Every year for the past 4 years or so, I’ve entered the realm of firework photography. They have a great firework show every July 3rd, in my hometown, Brewerton, NY, on Oneida Lake. I see (and laugh) at everyone who drives in to see the show. Why do I laugh at them? You should see how much congestion of traffic this annual event generates! I thank my lucky stars that I can walk to the water’s edge, anywhere in town, and be stress-free the entire evening. Okay, now I feel guilty for laughing at these poor people. I’m very, very, sorry.
What I’ve learned is that catching that ‘perfect shot’ is a mix of luck, knowledge, and…..luck! I don’t know what they’re launching off that barge in the water. They could be tiny or they could be gigantic bursts of beauty. From trial and error, I’ve figured the longest exposure isn’t always best. If you caught it ‘just right’ and they blasted up a ton of fireworks within my camera’s 30 second-max window, the result can be a cluttered, bright, mess! Dialing the time down between 10 and 20 seconds seem to be best. I try to keep an eye on the barge to see when a flare is being placed to ignite the next batch. I then set my timer to take the picture in 2 seconds. This ensures I’m not touching the camera to take the shot, which may MOVE the camera.
My goal is to see the tail of the firework, booming up from the barge, and then to see the burst(s). If the exposure is too long (the 30 seconds I’ve mentioned) it limits your time to adjust the settings for the next shot. They don’t blast these things off all night long. The display runs about 20 minutes, maybe less, so you have a window of time you’re working with. If I did 30 second exposures the whole time, my camera takes an ADDITIONAL 30 seconds to ‘process’ for me to see the resulting image. 20 second exposure would equal 20 seconds of processing and so forth.
Having them blast off from a barge, on Oneida Lake, in Brewerton, NY, gives the added bonus of catching reflections of the bursts on the water. Below are a few of the shots from this year.