Perpetual photography student here.
My first opportunity to photograph fireworks came yesterday along with Canada’s 148th birthday. Given the fact it was thunderstorms all day, it never occurred to me to partake, but then the skies miraculously cleared. I initially thought to go to a small local town and see what extravaganza they could produce, then read that the City of Kingston (Canada’s first capital city), was doing a “PanAm Games Themed” fireworks display near Fort Henry on the shore of Lake Ontario. Hmmm… was the extra effort worth the risk that I might come away with virtually nothing of quality on disk? Well, I reasoned that if I did manage to get a decent shot or 2, better it be of a true extravaganza. So I figured it would be worth the 45 minute drive, and staying up long past my bedtime to try my hand for the very first time, at fireworks photography. After all, these opportunities don’t come along every day.
(I call this one “Birth of a Star”)
I arrived an hour and 15 minutes before the event was to start and found myself a nice high vantage on a steep hill with an iron fence behind me to lean on. Another photographer set up to my immediate right and then promptly moved away when a family of many children showed up on my immediate left, armed with sparklers, glow sticks, blankets, tarps, chairs and an endless supply of insecticide. Which they liberally sprayed onto each other directly, and indirectly, my camera lens and into my eyes. I was grateful to the patriarch of the group for cheerfully pointing me to the exact source of the distant fireworks, but in the same minute gave me pause, when he mistook Jupiter and Venus as “either planes or satellites”. As the sun set, I listened to the gun and canon fire coming from the parade square behind me, as the Fort presented their usual summer sunset ceremony.
I set my camera up as I had been instructed on various tutorials I studied beforehand. I used an 18-24mm wide angle lens set to infinity, set my ISO at 100, and my aperture at 5.6. To reduce camera shake, a tripod and remote shutter release, which still didn’t completely solve the high winds that were blowing and surely, giving some vibration to the camera – well that and me giggling. For the first time, I had my camera set on bulb mode so I could control the length of exposure. You click once to start the exposure and once to end it. At least I think that’s how it works. There were several moments of “Did I just click it on or off? Is it working? Where am I?” Working a camera in the dark is challenging, and working that bulb thingamajigger made it all the more amusing. However, having the remote shutter release, and the camera not needing any adjustments, I was able to watch the show and (almost) mindlessly push a button while I was doing it.
The whole show took about 12 minutes. So let me see – 45 minutes to get there, 1.5 hours waiting for the show to begin, 12 minutes of fireworks, and an hour to get out of the parking lot. Elbow to elbow crowds with tired children emitting poisonous gasses. Damp ground and a cool wind.
Totally worth it.