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Two Long Exposure Firework Photos

As I mentioned in my earlier post, I assumed that it would be difficult to take photos of fireworks in the small town where I am right now, and I was right. When the clock striked 12 midnight clock and the new year begun, we all went outside to pay attention to the fireworks, and I had my camera and tripod with me to try out long exposure photography. The biggest difficulty was that there was a much smaller quantity of fireworks in the heaven compared to the amount I am used to in Lübeck. In the town where I am now, I really had to guess where the next firework would start, while I would probably just need to point my camera somewhere into the heaven to get some firework photos if I would have been in the city.

Here in the small town I didn’t want to give up and tried it anyway. The two photos in the gallery of this posts are the best ones I could come up with, they are not great but ok. Unexperienced as I am with night and long exposure photography, I didn’t have a lot of time to get results, because this town had only firework ammunition for 10 or 15 minutes, and in the city you could try your luck for several hours until the morning. So, I stressed myself and shot several photos with different settings. As said, only the two in this post turned out ok, and I deleted all my other photos.

Here is what I learned: I was surprised, fireworks are bright, and you will end up with an extremely overexposed photo if you use a longer shutter speeds to get those light trails on the photo. Thus, I learned that ISO 100 is absolutely enough. I tried all kind of shutter speeds, such as 30 seconds, 15 seconds and 10 seconds. I was happy with 15 seconds shutter speed, and I noticed that the smallest aperture was needed. These or similar settings resulted in the two images of this posts. Now that sounds easy, but it really wasn’t, I think you need to re-adjust your settings all the time and it really depends on all kind of factors. Changing the focal length, will also change the aperture, which means you have to adjust the shutter speed too, in other words, it is trial and error.

I think you could get a lot of experience if the people would shoot fireworks into the heaven for several hours, that’s why I said it’s more difficult in a small town where the show is already over after 15 minutes or so. I think it’ll be more interesting next year when I celebrate new year in the city again. Something I should have mentioned before the other things is that focussing is not too difficult. You need to set your lens to infinite focus, I heard some lenses have an inscription, my lens doesn’t, but then you just have to point your camera at something bright far away so that you can pre-focus, and after that you can point your camera to the heaven and you are perfectly focused on the fireworks. The only difficulty is as said that you need to guess where the next fireworks will be, but that is as mentioned only difficult in a small town, but not in a city where you will see fireworks every few seconds in all directions.

I am a little bit sad that I could only get two photos, but I might have more luck in the city next year, and apart from that I might also have more experience at that point. Photography is learning by doing, and you build up experience in steps, sometimes in small steps, but every step is important, that’s why I am happy that I did at least try my luck. Happy New Year!

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10 Comments »

  1. Dear Dennis, they are so nice fireworks photographs, I loved the result too. This should be a wonderful experience too. I always miss them, and I don’t know when it will be, so always I am being in panic when I hear the fireworks. Thank you, Happy New Year 🙂 Love, nia

    • In the small town here it was a very short experience, but in the bigger cities you could enjoy these fireworks for several hours…but it was still fun here too.

  2. I like these photos especially the second one. I think it is an extremely difficult subject to attempt. I watched the fireworks display over Sydney Harbour on television. That was wonderful but lasted about twenty minutes. I can’t recall if I have ever seen a display that has lasted longer than that. Maybe there will be some events during summer which will feature fireworks so you won’t have to wait till next New Year.

    • Yes, there are several factors that make it very difficult, but it’s still fun to learn and to experiment. When you say you can’t remember if you have seen anything taking longer than 20 mins, I do wonder if the citizens can purchase fireworks in Australia? I ask because in Lübeck you would see fireworks non-stop until 4 am, citizens shoot that much into the heaven until they have no more rockets or firecrackers… a friend of me who is from Hamburg, she said the firework ammunition of the citizen lasted until 6 am today. In the medium or big citites those fireworks can take hours, but the frequency gets slower and slower with the hours until it stops, it’s spectacular and beautiful, but probably at the same time also a real desaster for nature and animals. While long lasting fireworks are extremely beautiful, I do still think there should be a time limit, to protect nature and animals. Yes you are right, I will have another chance in the year, there are some special firework festivals in summer, for example on the coast in Travemünde, these are planned events where festival will create a firework, not the citizens… so, I will try my luck with the camera in the year too 🙂

      • I was thinking of public displays of fireworks but private displays are allowed with a permit in Tasmania. I think it varies from state to state as I can certainly remember the private purchase of fireworks being banned in South Australia where I grew up. I think what makes it different here is that while some families do have their own dispaly our cities and towns are not so densely populated so you don’t see constant explosions in the skies from private displays rather a few random rockets so the public ones offer a better opportunity for pictures really. In summer there is a very real risk of bushfires too although I think the reason some states banned them for private use was because of the injuries to inexperienced users. I love fireworks but they are not good for pets or wildlife so perhaps this way is better for us.

        • Thanks for explaining. That makes sense to me now, I think our cities are quite densely populated and that could indeed make a big difference then. But public displays are still more beautiful, because they are created by firework specialists and not citizens. I saw the Australian bushfires often in the news, so I would feel very concerned about this too and would understand limitations. The risk is very low here, it’s usually very cold at this time of the year, except for this year, but of course still very different to Australia 😉 The risk for injuries is of course the same here, I saw a lot of ambulances driving through the streets yesterday, even in this small town here. Yes, fireworks are beautiful, but I can not think about this without thinking about pets and wildlife, it’s too much here.

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