Saturday, July 05, 2008

Independence Day 2008

We started the day out on the lake fishing with Dad. It was about a 45 minute drive to lake Merwin, and we were there early enough that we didn't have to deal with the huge influx of people who were sure to come later in the day. The water was calm, the clouds somewhat ominous, but the lake was as beautiful as ever, with its densely wooded shores, sheer cliffs (with houses perched on top, I might add...) and morning fog scooting across the hills. Everyone piled in to the boat and we cruised out to our favorite spot, a few hundred feet off shore. Unfortunately the fish weren't biting readily, and after Katrina caught a nice one, there wasn't much more action, so we cruised around the lake for a while before heading home (I got to drive the boat!).

We discovered this little cove with a waterfall tumbling down into the lake. There was even a rope swing! Now if we could have just taken the whole thing home with us...

Later that evening, of course, there were fireworks. A friend from church invited us to his house where one of his neighbors was going to put on a show--it was fantastic, especially since their house has a clear view of the surrounding sky, we were watching mortars burst into showers of multi-colored sparks all around us.

This is my favorite shot from the show. (SCROLL DOWN for more images) I meant to post some tips on firework photography (not entirely my own, from another person's article) before the 4th, but, characteristic of the absentminded photographer, I forgot. Here are a few things I learned.

-Adjust your ISO setting to 100 or less since allowing the extra sensitivity of high ISO speeds will make it difficult to keep the sky black.

-At ISO 100, an aperture setting between f8 and f11 is optimal (I chose f8).

-If possible set your camera to Manual mode, leave the aperture at the desired setting and decrease shutter speed until you reach BULB mode--this gives you complete control over the length of the exposure for each individual shot--the camera exposes for as long as you depress the shutter.

-USE A TRIPOD! You need the stability in order to achieve sharp photos at slow shutter speeds. I used a ballhead on mine for easy adjustments, and sat under it so I could still use the viewfinder when the camera was pointing straight up.

-Get a sense of the general direction and altitude of the fireworks before you start shooting, especially the mortars, but be prepared the unpredictable (is that possible?). I just kept my eye on the pyros with gas torches to see when they lit a group of mortars, then followed the tracers through my viewfinder, depressing the shutter just before they exploded. If you try to take a shot after the mortar has exploded you may capture some sparks, but you won't get that central burst of white which occurs the moment the mortars blows.

-Don't use really long exposures if you want to capture much color. I suppose it depends on how dark it is, but I found that I could achieve the best color by focusing on one or two mortars at a time, and leaving the shutter open only a few seconds.

-Your LCD display will give you valuable feedback so don't neglect to check your images during a lull in the show.

-When you get that stunning image, try not to get carried away and dance right into a giant mortar tube... :)

Here is a great article on the subject.


Anonymous said...

Enjoyed this whole post! you got so many good shots, Benj - wow!! I like 'em all, but your favorite one is amazing.

Jacqueline said...

Great Pictures! we watched fireworks being shot across the bay, but were too far to get good pictures of, we'll have to get a zoom lens before next year:)