I got the chance on July 4th to put into practice the settings that I researched for photographing fireworks. I have to say I had a blast just hanging out, setting up and waiting for the show to start.
My goal was to not focus to much on the fireworks themselves but to focus on the whole scene as well as people. I started off with the Nikon D3s on the tripod with a 14-24 shooting horizontally. I set the camera to manual exposure and manual focus. The F stop was set to F10 to start with the Shutter Speed being set to Bulb.
I want to point out how great it was that I brought out a really good small flashlight which helped me set my lens to infinity focus. I would recommend in the future bringing out a blanket to not only sit on but to protect your spot and give you enough room to set up your gear. Next time I go and shoot in a parking lot I will be sure to have knee pads or some kind of padding to sit on and kneel on.
Here is a tip for focusing in pitch black. I found that waiting for the fire works to start worked out very very well. I was able to look threw the camera and quickly manually focus on where the fire works exploded in the sky. Being that you will be shooting at anywhere from F8-16 if your focus is close to begin with your images should be tack sharp.
There will be a little bit of trial and error with your settings and focal length. I discovered that I wanted to shoot at a higher f stop like F13 as I felt the colors and streaks were coming out very well. Shooting in bulb without the cable release worked very well for me. When trying to time your opening and closing of the shutter you have to anticipate the launching and than close the shutter after the explosion starts to dissipate. Like I said there will be a little bit of trail and error to see what will work best for you.
One of the changes I made very early on when shooting was to switch from the 14mm to the 24-70. Once I noticed that the people in the image were not turing out the way I wanted I decided to make the switch. The Nikon 24-70 was a much better choice as I could fill the frame with the fire works horizontally and than switch to vertical. The vertical images are the winners of the group. You can see the american flag in the bottom corner, you can see the people, smoke, fireworks and sky. You can follow the path of the fireworks from start to finish and overall they were my favorite shots from the shoot.
In the future I could see focusing on trying to shoot much tighter shots of the sky to get really interesting explosions. I could also see trying to zoom the lens while the shutter is open which could make for an interesting effect.
All and all i was very happy with my first time photographing fireworks and look forward to shooting them again.