I photographed more than one subject on July 4th, 2019. That was a normal 4th of July: festivals, parades, car shows, and fireworks. No worries about COVID-19. I had no idea where we would be today when I chose to save these photos and post them in July 2020. Since some cities are cancelling fireworks shows this year, I’m glad I saved these photos for today.
Photographing fireworks is not seen as serious photography, but it comes with its own set of challenges. To begin with, you are working in the blind. You can’t really see what you are capturing. The subject is there one moment and gone the next. It’s a long exposure, requiring a tripod. Usually, I focus on the first blasts. I’ve read to focus at infinity, but that doesn’t seem to work. I also ignore the recommendation to include a building or other landmark for sense of place. This is mostly because the best fireworks show in my area for good looking buildings is in a part of town I don’t feel safe in, particularly after dark. I forsake the city and trudge along the cornfields to the athletic field of a small town high school. The roads are lined with trucks full of families, and the ditches are thick with mosquitoes. But I can get close and get a clear view. Sometimes, I decide I need to back up a bit after the first bursts go off. I stand with my camera on my tripod and work as the blasts light up the sky and the sound waves resonate around me and through me. For me, a fireworks show is an active event, not a passive one. I am caught up in it, seeing it, feeling it, and capturing it.
Digital is a big help with fireworks. I can see if I’m on the right track with exposure. I used to always start my exposure when I heard the launch. I’d read to do that somewhere. The problem is, a long exposure captures the event much differently than we see it live. The fireworks end up looking like flowers with long stems.
It’s a cool effect sometimes, but it doesn’t really look like fireworks the way we see them in real time. So I started waiting longer and trying to time them closer to the actual explosion. There’s also the problem of the light trails. To they eye, fireworks are little specks and dashes of light. But again, the exposure to capture the whole thing unfolding makes them look like continuous lines. So I started trying to time it so I didn’t have the full duration of some of the fireworks to get a little more sparkle. The loud little gold ones could be helpful with this, but they also make a lot of smoke. The smoke illuminated by the blasts does not look pretty.
Practice, luck, and some editing for contrast and saturation. And I crop. As you can see, I chose to abandon normal aspect ratios for many of these. Fireworks photos are pretty abstract sometimes. Find the flowers, the trees, the space jellyfish, etc. Imagine. Have fun. In the two below, I see a flowering cactus (I admit I rotated it) and an ornamental tree. What’s a celebration for if you can’t have fun with it?
I know things are different this year, but I hope you are able to have a safe and happy holiday anyway. You made it a little more than halfway through 2020, and that itself is worth celebrating, even if you aren’t an American observing our Independence Day.
I have those times when my brain just doesn’t want to do anything, let alone anything creative. When that happens, I do an abstract black and white with split toning in Lightroom exercise. It’s not the most magnificent thing in the world, but it’s fun play and it sometimes gets the brain moving again.
Next Time: Old Dictionaries
I love them and I have two. One I just found is pretty cool.
It’s freeze-thaw cycle time around here. We’re more in the thaw today, thankfully. However, one morning last week I went out to get some shots of a creek that was thawing and had frozen in places again. Thaw-freeze, if you will. this makes the ice patterns more interesting and complex. There were also trapped bubbles, and added bonus.
Next Time: Mugs or Spring
I have some more mug photo ideas wandering around in my brain. Otherwise, well see how quickly Spring gets here.
I was going for something that looked like an imaginary world with this. The idea had been bouncing around in my head for several months. Fortunately, the Christmas season intervened and the right tree props became available. The snow is quilt batting, the mirror is from the dollar store, and the “rocks” are flat marbles for flower arranging with nail polish painted on the bottom (like the necklaces I did last year). I decided to put a silver-grey poster board behind it all fearing white would be too blank. It’s supposed to look unreal/otherworldly anyway. In post, I did some cloning on the “rocks”, cleaned up the mirror, fussed with the color, and added some glow filter.
Next Time: More Still Life
I haven’t exactly decided what it’s going to be yet. Maybe more like this or maybe more mugs.
I said I was going to do abstract. Well, this is a little more realistic than I normally do, but I would say it counts. Split toning on all but one of them, mostly close-ups, but, yes, a little more realistic than usual for this kind of post.
Next Time: Night photography or try again.
A bit late for a 4th of July post, and a bit early for my schedule, but I wanted to share them. I didn’t get to a fireworks show the last two years, so I was eager to head off with my new camera and shoot them. Problem: new camera. I choose the long exposure noise reduction option when I was going through the menus. Bad idea for fireworks. I couldn’t figure out why the camera wasn’t ready to shoot again or if my exposures were even over. I had no idea what I was shooting for the first few minutes of the show. It ended up looking something like this at best:
Fortunately, I figured it all out in time to get some good shots of the show:
It’s a good thing I’d started to read the manual! So the moral is test the camera with as long of a shutter speed as you’ll actually be using. And don’t use long exposure NR unless you have time to wait for it.
I think fall was the last time I did something like this. After my last couple of posts, I just need to get used to shooting out in the woods again before the spring flowers come.
Ever feel like something is watching you?
I shot and split toned the above two thinking of them more like rock formations than broken off trees.
Next Time: More Nature or Archive
Despite the rainy weather, I decided to take my camera outdoors for abstract shots. The light was soft, but dim, so the tripod was a must. Damp surfaces also have a different look about them, not to mention the rain drops adorning various surfaces.
Next Week: Archive or Lightening Rods