Happy Independence Day! West Haven put on a great show last night which I captured experimenting with a new (for me) technique. I hope you enjoy these photos! If you're curious as to how I took these, I've included my settings beneath each photo and there's also more info about the actual technique at the bottom of this post.
- Canon 5D mkIV
- Canon 70-200 f2.8L ISii
- Promaster Digital HGX Variable ND FIlter
- Vanguard Alta Pro2+ Tripod
It is important to use an ND Filter especially shooting with larger apertures like f1.4 or f2.8, or anything bigger than f4 really. Fireworks are very bright! Without an ND Filter a lot of the fireworks would be over exposed, lose color, and look very white. Even with smaller apertures like f8 the ND Filter is very helpful. I was using a variable ND Filter and kept it set to the equivalent of an ND3.
The photos were all taken using the camera's Bulb mode. Bulb mode keeps the shutter open for as long as the shutter release button is held down. I pressed the button once to open the shutter, then held the button for the duration of the photo, then released the button to stop the exposure. Using Bulb mode would allow you to adjust your exposure time according to the burst of the individual fireworks you see. Each burst is different and the shutter should be adjusted accordingly. You will also want to control the exposure depending on the particular look/effect that you're trying to achieve. Bulb mode will allow you to do that for both instances, using real time visual information. All of my exposures were between .5 and 2.8 seconds.
You'll have to shoot in manual focus mode. The basic concept is to begin the exposure out of focus, then manually turn the focus ring until the focus is tack sharp, then release the shutter button to stop the exposure. Alternatively you can begin the exposure in focus and then bring it out of focus. I did mine both ways. The photo will be tack sharp at just before the infinity focus point of your lens. Try to get a feel for exactly where that is before you begin shooting, or you can mark your lens somehow, or you might be able to use a light to help you see.
Good luck and happy shooting! Soft focus long exposure firework photography is very challenging but the results (when achieved) are gorgeous and unique.