Yep, I'm Talking Real Fireworks In The Sky
Photographing a fireworks display is always an interesting challenge. You can treat it as an exact science, or you can treat it as an abstract art form. That, in plain terms, is as simple as it gets.
Like a game of Monopoly, you can play the situation strictly by the existing rules, or you can toss the rule book out the window and treat the challenge entirely on your instincts.
So let's start at the beginning. What faces you are some definable factors as well as a couple that defy precise science. Let's begin with the things you can define. You have a vast sky above you. You are in total darkness. You know when the fireworks are scheduled to start. You know you will have an absolute cornucopia of colours.
But - and it's a huge but - there are things you cannot pin down. You do not know where the next rocket, starburst or aerial wheel is going to detonate. You do not know what colour is going to fill the sky next. You do not know what shape it will take. It's a big sky, mate, and the bottom line is that you simply do not know where to point your camera.
And here's another vital element to consider. Even if you are decisive with your camera and you have chosen the best possible speed in the circumstances, even Quickdraw McGraw would be hard-pressed to capture a starburst or a sky-high Catherine wheel at the precise moment it detonates above you.
So do you try and estimate the area of sky where most of the fireworks are detonating and simply concentrate your efforts in that wedge above you? Or do you try and follow each new launch from the ground, track it with your camera and hit the shutter as each explodes in turn?
Then there's the other big question mark. Do you use a tripod? Or should you opt for physical dexterity in view of the fact that a fireworks display is a public event and there are generally thousands of people around you who could a) block your view or b) bump into you and dislodge your carefully balanced tripod while you try and capture the best shots?
There's another factor to consider if you have the option of using a tripod. Quite simply, you are going to be bending over to use the camera for a prolonged period of time. Few tripods extend to the very height of your own eyes, which leads to an interesting clash of physical conditions.
You could be hunched like Quasimodo, with your spine partially parallel to terra firma, while your neck is twisted upwards as you try and get the best view of the sky above.
God created the human spine and neck to co-exist in the same vertical plane. Simple. Unarguable. So why use a tripod, especially if you're as tall as I am and you don't want to see your chiropractor the next morning?
So I chose to be mobile and to be flexible as I shot these scenes at the New Year fireworks display above the Yarra River on Wednesday night. The last time I did this, I used my 18-125 mm lens, which allowed me to get as close as I wanted, while giving me the option of getting an entire skyscape, simply because of the range of the focal plane.
This time I bravely (or foolishly, depending on your point of view) opted to use the 70-300 mm lens instead. I constantly varied my focal length and my focus ring as well. The first few images in this post bring you plenty of sky and a sense of place, but as the display drew to a close, I decided to zoom in fully and try - instinctively - for an overall effect that was "different".
Not an easy challenge, in a wide Australian sky where the fireworks could go anywhere. But I'm certainly pleased with the overall result. If you have time, do let me know what you think.
For other participants in Dot’s concept, go to Sky Watch HQ.