Fabulous Photo Fourth!


What can be better than watching fireworks on the Fourth of July? In our master-planned community, we’ve enjoyed going to our sports complex to view the rockets bursting in air almost every year, and this year’s show was no different.


Sidebar: Well, it was a little bit different this year. One of the best parts of watching fireworks is seeing the looks on my sons’ faces as they ooh and aaah. However, this time the boys quickly ditched us, and we were on our own to watch with our friend Karen E., whose two sons also had dumped her.


Like most photographers, I’ve taken my share of fireworks pix. Usually, I just wing it, preferring to point either my film SLR (back in the day), digital SLR, or point and shoot camera up to the sky and push the shutter button when I feel the time is right. Definitely a hit-or-miss operation, much more miss than hit.

Flowers in the sky!

Flowers in the sky!

But this time I decided to finally get serious and do a better job at capturing the glory of fireworks. I did online research to determine some guidelines, and then headed to the sports complex with my Nikon D300, Nikon 17-55mm lens, and a tripod. For a change, I set everything on manual: I focused to infinity, set my aperture at f/16 (no bokeh necessary in this situation), and switched the shutter speed to “bulb.” When you use the bulb setting, you push the shutter down and hold it until you think you’ve captured enough of the fireworks burst, and then release. Experts opined that anywhere from one to four seconds should do the trick. For me, three seconds was the sweet spot for getting the best fireworks photos.


The trickiest part was trying to capture both the ground fireworks at the same time as those in the air. It was hard to have both in focus; I only was successful once, but I like the way it turned out.

Fireworks above and below

Fireworks above and below

It helped that it was a clear night. Even the breeze came out to blow the mosquitos away.

"Palm trees" swaying in the air

"Palm trees" swaying in the air

I had read about trying to achieve the “palm tree” effect—getting the rockets’ trails and the bursts in the same photo. Thanks to good timing and luck, I scored big time!

Finale time!

Finale time!

The best part of any fireworks show, of course, is the finale. The patriotic music builds, and the pyrotechnic crew shoots lots of pretty colors into the night sky. Definitely time for the rockets’ red glare . . .

Part of the finale

Part of the finale

. . . and the bombs bursting in air! I had fun looking at the fireworks show through my lens and documenting the event. Can’t wait to try to improve next year on hopefully another fabulous photo Fourth!

7 responses to “Fabulous Photo Fourth!

  1. I love the fireworks photos!

  2. Susan- lovely shots. I particularly like the sense of motion I get in all of these pics! 🙂

    • Thanks! I checked out your blog and LOVED your abstract fireworks photos!! I’m going to try your technique next time and see what I come up with.

  3. 🙂 Sounds good! Let’s keep in touch!

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