Every night for the last two weeks I've heard pops and booms going late into the night. What am I doing up at 2 a.m. on a weeknight? None of your business. But what are people doing setting off FIREWORKS at 2 a.m. on a weeknight? That's the real question!
Fireworks are pretty tough to capture. Consumer cameras have all kinds of settings meant to make it easier, but those never seem to work. Cellphones? Same thing. This Saturday, July 12, will give you one of the last big chances this season to photograph fireworks when the city of Hartford makes their display at Riverfest. Here's a few things I've found to work.
The first thing you want to think about, like anything, is composition. Do you want these fireworks against the stark, black sky? What's in the foreground? What's in the background? Look for something to help them stand out.
Fireworks are bright, move fast, then vanish. With a fast shutter speed you'll freeze the explosion, but may not recreate the vibe of a fireworks display. Too slow of a shutter and the light will streak. Which could be pretty cool, but fireworks also produce clouds of smoke, which you'll notice with a brighter image. Likewise a fireworks finale looks amazing to the human eye, but too slow of a shutter to capture it will just create a blob of light.
This past weekend I had the best success while photographing the "Great American Boom" at Stanley Quarter Park in New Britain for the Hartford Courant. I wanted to capture not only the fireworks, but their illumination on the crown watching them. Shooting at f/2.8, ISO 3200, and 1/15s to 1/40s seemed to be the sweet spot for catching both. At those speed it's highly, highly recommended to use a tripod.