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Fireworks Photography Fundamental 4 -- A Solid Platform.

Regardless of your camera, once you've worked out the shutter speed/aperture/ISO combination, the key to success is a solid platform to hold the camera motionless during the time the

shutter is open. This is pretty much a requirement for all time-exposures or shutter speeds slower than 1/30 of a second. Obviously, the best platform of all is a tripod. It provides a solid,

easy-to-carry base on which to hold the camera motionless during the exposure. It also allows you to easily position the camera at the proper elevation. All DSLRs and almost all

point-and-shoots have a threaded opening on the bottom that permits you to attach the camera to a tripod.

A tripod is just the beginning. You also want the camera to be as vibrationless as possible during the time-exposure. Since pressing the shutter button can cause the camera to vibrate, you

can avoid this by also using a cable release. The cable release enables you to press the shutter button without touching the camera directly. Result: It helps minimize camera shake.

Advanced Hint: For the ultimate in steadiness, on some professional DSLRs you can lock the mirror in an up position. Why do this for fireworks photos? Because when you take a normal

picture with an DSLR, the mirror snaps up during the moment of exposure, then snaps back so you can set up the next shot in the viewfinder. When the mirror snaps up, it causes the

camera to vibrate for a moment. While this vibration is usually tiny, if you're a purist and want the steadiest possible time-exposure, you can eliminate this vibration totally by locking the

mirror in its "up" position. Of course, you can't frame the next shot in the viewfinder if the mirror is locked up. But this may not be so big a problem as it seems. After all, typically,

fireworks appear in only one specific segment of the sky, so once you've aimed your camera-on-tripod in that direction and framed the shooting area, you can lock the mirror up unless

you have to reframe for different shots.

Back to basics:If you don't have a tripod handy (or you're using a camera that doesn't have a tripod thread), don't give up. Try placing your camera on a makeshift solid platform, such as a

fence post, a railing, or a wall. None of them is as steady or convenient as a tripod, but they're infinitely better than hand-holding.

A word of warning: If, by any chance, you are on a rocking boat when trying to capture fireworks photos, your tripod or the ship's rail or whatever you use as a "platform" will rock along

with the boat. Result: In your time-exposure the firework color-streaks will come out rocking and wavy instead of straight. This may be interesting modern art - though we doubt it! - but

it's definitely not good firework photography. It won't look right! Our advice: If you are on a rocking boat, don't bother to photograph the fireworks. It's a waste of time.

Fireworks Photography Fundamental 5 -- Composition

Which way should you hold the camera? Typically, you'll be better off with a vertical format rather than horizontal. After all, the trail of a skyrocket is usually upward and not very wide.

However, a final decision about the frame you use will also depend on the size of the crowd viewing the event, your position in that crowd, and the number of spots from which the

fireworks will be deployed. For example, in New York City, Macy's Department Store has sponsored the Fourth of July fireworks display. The shells are launched from a string of barges in

either the East River or Hudson River that's almost a mile long. That means you might be able to fill a horizontal frame with six or more bursts at one time, so it would probably be a better

choice than a vertical one.

Position yourself wisely.

Take a little time before the show to scout the location. If it's a smaller show, you may be able to chat with the pyrotechnic crew beforehand. To get the best fireworks photos with a digital

camera, point-and-shoot or DSLR, try to determine where the fireworks will be launched and then try to find a clear, unobstructed view that meets your compositional requirements

based on the terrain, the height at which the fireworks will explode, and your lens choices. You don't want to be in the middle of a crowd, with people wandering in front of the camera, or

worse, bumping into your tripod mid-exposure. Steer clear of artificial light sources such as streetlights to avoid the possibility of light flare. Watch out for tree branches that can sneak

into your composition too.

Focal Length.

What focal-length should you use? If you're close to the display, and if you have a choice, go for a "normal" or slightly wide-angle lens. Since your position relative to the rocket bursts will

determine the exact focal length, use this as your guide: You want the frame of your image to extend so that it includes a good bit of the foreground in the bottom (more on this in a

moment) and a "head-room" above the topmost firework trails. Chances are you'll need at least your normal and possibly a wide-angle setting for this. If, on the other hand, it's a

world-class display that draws a "world-class" crowd, you may be further away from this display and need to use a longer focal length.

Foreground Subjects with Fireworks

Now, there's an additional step to consider that can take your fireworks photos out of the ordinary and make them extra-special. The burst of a skyrocket, by itself, is pretty. But it's not

particularly interesting. What can you do to add interest? Try this: Don't just shoot the burst by itself, but shoot it in conjunction with something else. For example, look how much more

interesting this picture is because the paths of fireworks are incidental to this picture of the Capitol Building. Since you may not have the Capitol in your area -- or even its equivalent --

what can you use to add similar interest?

Consider including a statue in the foreground, with the fireworks framing it. Or silhouettes of the onlookers to give a sense of location to your picture. Or a tree, a building, a bridge, a

skyline. fill in the blanks. The important thing is that your image include some interesting foreground objects -- perhaps, framed within the fireworks display.

Fireworks Photography Fundamental 6 -- Use the highest Quality-setting.

By choosing a high Quality-setting you will reduce the amount of compression applied to your images. JPEG compression degrades image quality and can even introduce artifacts into

your image. This is a particular problem for this subject matter because compression artifacts are typically found in areas of high tonal and color contrast, like the bright colored light of

fireworks bursting against an inky black sky. Less compression means fewer image artifacts and ultimately better image quality. Unless you have a top-of-the-line pro DSLR, don't expect

to be able to take photos of fireworks with a digital camera in RAW. Your camera will likely take too much time to write the image to the card and you'll miss getting some pictures. For More Info visit :

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