Tag Archives: fireworks
Happy 4th of July to all my friends and family who get to celebrate tonight. It’s a bit weird living in Canada and not getting the day off. Not that Canada Day isn’t a fine substitution but it’s not quite the same.
I had high hopes for Canada Day. We decided at the last-minute to go to Niagara falls and see the fireworks. Then we decided to get a room and see them from a really nice high vantage point. Then I decided to not worry about the credit card bill that booking a room on the 41st floor of the Hilton overlooking the Falls would come with. I mean you only do it once, right?
The hotel was OK. I admit after 16 years of Orlando and being VERY familiar with the way Disney does things, I have rather lofty expectations for what a hotel should be. The Hilton sadly did not live up to it in most ways. The lobby was chaos – people trying to check in were milling around looking for help. Other people were standing in the same lines (if you can call people scattered randomly with a lost look on their face a line) for some reason other than check in. Mostly people were crowded around the TVs trying to watch the Eurocup Finals. By people I mean the staff.
Way to impress Hilton, way to impress.
The room itself was OK. The view was good – not great. The giant Casino tower directly in front of the window spoiled a bit of the view. I guess that’s progress or something. No worries though, view of the Horseshoe Falls for the fireworks from the window and I can get the fireworks! That’s all I care about.
When the time comes for the show, I’m ready. I’ve never tried to shoot fireworks through glass, but I’ve taken enough test shots to have things dialed in I think. I’ve turned off every light, covered the mirrors, turned the TV away from the windows to minimize reflection. I have my polarizer on (probably a mistake) to cut down on any stray glare. I have my remote trigger in hand, the camera on manual and I’m ready…
Only the Boom was from the other direction. The display wasn’t over the Horseshoe Falls, but the American Falls! Suddenly I’m turning my tripod around in the window, trying to adjust for new angle, new reflections etc all the while trying to frame the shots and not miss the show. Disaster time. All that planning for nothing.
In the end I did get a few good shots. I learned shooting through glass and with a polarizer means you loose a lot of the light. Instead of f/11 I was shooting at f/8 or lower. I missed a lot of shots because of framing. Being up high does make it harder because the bursts can happen above or below you (vs just above) so many of them were cut off. Overall though it was a cool, if far to brief, show. I’m glad we got to see it.
In honor of Canada Day and the 4th of July, I figured I would post this because man I love taking pictures of fireworks. There is just something freakin cool about nailing a big burst as it lights up the sky. The best thing is that they are not very hard to take if you plan a little and know what you want to do.
Here is my down and dirty list to taking great shots. Use these as a basis and experiment for your own personal look.
- Use a tripod. If you can’t use a tripod, put the camera down and enjoy the fireworks with your family and friends. Trust me, you’ll enjoy it more. I’m serious, stop now if you don’t want to bring the tripod.
- OK you can shoot them handheld if you shoot fast enough and at a high enough ISO, but you won’t like them as well and you won’t get the really cool shots.
- Get there early to pick a prime spot. Since you HAVE A TRIPOD you need to make sure you have room. Waiting until 9:45 to set up for a 10:00 PM show is asking for trouble. Big shows = big crowds.
- Be aware of obstructions to your view. Sure you are generally shooting UP but tree branches, power lines etc can get in the way of your photo and ruin a good shot. I find getting rid of that stuff in PS hard in this kind of night shot so try to avoid it.
- If you can ask where the fireworks will detonate. Knowing where they explode is a great help in picking a spot and composing your picture.
- Think about your finished product. Do you want close up shots of the bursts themselves, or do you want the bigger picture with the surroundings in the shot (like the above photo). Compose BEFORE the show starts if you can.
- Use a remote trigger if possible.
- Set your camera to manual. Your ISO should be set as low as possible (100 or 200 is the norm for most DSLRs). Aperture should start at F11 and your shutter speed should be set in the 2 – 5 second range. The above shot was 5 seconds. Take a few shots and look at the results when the show starts. If things are too bright, raise the Aperture to F14, 16 etc.
- Once you see where the fireworks are, focus ONCE and turn auto-focus off. You do not want the camera guessing for the focal point.
- Shoot as the fireworks rocket into the sky so you see the “tail.” If you have your shutter speed right, you’ll see the streak, the burst and the light trails as the burst drifts.
- Experiment with keeping your shutter open longer to get multiple bursts in one photo. This can look really cool but be careful of the light. A long exposure will blow out the highlights in your surroundings – if that’s important to you, make your Aperture smaller (bigger number). Go from f/11 to f14 or 16 for example.
- Did I mention a tripod?
- Have fun and be safe.
Back from a great weekend in Cleveland. Great classes, great food, great photo opportunities. Hard to believe how much got crammed into one long weekend. In the span of a few days I:
- Had the best Mexican food I’ve ever eaten at Luchitas Mexican Restaurant (and I’ve eaten Mexican food from LA to New York)
- Saw a winning baseball game 5 rows from the field
- Watched an excellent fireworks display over the city
- Discovered one of the greatest cups of coffee to ever touch my lips at Civilization.
- Dined on upscale Vietnamese food at Saigon Restaurant & Bar.
- Saw the city from 42 floors in the air
- Shot the North Coast Harbor.
- Hiked in a National Park (Virginia Kendall Park)
- Devoured ice cream that should be against the law it was that good (Sweet Moses Soda Shop)
- Saw sunrise over a Great Lake
- Ate a very Grumpy breakfast. They made the corned beef hash with actual HUNKS of corned beef. Not that Hormel garbage.
- and still crammed in the Avengers movie to take a break.
That doesn’t even touch on all the cool new neighborhoods I shot this weekend. Anyone who is still making Burning River jokes about Cleveland is living in the past. Just like Times Square isnt the seedy cesspool it once was, Cleveland is no longer that town. There is a real rebirth happening. Billions of dollars in new development, world class food, entertainment and sports (ok 1/2 credit on the sports), interesting architecture, a world famous zoo and park system are just a few of the things the city has to offer.
In my mind Cleveland is one of the most under-rated and overlooked tourist spots in the country.