Fireworks displays can be seen almost anywhere you go in your travels around the world and at almost any time of the year. Capturing a great photo of them presents some challenges no matter what type of camera you use. A lot of Point and Shoot models have an AUTO setting, just for fireworks and they work just fine. If you’re into being creative and want to try shooting Manual Mode, you can have a blast, too. Either way, you’ll need to use a tripod or something to steady the camera if you want sharp pictures.
Try to find a location where you’ll be away from crowds of people and have an unobstructed view of the sky in the direction where the bursts will take place. I usually ask around ahead of time to see if someone can point out the area in the sky they think the explosions happen. Sometimes Mother Nature changes their plans, so be ready to move quickly to another location if the wind changes directions. Have your tripod and camera ready to observe the first few bursts, so you can adjust your focal length from Wide-angle to Medium-zoom and back to get the bursts sized within the picture frame. If you have a choice between 3, 5, 6, 8 or 10 mega pixel photo sizes, go with the largest file size you can and bring along lots of spare memory cards (maybe a flashlight, too). That way you can always crop the photos to smaller sizes later.
Manual shooters will want to use the lowest ISO setting possible and check each shot on the LCD after firing, so adjustments can be made for clarity and color. Long exposure times, from 1-4 seconds give you the best photos. A cable release or a remote for the shutter come in handy, allowing you to stand back and listen for each explosion and watching the sky, snap the picture just at the right time without having to have your eye glued to a viewfinder. This photo was shot at f/11 1/6th of a second ISO 1600, only because I was standing on a rooftop in extreme wind. To avoid camera and tripod shake I had to wrap the camera strap around my camera and steady the lens by hand. Normally, I’d have used ISO 100 or 200 and a much slower shutter speed. Experiment with your camera the next time you run across a fireworks display and find out what works best for you. Happy Shooting!
A wildlife photographer living in Okinawa, Japan, Mike has been featured in Matador Abroad and is published in Apogee Photo Magazine, Boots N all, The Nihon Sun and Photo Guide Japan. He has recently joined the ranks of travel writers, capturing Nature, Festivals, Castles and Cultural shots of the Ryukyu Islands to share with the world.