a) Composition – Another reason to arrive early is to do test shots and see if the compositions for the base shot will be good. I will usually shoot for sunset, blue hour and night. Example as shown below:
When you are setting your composition, rmb to factor in the space for the full burst of the fireworks. There are people who like blue hour shots and some who will like night sky shots. Personally, I will use night sky shots that I show above because it will bring out the bright colors of the fireworks in the best and brightest manner. A simple analogy would be when you shine a light in the dark and or when you shine it in a slightly brighter environment, which one will be brighter and defined? Definitely the one the one in the dark.
One reason for using blue hour is that it is easier to remove the smoke but as you can see in my dark sky one, it is nearly smokeless. I will teach the steps to achieve such a shot later in part 3 of the guide.
F-stop: f8 or f11
Why the OR? It depends on the distance that you are shooting from and the effect you would like to accomplish. After shooting fireworks for the past month, I notice that different apertures somehow affects not only the brightness but also the thickness of the lines of the fireworks.
Lets say, you would like to achieve the thick fireworks burst effect then you would set your F-stop to f8. Let’s say you would like thinner define lines, you would set your F-stop to f11.
Distance that you are shooting from is based upon your location selection. For eg, you choose to shoot from the Merlion, the firing point for the fireworks is right in front of you and is very near. So, I would recommend shooting at f11. Whereas you are firing from Promenade that is much further away, I would recommend firing at f8 so that the fireworks can be much clearer and defined.
Shutter speed: 1s-3.5s
The range of shutter speed is dependent on the type of fireworks that is being released into the sky. I notice that there are generally 2 types of fireworks, one that is bursting for really long and one that is the standard short burst. This is the reason why I don’t recommend using a remote, because I can immediately fine tune my adjustments. To tell you the truth, such a short exposure of seconds and using of remote does not significantly increase your stability. In short, I find it pointless and redundant.
If it is bursting very long, the fireworks will be overexposed so there is a need to use 1s to shorten the shutter and underexpose it to the right exposure. So I would recommend using 1s.
If it is the standard burst, just use 2.5s. However, you will need to time the pressing of your shutter. I will try to explain the logic of using 2.5s…from firing point to full burst, it takes about 2.5-3.5s. Now the next question would be, how do I time it such that I can capture the full burst. This requires a lot of skill. Two things that I notice and use as a guide during the shoot is the sound and the lighting up of the firing platform (see below for the location of the firing platform). You will have to listen carefully for the really loud “Boom” amidst the noise and the moment you hear it, you press your shutter. Otherwise, you look at the platform, you will see the platform with small ignitions of light, and when you see it, you press your shutter. Personally, when you are at the location that I posted, you can use the sight technique to guide your shots. And if you are shooting at other locations further away, you can use the sound technique to guide your shots.
ISO: 100 (no explanation required as this would reduce the noise in your shots)
c) Small adjustments – Estimations of the height of the burst can be wrong so there is a need for you to standby during the first to shot to change your composition. So my free hand is usually near my the knobs to quickly adjust the height of my shot if required.
After you capture the first fire of the fireworks, quickly take a preview of the shot and see if your exposure and height is correct.
Estimations of exposure can be wrong as there are many different burst so there is a need to base on your instincts to quickly adjust the shutter speed/aperture accordingly. This is purely experience and your understanding of light. I have tried my best to provide some simple rules to it…so good luck.
Coming up will be part 3 of the guide…