Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Manhattan Beach Fireworks

I never photographed fireworks before. I thought it would be a challenge and a nice addition to my portfolio. It definitely was a learning experience and a rewarding one at that. I took many keepers that night and I may never take fireworks photos ever again after this. Since I did such a good job this time, what would be the point? Basically all fireworks look the same.

Manhattan Beach shoots off 20 minutes of fireworks annually the Sunday before Christmas. Tens of thousands of people make the pilgrimage to view the spectacular and it is a sight to see. They shot them from the pier and setting up to take good shots was a cinch. I chose south of the pier because the westerly winds off the Pacific would blow the fireworks smoke away from my shots.

I packed my bag with my new Nikon D300 with the 18-200mm lens attached. I made sure I packed away my cable release cord. Without it, I would not have been able to get sharp pictures. Lastly, I stowed away my Gitzo 1228 tripod and Really Right Stuff BH-55 ballhead.

About a quarter a mile away from the pier, I set up my tripod and camera in the dark. I set the camera to the Bulb setting so that I could control my shutter speed. Setup was complete just minutes before the first fireworks filled the sky.

Having researched a few web sites on photographing fireworks, I settled on the suggestion to press the cable release just as the firework shot up towards the sky. I continued to hold it until the explosion took place and the last ambers burned out.

The great thing about digital cameras is its immediate feedback. Imagine doing this with film for the first time. There is no instant learning from your mistakes. It would take time to take the film to be developed and view the results. With digital, I just look at each shot and learned.

Sometimes I missed the entire firework because my aim was off. I made the adjustments necessary and shot again. After a few shots, I decided to take quick shots instead of holding the shutter open for a few seconds. Both look nice so I suggest doing both. Take some shots with quick shutter speeds and a few with long shutter speeds (1 to several seconds).

Nikon D300, Nikkor 18-200mm lens, Gitzo 1228 tripod, Really Right Stuff BH-55 Ballhead and Lexar UDMA CF Card

No comments: