Fireworks Tips: at Home and Abroad

Most people find watching fireworks enjoyable. We join hordes of crowds to see them but trying to photograph them while carrying around and attempting to use a tripod, gorilla pod or monopod becomes more than problematic.

Lets say people are actually observing and respecting a bit of personal space. The normal thing to do in those situations is to have lawn chairs or a blanket to sit on and relax a little. Now lets say that you pull out that tall aluminum tripod. The people behind you are no longer your friends. So you try the gorillapod, except now there's a couple in chairs in front of you and they are completely blocking your shot. Should you ask them if you can gorillapod the top of their chair or one of their shoulders? You get the point. How about that tree over there? It has some nice branches you could affix the gorilla pod to, but alas, the leaves are covering up the fireworks.

Now lets say that everyone is standing next to you and you're feeling bit by bit that personal space is not observed in this situation. If you are lucky enough to be in front of everyone else and have a barricade that's heavy enough that you can affix your gorillapod to without getting lots of vibrations from the barricade, you are one heck of a lucky and envied person. Most likely, you're behind bunches of people and you're just hoping to get a shot in between a sea of heads. Using a string monopod is pretty much a near death experience for your camera when people are jostling you about; the last thing you want is to encourage your camera downward as you lose your balance. If you have a tall tripod, you can try leaving down just one leg and hope to get a good angle without tripping those around you. If you don't have a tripod with you or can't get a good angle from your tripod, right now you and your camera are in a battle against the crowd and the odds are not in your favor. This was the circumstance I was in when I took this shot after the Magic Kingdom's Lights Spectacular Parade. 

Your best tripod when photographing fireworks in a crowd is your body.

Here's how you can tripod your camera using your body: With your secondary hand, firmly hold with your whole hand your camera lens and push that same arm into your side or across your chest. If you have a large sturdy object you can lean against, go for it. Remember proper breathing technique while shooting, especially at the slow shutter speeds you'll be shooting at because it will serve you well. You should keep your legs slightly bent and in line with your hips to help keep your balance and remain vertical amidst the jostling and hope for the sea of heads to separate at some point so you can get a good shot.

Fireworks Over Chesapeake Bay, Photograph, Pasadena, Maryland (Copyright Angela Ferguson Photography)Independence Day fireworks at my in-law's back yard.

Now we're moving on to settings. Start out in Manual mode on a medium aperture and using ISO 400 which will allow the fireworks to retain their colors. Using these settings, you're also getting a slow enough shutter speed to capture the fireworks appearing more robust. You may even be surprised at how "fast" your slow shutter speed is! Meter on one of the fireworks to get your shutter speed, then you'll be ready for the perfect shot.