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Ryan Watkins Photography
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

Fireworks-1

 

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.  

Soaring-Eagle-Fireworks-88-Edit

 

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.

Fireworks - Mount Pleasant, Michigan Event Photography

 

 

Fireworks - Mount Pleasant, Michigan Event Photography

 

 

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.

Beaverton Fireworks 2017

 

 

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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