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How to Photograph Fireworks Effectively

Cheryl Mascarenhas
Call it an expression of celebration or a means to prep-up an otherwise dull mood, fireworks do not just fascinate us, but also make the particular event memorable and an amazing subject to capture on your camera.
Gear up and Shoot
Follow Elliott Erwitt's advice when it comes to photography - 'Nothing happens when you sit at home ... I just shoot at what interests me at that moment.'.
Photographing Fireworks - Get It Right
Thanks to the immense challenge it offers, photographing fireworks remains a favorite subject among many photographers, amateurs and professionals alike.
It helps capture celebratory moments, which give it life and longevity. More often than not, we find that the pictures of fireworks are grainy, blurred, or over/under exposed. In order to avoid such disappointments, you need to get the equipment and technique right.

Use a Tripod

Photographing fireworks involves having longer shutter speeds or long exposure time. For this very reason, ensure that the camera remains steady at all times.
Securing the camera to a tripod eliminates any movement made by the camera and ensures that the movement of the fireworks is the only movement captured by the camera. Using a tripod will ensure that the images are crisp and clear rather than shaky or blurred.
Use a Cable Release/Remote Control
No matter how steady your hand is, the moment it touches the camera, it causes some movement that often causes the image to blur. In order to avoid this, invest in a remote release; it ensures that the camera is completely still.
While shooting fireworks, the camera shutter has to stay open for a longer time to increase the light exposure, hence, use a cable release that helps the cameraman trigger the shutter without wavering or shaking the camera.

Precise Framing of the Shot

Imagine the disaster that is sure to loom if the framing isn't right. One of the most important steps to get a good shot of the fireworks is to frame it right; this requires patience and prior planning.
Before you begin shooting, hunt for the best possible location wherein your view won't be obstructed by spectators or other obstacles.
Check the Horizon
Keeping track of the background or the horizon where you will be shooting is of utmost importance, especially if your camera has a wide focal length.
Look through the viewfinder during the initial few bursts to know the exact location of the action and set the camera pointing in that direction. Framing will also help you anticipate the right time for the shooting the fireworks.

Set the Focal Range

Use a camera with a wide focal length to capture most of the action. While the focal point controls how much of the display fills the frame when you shoot, the focal length itself is dependent on the location from the display.
Though zoomed-in shots offer a wide palette of color and are quite effective, preferably, shoot at wider focal lengths than tighter shots. Set the focal length to infinity, except when you want a close-up shot. Remember to include buildings/people in the background.

Camera Settings

It is true that you do not need a fast lens to capture the fireworks; an aperture setting of f/8 or f/16 can be used to capture all the action. Most cameras come with an in-built feature of nighttime or fireworks setting.
If this feature is not available in your camera, you would have to manually adjust the settings. ISO 100 should serve the purpose for good clarity and finer grain snapshots.
Control the Shutter Speed
Set the shutter speed for long exposure or else use a cable release. Exposure time between 1 and 5 seconds is ideal to capture the sweep of the flares that radiate from the explosion.
You can use the bulb mode to shoot fireworks as it allows to hold down the shutter till the fireworks have finished exploding. Experiment with a range of shutter speeds to get varied results. You can even experiment with multiple burst shots using a black hat or card sheet in between the bursts.

Monitor the Shots

As a rule, check the shots every once in a while to know the image quality. Checking the photographs after the first couple of shots are taken will help you adjust the settings accordingly. Check the frame, exposure and brightness of the images so that you get good quality images.
Firework Shows - A Wonderful Opportunity
There are numerous celebrations in the US throughout the year; get your camera ready and head to one of the locations to capture all the action. These shows attract millions of viewers annually, and are a good bet for photographers.
Some of the biggest 4th of July pyrotechnic celebrations across the US offer great opportunities for firework photography.

Best Fireworks in USA

Macy's Annual Firework Show - New York
This spectacular show over the Hudson River lasts for 26 minutes. The show begins at 9 pm but get there well before 4 pm as you wouldn't want to be stuck in a road block owing to the large number of people it attracts.
Atlantic City Show - New Jersey
The firework display consists of two parts, the first half of the show is over the Marina and lasts for 22 minutes, while the second half is carried out along the beach and lasts for 24 minutes.
You would have to get there early to get a good spot to capture the action.
Addison Circle Park Show - Texas
A show that lasts for 30 minutes, and can be viewed from anywhere in Addison. If you plan to head there, be prepared to park on the outskirts and walk down to the area of display.
Boston Show - Massachusetts
A popular and expensive show that lasts for 21 minutes over the Charles River. Get to Harvard and Longfellow bridges to get an unobstructed view of the display.
National Mall - Washington D.C.
Fireworks begin at 9 pm and last for 20 minutes. It is followed by the military parade. Catch your place at the base of the Lincoln Memorial to get the best possible shots.
Nevada Fireworks - Lake Tahoe
This breathtaking show lasts for 23 minutes and can be viewed from the docks, paddleboats and the shore.
St. Louis - Missouri
This is a 20 minute show that attracts half a million people every year and is nothing short of an intense experience. The show starts at 9 pm and undoubtedly the area around the arch fills up way too quickly.
New Orleans - Louisiana
This 13 minute display can be viewed from a restaurant along the river or from the levy. Capture the two barges battling it out with fireworks.