This image almost didn’t happen. I alway try to get the camera shooting every day but was about to not have a shot for this day. It was a pretty unproductive Friday. In fact, I was on the way home from picking up takeout and would have probably missed the shot if the stoplight had not changed just as I was approaching. Saw these clouds out of the car window and quickly grabbed the camera.
I was drawn to the small light cloud in the center of the image. I wasn’t really sure if the shots I took would turn into anything worth while but I needed to try. Two quick shots and a bunch of post processing later and I had an image that I really liked. Sometimes the lights align so to speak.
I like it when a camera starts to get the patina of use. The little wear marks near the flash shoe. A bit of loose material by the back buttons. It means that the camera is being used. The more you use the camera the better the images become.
I’ve had the Fujifilm X-T1 now for over 2 years. Shot a lot of images in that time. Some of which were good, most of which were part of the journey of discovering my eye. I shoot with a lot more confidence now. I have several really good lens and the X-T1 provides some stellar capturing. I am starting to be able to capture what I see. And my camera shows it’s been used. If you look closely at the 4 way pad at the bottom right of the image you might see where I got a little bit of crazy glue in the workings when I tried to paste down the bit of leatherette near there. I was able to scrape out the excess and get the button back to working.
So if you camera seems a little too pristine, if your confidence level seems to be lacking, spend a little more time pulling the camera out of the bag and give it a little wear and tear.
Oh yeah and another good tip is to get some good closeup shots of your cameras and lenses. You be amazed at how much dust and junk you find that you really couldn’t see unless you get real close. A good cleaning every once in a while doesn’t hurt.
I think I found at least 10 different online articles on how to shoot fireworks in the weeks leading up to the Forth and I read them all. My previous fireworks images were ok but I really wasn’t satisfied with the outcome. I was always overexposing and changing the shutter speeds or going to bulb mode was not getting results that I loved. I think it was reading Joe McNally’s post on shooting fireworks that filled in the missing piece to getting the shots. More on that later.
Frankly I wasn’t going to shoot fireworks on the Fourth. I live half a mile from the baseball stadium where the minor league Brevard Manatees where having a double header followed by fireworks. The problem with after game fireworks is you have no guarantee exactly when the fireworks will start. Last week I sat waiting for the end of the game only to have it go into extra innings. The bugs came and carried me away before the first firework was lit.
So on the evening of the Fourth I was going to watch the Disney Fireworks live streamed on the Disney Parks blog instead of standing around waiting for the end of a game. So just before 9 I checked on the score and by surprise the game had just finished (Manatees won). I decided at the last minute to try and get some shots. This is not the Master Photographers Approved plan for shooting fireworks.
The common theme in all the instructional posts was plan ahead. I think I had all of 7 minutes to get things set up. Setting up included pulling out the tripod and attaching the XF 50-140 F2.8 lens that I wanted to use, mounting the camera, Setting all the settings, getting out the front door and figuring out exactly where to setup to get the fireworks over the houses between me and the stadium.
The setting to use for fireworks are basically.
- Set to lowest native ISO. (Mine is 200).
- Manual Focus (try to set focus somewhere near infinity).
- Shutter Speed (try 4 seconds).
- Set Aperture to f8 (for starters).
The last point is where I was going wrong. The f8 was not the right settings. Because it’s dark you think you need a more open aperture to get in enough light. This I found to be the wrong thinking. Fireworks are bright. I was constantly overexposing at f8. On the Fourth I stopped down my lens to F14 and probably could have gone to F16 to get the images presented here as I did have to move the exposure down a full stop in Lightroom.
Images were from my Fujifilm X-T1 with the XF 50-140mm f2.8 WR OIS zoom. I was zoomed out to the max of 140mm for these shots. Raw images were processed in Lightroom using the Fujifilm Standard/Provia camera profile and a bit (or more) of twiddling the dials .
So I’m glad I decided to give it one more try. The lesson learned here is to really think why the image went wrong. I’m talking about the technical side. If the exposure is wrong at 4 seconds it is going to take a lot of adjustment to add or remove one stop (8 seconds or 2 seconds) for the shutter but adding one/removing one stop using the aperture ring gives the same result by keeping the lens open long enough to capture the full firework explosion. And remember that if you get off track center yourself on a known set of parameters and if you must fiddle, only fiddle with one setting.