like all of you, I love taking pictures. So at least once a year I find myself with camera in hand, trying to capture some interesting photos of explosions in the sky. Last Saturday night my wife and I met some other couples near Lakewood County Club. I’ve been attending this little fireworks show for over a decade. There’s a street that bisects the golf course and we stake out a space early and then sit on our blanket while the mortars go off right over our heads.
I like shooting handheld, with the camera in my lap, so I can still watch the display and enjoy my surroundings. I started out by putting the lens on manual focus and setting it on infinity so I didn’t have the problem of the camera seeking an object in a dark night sky. I played with exposure until I settled on about 1sec at f8 at 200-400 ISO. I jiggled and spun the camera during the explosions, which gave me some interesting patterns.Where it got really neat was purposefully defocusing, holding the zoom barrel in my left hand and twisting the camera body on axis, zooming in during the explosions. The result is the almost aquatic looking images toward the end (my favorites). Even defocused, at the widest end of the zoom the light trails are relatively sharp. As I zoomed in they softened. The only processing I’ve done to these images is changes in exposure, fill light and black level in Light Room to bring out some of the trails hidden in the darkness – a very good example of why shooting RAW can really help.