Monday, 9 November 2009

Bonfire night and firework photos

I love bonfire night and the fireworks so this year I made sure I took my camera with me and much to the chagrin of my wife I also snuck my tripod in too.

Much like my moon photos, I've been waiting to try my hand at photographing fireworks for some time however unlike the moon shots I didn't just need to wait for a clear night!

The local bonfire night rolled around so I made sure I was ready for it - it turns out that there is a basic setup and settings that essentially guarantee some nice shots. The rest is lucky timing and (in my case) waiting for the smoke to clear!

A tripod is a must since we're going to be using pretty long exposures and a cable release is useful if you've got one. Other than that, use manual focus nearly at infinity, set the aperture nice and small to allow a huge depth-of-field whilst keeping everything in focus.
I did make one mistake though, I've since been reminded that f/22 is a bit too small to use since it can cause diffraction problems resulting in less-than-sharp images. Knock it down to f/11 or f/16 to be on the safe side.


I used exposures of between 4 and 8 seconds to capture the movement of the fireworks but if you've got a locking button on your shutter release then you can set the camera to Bulb and just expose as long as you like.

Don't worry about opening the shutter earlier than you need to since the sky should be nice and black - you can wait for a firework to go off then let go of the shutter.
One technique, which I decided not to use, is to have a very long exposure (20-30 seconds plus) and to cover the front of the lens with something dark between fireworks so that you can capture multiple explosions.

The rest of my shots from the night are on flickr here.