How I Got the Shot(s): Fireworks Over the Years

Over the years I’ve always tried to make a point of photographing fireworks each year around the fourth of July. I started doing this back in high school. Once you get the hang of it fireworks actually aren’t that difficult to shoot. I usually use a tripod and a long exposure when photographing fireworks. I usually start with my camera settings around ISO 100 f/11 with a 3 second shutter speed and adjust my exposure from there. I also use a tripod if I’m using this exposure. I press the shutter when the firework is lower in the sky and wait for it to explode while the long exposure captures it. I’ve used everything from telephoto lenses to fisheyes when photographing fireworks and will usually change lenses multiple times

 

One of the first firework images I shot that I was happy with was back in 2010 when I was in high school. With some practice it is actually quite easy to get one of these classic simple firework shots. I used a longer lens and with some practice was able to get just that one firework in the frame. This was shot at Bay City during their annual firework display.

Shot using a Nikon D200 with a Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 Lens on a Velbon Metal Tripod. ISO 100 70mm f/11 3 second shutter speed.  

 

Shortly after graduating from the Hallmark Institute of Photography in 2013 I also got to shoot that years fireworks in Mt Pleasant. I partly used these fireworks as an excuse to get used to my new camera at the time: the Nikon D600. I had been using a Canon 5d Mark III when I was a student at the Hallmark Institute of Photography and wanted to make sure I was familiar with the Nikon before shooting a wedding a few days later. This is another traditional firework shot using the same technique described earlier.

Shot using a Nikon D600 with a Sigma 28-70mm f/2.8 Lens on a Feisol Carbon Fiber CT-3371 Tripod with a Kirk B3 Ball Head with a Kirk L bracket. ISO 100 28mm f/11 3 second shutter speed.

 

 

 

 

In 2016 I decided I wanted to experiment with doing some different things with fireworks. I shot several of the standard firework shots early on and then moved on to trying something different. This year I was in the parking lot of the Soaring Eagle Casino with other firework spectators. The cars reflected the explosions as fellow spectators watched the fireworks. I turned my camera to the cars and spectators instead of the fireworks themselves. These lead to some of my favorite firework images to date. I used the same technique I used to shoot the normal fireworks shots but focused on the silhouette of the person instead of the fireworks themselves, and let the background and the foreground get filled with both the fireworks themselves and their reflections.

Shot using a Nikon D600 with a Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8 Lens on a Feisol Carbon Fiber CT-3371 Tripod with a Kirk B3 Ball Head with a Kirk L bracket. ISO I00 200mm f/10 3 second shutter speed.

Shot using a Nikon D600 with a Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8 Lens on a Feisol Carbon Fiber CT-3371 Tripod with a Kirk B3 Ball Head with a Kirk L bracket. ISO I00 200mm f/10 3 second shutter speed.

 

 

In 2017 I got to photograph the Beaverton fireworks with my second shooter Nikki Robinson. Her and I were planning on going to the Midland fireworks but decided last minute to go to Beaverton instead. We went down close to the water so we could get the reflections of the fireworks in the water. Instead of using a long lens like years past I used a fisheye lens (not something I usually own or have in my arsenal) to get both the river and the fireworks in the image. I waited for the man in the boat to sail into the part of the frame I wanted and fired off several images as the firework arose. This ended up being my favorite image from the evening. The addition of the landscape and people into the scene made the image far more interesting than just the plain firework image.

Shot using a Nikon D600 with a Nikon 16mm f/2.8 Fisheye Lens on a Feisol Carbon Fiber CT-3371 Tripod with a Kirk B3 Ball Head with a Kirk L bracket. ISO 1600 16mm f/16 2 second shutter speed.

I hope to photograph more fireworks as the years go by and find more interesting compositions like I did in 2016 and 2017.

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How I Got the Shot(s): The Rainy Weddings and Engagements

When I was a student at the Hallmark Institute of Photography during Phase 1 (similar to the first semester) almost every time we had a shooting assignment outside it would rain. It rained so much my class had a hard time getting used to shooting when it was sunny out. Due to this I am no stranger to getting caught in the rain during a shoot.

