4th July is not too far around the corner and if there is going to be an Independence Day to celebrate it will be this one if COVID-19 is vanishing in the heat of the summer allows more freedom than now.
Location, location, location.
This is probably the most important thing when making an attempt to get good firework images. A lot of shooters will go into great detail about lenses, timing, tripods, filters, intervalometers etc.
Well, before any of that is any use, you might want to look at the weather, wind direction might play the biggest part of you getting the difference between an average shot and a great shot. No wind can be as bad.
If the wind is blowing towards you, then you basically have one attempt to get it right, and it will be your very first shot!
...because the wind will blow the smoke from the fireworks towards you partially blocking your next shot and then each shot after will get worse and worse. It will also have the effect of dispersing the light and potentially making your shot blown out and you losing definition, like these examples
As this is a unique photography occurrence, taking a photo of something you cannot see, and have no idea how small or big, dark or bright, short or long duration it will be, can be a big guessing game. And lets not forget you have to react instantly or miss the whole shot and only get the explosion part.
My process is this, find a good firework show, 2019 the top three choices for the US were Washington DC, NYC and Vegas. I was on the east coast at the time so I chose DC.
Next thing, find a local, ask roughly where the best location is to see them, and it's not usually where you think. In Vegas for example it was a deserted lot facing the strip a mile or so away with not much blocking the view, now that lot is the new Raiders Stadium.
In DC a local said Lady Bird Johnson Park to the right of the Arlington Bridge, when I got there it was daylight.
I found another local and asked again but more specifically. He said, "they are alway in pretty much the same location, farthest left will be above the Lincoln Memorial, farthest right the Washington Monument, roughly. Anywhere within 50 yards of here will be good!"
I was set, took a basic shot of the view, add in a little foreground to give scale to make sure my border would exceed what the local said, then sit and wait, readjusted focus as needed and set to manual. Double checked with focus peaking.
To shoot the shot
Camera Sony a6300
Lens 18-200mm F3.5-6.3 OSS
F/11 for good depth of field
Focal length 18mm
Camera set to manual, very important, otherwise after your first shot your camera will be hunting to focus.
Shooting mode Raw
Rear LCD turned off, my personal preference to add battery life and stop the camera showing a processed image
Duration 2.5 seconds, this will allow you to catch the take off and the explosion
I was using my phone as the release/ intervalometer so I could also see the image as it took and also make minor changes if required to the camera without touching it.
(a lot of shooters recommend 1.5-2 seconds, I personally find this too short, or another technique is to put a card in front of the lens to block light but keeping your shutter open to get multiple overlapping exposures in one shot. I purposely didn't do that here as the locals said the fireworks FILL the sky. Plus there is the chance of hitting the lens and knocking it out of focus)
The results, you can click on them to see a larger version, then click again to zoom in
From a few years earlier, in Vegas, one thing the tourists might not be aware of, the casinos turn off, or dim their lights while the show is happening but once done the lights come back on to give a very apocalyptic scene if you are looking for a different kind of image
Interested to hear if any others have differing opinions, techniques and see some of your pyrotechnic art.