How do you photograph an explosion? Well, when it comes to a fireworks show, it takes plenty of planning and anticipation of what you will need. Despite the fact that a fireworks display is a preplanned event, that spectacular moment when the fireworks explode in the sky is still a split second when everything has to work right for you to get the perfect photograph.
Now obviously, there are some equipment issues that have to be prepared to have your camera not only set up and ready but at the proper settings to capture that moment when all glory cuts loose in the sky. So from an equipment standpoint.
. A tripod. The activity of the fireworks is so dramatic that unless you stabilize your camera, the shot will be blurred and unacceptable to you and to whomever you may wish to sell it to. The tripod should be easily transportable and adjustable so you can make adjustments on the fly.
. A shutter release that functions externally.
. Equipment to work at night as that is when your subject is going to occur. You can get a head-mounted flashlight at any camping store so you can direct the light at the camera and still have both hands free to handle your equipment.
. A portable chair as there will be some waiting. Anything else that will help you ride out the wait such as food, water, music, etc. should also be part of your preparations.
Because the fireworks explosion is sudden and fast, you need to be able to adjust the shutter speed and have the camera set up to react to manual focus so you can use your eyes and ears to know exactly when to snap that shot.
The key to a great or a series of great fireworks photographs is location. You want a location that has an outstanding vantage point view of the piece of sky where the most action will take place. This means you may need to take a position on a bridge, on top of a building, or on a hill away from the crowds that come to see the show. This is not going to be easy to find so start early. It is not out of line to “scope out” your location days in advance and arrive hours in advance to secure that spot as yours.
Experience is going to be one of your best teachers as to not only the right location but how to set your camera focus and shutter speeds and how to position the view from the secured location so you can capture the rocket at the moment of explosion. So find ways to do some practice shots at other fireworks displays before you set out to do the “keeper” shot. Many times minor league baseball clubs have fireworks shows, and they would happily let you take photographs of the show in exchange for a few free shots. Here you can experiment with your experiment and get your bearings before setting up for a larger show.
Once the show gets underway, anticipate the explosion that you want to capture. Don’t snap the first five minutes of the show but use that time to confirm that you have the right sky location scouted. The best times to capture the shot are right before the explosion which you can time by the sound of the rocket going up and the expected time before eruption.
With some experience you will get your sixth sense about where and when to snap that perfect photo and when you are done, you will have some spectacular shots to include with your portfolio or to display proudly. And this will lead to even more work photographing explosions in the sky.