Usually when it rains (or looks like it is going to rain) the client will chose to postpone the session (there is no extra charge for this). With some shoots (like weddings) or distant location shooting rescheduling can be difficult or impossible. When I first shot Sean and Melissa’s engagement session at Camp Anna Berens in Greenville, Michigan it was cloudy (making for a beautiful light in the forest) but the rain was holding off. After a few shots closer to our cars we ventured deeper into the woods. Then a torrential downpour started. Luckily they were good sports about it and had fun kissing and running thru the newly formed puddles. My gear is weather sealed so I had no problem continuing to shoot in the rain. The soft light diffused by the rain clouds and feathered by the dense forest made for beautiful light despite the circumstances.

 

Shot using a Nikon D600 with a Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8 Lens. ISO 3200  (higher than I usually like to use but necessary in these lighting conditions) 86mm f/2.8 1/50 of a second (longer than I usually use with this lens hand held but it was dark and still worked because I held the camera steadily).

 

Shot using a Nikon D600 with a Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8 Lens. ISO 3200 80mm f/2.8 1/125 of a second shutter speed.

 

Shot using a Nikon D600 with a Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8 Lens. ISO 3200 120mm f/2.8 1/160 of a second shutter speed.

Two months later Sean and Melissa would get married and have the getting ready and reception at the same place I had photographed them for their engagement session. And just like during the engagement session it rained. We had to make a few minor last minute adjustments (like where to have the group shots) but otherwise the wedding still turned out great despite the showers.

 

Shot using a Nikon D600 with a Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8 Lens. ISO 1250 105mm f/8 1/100 of a second shutter speed. Lit with a Yongnuo Speedlite YN560-II with Westcott Pocketbox 8×12 and triggered with Yongnuo 506N-II Flash Triggers.

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How I Got the Shot: The Cockeyed Nuthatch and His Stardom

When I first got started in photography I photographed primarily nature (part of this was due to my location and the fact that I didn’t have a driver’s license at the time). I still love photographing nature but don’t get the opportunity to as much as I’d like. When I was a student at the Hallmark Institute of Photography my primary focus shifted from nature to portraiture. I now primarily focus on portrait and wedding photography.

Out of all the images I have photographed in my career the above image of this upside down nuthatch has been the most published. This image has been published in The World of Photography Volume 1 (2010), Audubon Magazine January/February 2011, Nature’s Best Photography Spring/Summer 2011, and Photographer’s Forum Best of Photography 2012. The reason for the images popularity is because the nuthatch is upside down. This image wasn’t flipped in post. Nuthatches naturally feed upside down like this.

Here is an excerpt from an article I wrote about the nuthatch for the Nature’s Best Photography Students blog back in 2011.  

“I personally love both bird and wildlife photography. It provides a greater challenge and satisfaction than shooting a non moving subject such as a landscape or macro. Last summer I sat in front of my mom’s bird feeders for hours waiting for the ideal shot. Many of these common birds will lose their bashfulness if you sit near them long enough. After about an hour I had gotten several pleasing images of woodpeckers and the especially sociable chickadees, but I had yet to get a gratifying image of the white breasted nuthatch. These little creatures were far more skittish than their playful peers. Every time I lifted my Nikon D200 with Nikkor AF-S VR 70-300 to my eye all the nuthatches would flutter away in a chaotic frenzy. After about another thirty minutes the beautiful nuthatch returned. I slowly lifted my Nikon to my eye and rattled off a few shots. I happily obtained the nuthatch performing an action unique to its species. Most people think that I rotated this image, but this bird is actually hanging upside down from while it feeds.

Because I caught this bird performing a unique action it has become one of my favorite and most published shots. I shot this image at f/8 which is one of this lens’ sharpest apertures, but it still created a silky smooth bokeh due to the close proximity of the subject. Bokeh is a Japanese term meaning the out of focus part of an image. Wider apertures – like f/2.8, f/4, or f/5.6 – will create creamier or smoother bokeh. Simplicity is the key to creating stunning wildlife images. Too much clutter or lack of a strong subject area and diminish an images appeal. Also remember to focus on the subject’s eyes. When I was new to photography there were several bird images I’d taken which would have been great shots, but the eyes were out of focus and the wings were. A strong sharp subject with a non-distracting background will result in a great wildlife image.”

