New Year's Fireworks

I always spent the New Year's night at home, because my flat is located on a higher floor and my balcony is facing our river banks. Every year thousands of people meet here to celebrate New Year with an amazingly huge fireworks. It is loud as hell and smells smokey but it is so much fun and beautiful to watch. Thousands of rockets and other fireworks are fired at nearly the same time. This was again my chance to capture some beautiful photos of this unique event. Last year I already shared some pictures of that New Year's fireworks.

This night I prepared my two cameras and mounted them to tripods at my balcony. One was my EOS 600D with an EF-S 18-55mm lens. It was facing into left direction. I positioned the tripod at a location were at full 18mm nothing of my balcony was visible in the frame. Camera settings are quite difficult with this scene. Explosions happen either far away or directly in front. That's why I switched into semi-automatic mode with shutter priority (Tv mode). Aperture will be calculated automatically depending on the current light situation. In automatic mode the camera tends to overexpose photos in dark environment. That's why I changed exposure correction to -2 to get a darker image. Depending on how long you open the shutter the more or less explosions will be captured on the photo. I decided to use 10 seconds. ISO setting was at lowest value of 100 to get as less noise in the image as possible. With autofocus I adjusted focus once and switched the lens into manual focus without touching it anymore. Autofocus was not a problem because of many bright street lights. I connected a remote release controller to the camera, pressed and locked the release button. The camera now was shooting continuously one photo after the other, each with an exposure time of 10 seconds. Out of all the many shot images the following one was the best one, with a balanced composition of explosions and colors.

18mm  f/14  10sec  ISO100  -2EV

The other camera I set up was my EOS 70D with an EF-S 18-135mm lens. I positioned the tripod at the opposite end of my balcony and let the camera face to the right. Since the street lights at the ground were too bright I had to adjust focal length to remove them out of frame. I switched this camera to semi-automatic mode as well, but this time with aperture priority (Av mode) and a fixed value of f/8. The camera will calculate shutter speed automatically, depending on the current light situation. As with the first camera I also adjusted exposure correction to -2 to get no so overexposed photos. I again used autofocus once to set the focus and switched the lens to manual focus. ISO was at a fixed value of 100 as well. I mounted a second remote release controller to this camera and locked the release button in pressed state as I did with the other camera. So, this camera was also shooting photos continuously, each with an aperture of f/8 and various shutter speeds. Both cameras were operating automatically and I could enjoy the scene and celebrate New Year.

While the first camera captured a lot of explosions because of long shutter speed, the second one did not so well. Additionally, fog came up and a lot of smoke was produced by the fireworks. That's why the photos of the second camera were not that exciting. In a mood of disappointment I remembered a technique of overlaying or stacking photos in post processing to get a composed version of the scene. This firework was ideal for doing that. The camera did not move and all the photos contained exactly the same frame. The dark background with bright explosions made stacking easy. So I played around with this technique and got this photo as result of stacking 4 photos into one.

35mm  f/8  5sec  ISO100  -2EV

Stacking photos was so much fun that I did another one, composed of 3 photos.

35mm  f/8  3.2sec  ISO100  -2EV

In the end I must admit that the setting with a fixed longer shutter speed produced better results in a single frame. I will try to remember this fact and use this setting for future fireworks shootings. Clear weather would have been definitely better here. Another point I need to remember is to disable image stabilization at the lens when mounted to a tripod. This is what I most often forget. One further setting which is used to prevent shakes in long exposure environments is to activate mirror lock. I intentionally decided against that feature because with activated mirror lock you cannot shoot continuously.