Hursley fireworks

Hursley Fireworks 2006 - 1

Each year, the IBM Hursley Club puts on a fireworks display with the aim of collecting some money for charity. For various reasons, not least of which is being put off by stories of the traffic afterwards, I’ve never been. However this year the new camera meant I was looking forward to trying to capture some pictures.

My only previous attempt at fireworks photos was about fifteen years ago whilst at school. That was with a film SLR and based on the fact that I don’t have any of the photos I guess it didn’t go too well. This time around I was determined to get some good shots, so came well prepared.

Having brushed up on the best methods via some googling and flickr browsing, I settled on going for manual mode at ISO 100 with an aperture of f11 and manual focus to just off infinity. Shutter was set to bulb and of course the tripod and remote shutter release would be essential. The last piece of kit I took along was a simple piece of black card to allow for multiple exposures.

From what I’d read, the making of a good firework shot is to provide some context, mainly by the inclusion of some foreground interest. Single explosions in an otherwise black sky get a little samey. After dismissing any plan to get a shot of Hursley House into frame, I settled on a central location to get the crowd to act as my foreground. This was ok, but two floodlights proved a little troublesome and I soon moved over to the right to where the only problem turned out to be that I was shooting into a full moon which of course is blown out by the long exposure times.

I started out with the 50mm prime lens, knowing full well that it probably wouldn’t be wide enough, but I wanted to try and capture some nice close shots. This meant a lot of trial and error as I failed to get the fireworks into the frame, but a few of them did come out well. I soon stuck the 18-55mm kit lens on and relaxed a bit as my odds of capturing the fireworks went up. The multiple exposure trick helped here. The method being to take a long exposure on bulb, covering the lens (without touching) between fireworks. As long as the explosions don’t overlay each other too much it works well.

The only problem during the display was the failure of the remote shutter release after about 15 minutes. I had to resort to a 10 second exposure time and use of the card if I wanted anything shorter. This just goes to prove that £3.99 bargains on eBay are definitely not as good as they seem. I think I’ll be buying the official Canon one next!

All in all I took about sixty exposures over the 20 minute display, and 17 of them have come out reasonably well which I’m chuffed about. I’ve only had to crop a few which is pleasing (but my framing was still more luck than judgement!) You can view a slideshow of the results here. Naturally there were plenty of other photographers about and there are a load of good shots on flickr.

4 thoughts on “Hursley fireworks

  1. “The method being to take a long exposure on bulb, covering the lens (without touching) between fireworks. “

    Nice, I actually hadn’t thought of that, despite using it all the time when I used to take astro shots. There are two drawbacks doing this with digital though – noise and battery life.
    Noise is pretty much linear with exposure time, so the longer the exposure, the more noise, even if you’re just shooting a black piece of card. You could use the built in dark field subtraction but that means you can’t shoot again for as long as the previous exposure.
    Once you get a good set of tools for post processing so you can do image arithmetic you can get around the noise issue. The noise is mostly random, so combining multiple shorter exposures averages it out somewhat and you get much smoother blacks.

  2. I had a glance over your Flickr shots, and some of the others, and they look good. I was at a different display on Friday or I would have joined in the fun. You did well.

    Incidentally I bought the official remote release from Warehouse Express and it works well (although I have only used it a few times, if I’m honest!).

  3. I have the official canon remote for my 20D, which I got in the small camera shop in Winchester on Jewry St (?) for 40 quid. It always feels pretty solid, and I have now used it thousands of times without an issue. If you’re doing any kind of long or multiple exposure the release is going to save you a lot of effort in post.
    At the time I thought 40 quid was a rip-off but having used it so much I’d say it’s getting better value by the day.

  4. Pingback: David Currie » Blog Archive » Hursley fireworks

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