Fireworks and Things: Long Exposure Photography

After a last minute suggestion we went out into the dark and cold on Saturday evening to shoot some fireworks. Here in the UK on the 5th November we celebrate the story of Guy Fawkes who famously tried (and failed) to blow up Parliament, with Bonfire Night – an evening of burning effigies, letting off fireworks and eating burgers.

Shooting fireworks is hard.  Very hard.  You need a very long exposure time of around 8 seconds, a very small aperture (about f/18) and an ISO of about 200.  For me, the hardest part was the focus. Most guides suggest you set your lens to infinity and using the large depth of field of a smaller aperture value, you should be able to get a nice front-to-back sharpness in your images.   This is true if you are the right distance away and I suspect we were not. In hindsight I would have liked to have been closer to the action to fill the frame more. An even smaller aperture (f/22) would’ve been better given how far away we were. A remote shutter release would’ve been nice – I was using a 2 second timer delay to reduce camera shake but it meant having to pre-empt rocket launches. Using a remote release I would’ve been able to trigger it when needed, and for as long as I required.

The problem with fireworks displays is that they’re over pretty quickly, and you don’t really get a chance to see if you’ve got it right. Unfortunately I noticed too late into the show I hadn’t got the depth of field/focus set properly so missed a lot of decent shots.

Here’s a few attempts that did work out:

We moved on pretty quickly when the fireworks stopped as it was freezing, but I still had a few things I wanted to try. I’d been wanting to play with some long exposure stuff for a while and had been meaning to come out into town one night to try it.  Tonight I had my chance!

Using the same approach to shooting fireworks, you can get some interesting images (thanks to Jimmo for driving up and down the road):

You can get even fancier by creating an abstract image using the same techniques – below is a 10 second exposure of some traffic on a bypass taken from the bridge in the pic above:

I’m going to have another few goes at this technique – I want to experiment with it and use it in a few different places. Better foreground/background interest could make the images stronger overall, but for a first go, I’m pretty happy with these results!