How To Photograph New Year’s Eve Fireworks!

Going to ring in 2017 with a bang and want to photograph the awesome New Year’s firework display?  Here’s how!


STAY WARM!

If you are in a colder climate, staying warm is very important.  So dress appropriately for the weather.  You will want gloves that flip so your fingers have access to the camera controls.
Make sure your batteries are fully charged, bring an extra one and keep it in your pocket to stay warm.

SETTING UP
#1 most important step! USE A TRIPOD!

I can’t stress that enough. If you don’t have a tripod, find something you can steady the camera on, or you will not get any sharp images.

Choose a good vantage point to take photographs from is also important.  Try to find an area that has as little ambient light as possible (street lights, businesses, etc) so you don’t get light leaking into the lens.

In Saint John, there are a few options. I’m going to assume they are launching from market square, but it might also be from long wharf. If you want to get the Harbour Bridge in the frame, go by the Harbour Passage interpretation centre/gazebo thing near the base of Bentley Street and Chesley Drive. However, I’ve found this from vantage point, the Bridge does cut through the fireworks depending on how high in the sky they are. If you want just the fireworks with the boardwalk in them, head to under the harbour bridge at HMCS Brunswicker. From atop Fort Howe, you will get good shots of the fireworks with the west side of the port in there. Another high vantage point that would get the boardwalk would be atop Martello Tower on the West Side.
For those in Fredericton, you have two options. Down by the lighthouse, you get a nice angle where you can get the Westmoreland Street Bridge in the background(as below), or you can go across to the North Side and get the Downtown in the background!

LENS
-most of your shots will be with your 18-55/18-70mm lenses, more likely at 55mm or 70mm. That way you can zoom in a bit on the fireworks. You can use your 70-300 if you want to zoom in on the bursts or try some creative techniques!

FIREWORKS2007019

FIREWORKS2007018




MORE TIPS BELOW!

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CAMERA SETTINGS
-for ISO, you can use 100 as the fireworks are very bright, up to 400 if you like. If you are using a point and shoot style camera, not an SLR, i would recommend the lowest ISO possible(50-100)
-for WHITE BALANCE, try DAYLIGHT(SUN icon) if you want a warmer tone, or use INCANDESCENT/TUNGSTEN(little bulb icon) to get truer colours. FLOURESCENT BALANCE(long glowing tube) gives a bit in between. See example image below with the various whitebalances. If you shoot in RAW, you can always change this later.

fireworkswhitebalance_1

-use manual focus. as the camera won’t be able to lock the focus on the fireworks. Let one firework go up and focus on that, then don’t change your focus. If you don’t have a manual focus, lock the autofocus on the buildings in the background.

GETTING THE RIGHT EXPOSURE
-Use manual shooting mode(M), as the more automatic modes won’t be able to get the exposure right.
-for exposure, start by setting your aperture/F-Stop to F16 if using ISO 400, F11 for ISO 100. (if you are using a point and shoot camera, you may not be able to go to F11, go to F8) If the fireworks are too bright, select a higher aperture number to darken things down.
-for shutter speed, it all depends on how many bursts you want to capture. Choose a speed between 1-2 seconds to record a single burst, up to thirty seconds for multiple bursts. Also, the longer the shutter speed, the more ambient exposure will be recorded, so if you want the cityscape or crowd, longer speeds will do it.

5 seconds recorded two bursts
5 seconds recorded two bursts

 

30 Seconds recorded some of the crowd along with the bridge, and the fireworks.
30 Seconds recorded some of the crowd along with the bridge, and the fireworks.

However, using a shutter speed over thirty seconds usually results in too much ambient light from the city scape or surroundings recorded. It can also being to record smoke or haze in the sky from the fireworks.

FIREWORKSQUEENMARY04
Over thirty seconds began to record the haze in the sky and wash out the fireworks.

-Use your remote control or cable release! This will help prevent camera shake that can happen even when you are on the tripod, and when your hands are shaking because it most likely will be cold where you are at.

GETTING CREATIVE

Once you’ve gotten a few good shots, you could try throwing on your telephoto zoom and try doing some shots where you zoom the lens during the exposure (below) or jiggling and rotating the camera.

FIREWORKS-ZOOM

And if you are going to be heading out to some parties, check out my post on getting great photos at those too!

If you have any questions, send me an email.
Hope you have a great start to 2017!

Noel Chenier
———-
Photographer and teacher
Connect with Noel on INSTAGRAM or TWITTER or via EMAIL 
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1 Comment

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  1. Wonderful photos! Thanks for sharing this great post of instructions, can't wait to give this a try…enjoy your day!