photographing the 4th of July fireworks display, New York
Braving the crowds (and insane traffic) in Hoboken tonight, I had a good view of magnificent 4th of July fireworks display on the Hudson River. From this viewpoint, Manhattan is to my right, and barely visible on the edge of the frame. I wanted to include the reflections in the water as well, since the surreal blend of colors helped anchor the intricate fireworks. The photography technique was simple enough – a slow shutter speed, a low ISO … and a tripod and remote release for the camera.
Camera settings for the image above: 1/2 second @ f5.6 @ 200 ISO
but I felt that for this image and several others, the streaks of light became too much. Too ‘messy’ and with less visual impact. So for the rest of the night, I changed my camera settings to:
1/4 second @ f5.6 @ 400 ISO
White Balance for all images: Daylight. Not all images worked since the brightness of the fireworks display varied a lot! But this is where shooting a large number of images, and then picking the best afterwards, really is the best method to ensure some successful images.
I was fascinated afterwards when the display had ended, by the pall of fireworks smoke shifting over Manhattan.
camera settings: 2 seconds @ f4 @ 400 ISO; Incandescent WB
As mentioned, the technique is simplicity itself. You do need a tripod to stabilize the camera, and then the camera should be fired with a remote release (or a cable release) so that the camera doesn’t move even slightly during the exposure.
The technique extends further than this though. While I like these images, for they capture some of the magnificence of the display, what is lacking is the context – Manhattan. The classic shots of the 4th of July fireworks display, usually shows some New York landmark in the image, such as one of the easily recognized bridges. Or, the images show Manhattan’s colored lights in the background.
For this, I was in completely the wrong place – Hoboken. Far too low down on the Hudson to get the necessary perspective against the Manhattan skyline. Weehawken would most likely have been a better choice here. Well, there is always 2012.
related article: flash photography and fireworks
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