I've taken my digital camera to Rosy's a few times, now, and am starting to
consistently get some pretty good pictures.
I have an Olympus
2020Z digital camera. It has a lot of things I like about it. Adjusting
the shutter speed and apeture was fairly easy to do. And I was able to lock it at
But it has one major problem. Even with the focus locked there was a 1/4 second
hesitation from when I pressed the button to when the camera actually took the picture.
That makes it completely unacceptable for action photos.
It's not too bad for photographing fireworks. I can anticipate the bursts fairly
accurately. Also, just the nature of how fireworks are captured means that there's a
pretty wide latitude in what will produce a pleasing image. There isn't really a
- Checklist for fireworks photography:
- Extra batteries
- You'll have the screen on the entire time, so there's a real possibility of running down
your batteries if they start out already partly used.
- Extra memory
- At my last couple of fireworks displays I've captured around 200 images.
- With a quick-release boot. For most of the shots you'll want a solid platform.
But some of my best pictures have come from intentionally moving the camera during
- Don't get too close to the show
- If you get right up under the fireworks then they'll be too big to capture in the frame.
Also, since they don't always go off in exactly the same place then you're more
likely to chop off part of many shots.
- Look up ahead of time how to work the manual controls
- You're going to want to make adjustments during the display, so make sure you remind
yourself how to do that. Again, you don't need precision, but different settings
will give you a variety of effects.
- Set everything to manual
- Apeture, shutter speed and focus. The focus is usually a separate setting than the
apeture and shutter setting.
- Set ISO-equivalent rating to fast
- Actually, I haven't played with this during the display. I always set it to ISO
400 on my camera. A slower ISO will necessitate longer exposures, which may or may
not look as good. Update: I just read something that leads me to believe that
cranking down the ISO will significantly reduce the noise during long exposures. I
haven't tested it, yet.
- Set the resolution
- My camera defaults to a mediumish resolution. Make sure you set it to what you
want. But, pay attention to write times. My camera was just about able to keep
up with writing images to the card during the display at the default resolution.
When I crank it up to high res then after about five shots it refuses to take any more
until it's finished writing a previous one. That takes long enough that I miss a
large portion of the show.
- Double-check focus
- When you turn the camera on for the show, make sure the focus is set to infinity.
(Mine actually forgets all its settings. I have to reset all of the above.
Luckily, since I go through it just a few minutes earlier it only takes about 30 seconds
to repeat the process.)
- During the display:
- Don't overexpose
- Each year I tend to oversaturate the first few shots. They come out as featureless
white streaks. I've ended up closing down the apeture and playing mostly with the
shutter speed. That yields more detail as the fireworks move and spit out bits.
But do play with it some during the show, just to see what kind of variety you can
- Play with the shutter speed and apeture
- Every once in awhile try changing the shutter speed. That will give you longer and
shorter streaks for the fireworks. Really long exposure times will often cause the
CCD to capture a lot of noise, too. That might be a
good thing or a bad thing. It just depends on the shot. But usually you won't
want much noise, so keep the exposure times fairly short. This year (2005) I paid
attention to my settings. I was shooting an f-stop of 11 with a shutter speed around
one second. That might be a good place to start.
- Remove the camera from the tripod
- I've had surprisingly good luck taking
medium-long exposures while moving the camera. But none of the effects have been
planned. Unless you have some way to get lots of practice it will be pretty much
random chance whether or not any of them turn out very good. Sometimes I move from side to side. Sometimes I move the lens in a circle. A couple of my best have been when I've
twisted the camera while trying to leave it centered on the shot.
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Last modified: September 24, 2006