The original post I wrote for Nature’s Best Photography Students back in 2011 can be found here. I wrote several other articles for this blog but had to quit in 2012 because I experienced problems with the website.

Shot using a Nikon D200 with a Nikon 70-300mm AF-S VR f/4.5-5.6 lens handheld. ISO 500 300mm f/8 1/320 of a second shutter speed.

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How I Got the Shot: The Raccoon That Started it All

A lot of people ask how I got started in photography. So much so that I wrote a few blog posts detailing my journey here. In brief I started doing photoshop contests on the now defunct worth1000.com per the recommendations of a friend for church. My photoshop entries on the site did horrible so I figured I’d give their photography contests a try. I did much better in these and decided to take up photography. I saved up money from mowing lawns (and later photoshoots) to buy various photography equipment.

It was after a trip to the Fred Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids, Michigan that I decided I really wanted to be a photographer for a living. I was walking around with a monster metal tripod, a relic of my dad’s from the 80s which helped me briefly develop some nice biceps in ninth grade that I’ve since lost. Attached was a used and refurbished manual focus only Nikon 70-300mm lens on a Nikon D40. A fellow visitor waved at me to come over near him. A baby raccoon popped his head out of the leaves just long enough for me to focus and dial in a proper exposure. This was the first image I had taken that I was really happy with. After seeing this image I decided this is what I wanted to do for a living.

Shot using a Nikon D40 with a used and refurbished NIkon 70-300mm on a metal Velbon tripod. Metadata has been lost due to a hard drive crash and how I used to manage files in the past.

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How I Got the Shot(s): Taking it to the Street

Very little of what I shoot could be considered street photography, but I have a very high view of those who can do this style of photography well. One of the reasons I don’t shoot more street photography is due to my location. A key part of shooting street photography is being nonchalant and blending in to your surroundings. Since I live in a rural part of Michigan it is difficult to blend into your surroundings with a camera on the street when you and the other person you are photographing are the only ones on the aforementioned street. Larger cities usually suit themselves better for street photography since the photographer can blend into the crowd easier.

 

The above image was shot in Ann Arbor, Michigan during an engagement session. This image is not posed, nor is it even of one of my clients. While I was setting up a light and getting into position I saw this person about to jump from the bridge he was at into the water below. I decided to grab a shot of him in mid air before returning to photographing my clients. I ended up loving the resulting image and it is one of the few images of mine which could be considered street photography. One thing that I especially love about photographer Dan Winter’s street photography is that it stylistically still matches his other non-street work. This image still encapsulates that clean, simple, elegant, timeless style of mine even though it is a genre of photography I seldom do.  

Photographed using a Nikon D600 with a Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8 Lens. ISO 100 80mm f/11 1/125mm of a second shutter speed.

 

As I had mentioned in the first paragraph one of the reasons I don’t shoot more street photography is because of my location. In small towns it’s hard to blend in and get good photographs on the street. The exception to this is when these small towns have festivals. I make a point each year of shooting the Clare Irish Festival. The normal non cluttered streets of Clare are filled with festivities and interesting people to photograph and to “blend into.” My favorite (so far) from a Clare Irish Festival was shot in 2017 during the parade. Usually the spectators at the parade are more interesting than the parade itself. When I shoot these events I usually prefer a long lens so I can grab images from a distance without being noticed. This image was captured as a buss (which was in the parade) drove by. The little girl was decked out in Irish garb and the bus’s window worked perfectly to frame her. As with the swimmer jumping, the reason I like this image is it fits the adjectives which describe my other work as well: clean, simple, elegant, and timeless.

Photographed using a Nikon D600 with a Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8 Lens. ISO 800 135mm f/4 1/1000 of a second shutter speed.

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