From where I stood in Dundalk I could clearly see not only the local display set off from North Point Government Center, but also Essex’s show to the northeast, as well as the Inner Harbor’s display video production to the west, and that doesn’t even include the dozens of amateur shows going off around me on the baseball fields at Dundalk High School.
With so much firepower exploding in the immediate vicinity it would’ve been crazy not to bring a camera along. I even brought plenty of extra fully-charged batteries, a tripod, and my daughter’s Candy Land board game to use as a lens cover to capture multiple firework bursts in one long exposure (a process I’ll attempt to explain a little later).
I got there early, set everything up, programmed my settings to their appropriate levels, went to take a practice shot and…D’oh!!! “Error: No memory Card.”
How the hell did I forget the memory card? It’s easily the second most important tool needed for digital photography next to the camera itself. I couldn’t even run to a local drug store to pick one up; the show was about to begin. How am I going to practice my fireworks photography now?
Needless to say it was a major disappointment.
All was not lost, however. My awesome sister-in-law just so happens to be a shutter bug herself, and after taking her own pictures that evening she let me borrow her memory card for the remainder of the show.
I was utilizing a few light painting techniques I’d learned about on digital-photography-school.com. I set my shutter to Bulb mode, which basically means the camera begins to let light in when you click the shutter button and does not stop until you hit the shutter button again. In my case, instead of pushing the shutter button on the camera itself I used a wireless remote to avoid camera shake.
Then I started playing with the aperture. I started with f/5.6, but found the light trails were too blurry and too much light was getting into the camera. So I turned it up to f/13 and liked the results much better.
The Candy Land board was used as a substitute lens cover so that I could control the amount of light coming into the camera. For instance, I would press the shutter release button while holding the board in front of the lens so that zero light would get into the camera at first. Once a firework was launched I would remove the board allowing the camera sensor to capture the light of that particular firework. Instead of closing the exposure after each individual firework I would put the board in front of the lens and remove it again to capture multiple fireworks.
I also used a neutral density filter on my lens, which is sort of like sunglasses for your camera. The filter allows less light into the camera which means longer exposures are possible.
This year’s fireworks photography attempt didn’t work as well as I would’ve liked but it definitely gave me some insight for the next time (such as, ‘Remember your damn memory card, dummy!). Plus, I have some really neat shots to add to my portfolio.