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Old 05-13-2013, 11:53 AM   #1
Justplainmk
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Nighttime Photography/Fireworks Pics

Alright I figured this would be the best place for my question...

I have had my rebel t3i for a number of years now, and the pictures I still struggle with our nighttime pictures. Either the flash is blinding or the picture is blurry and unfocused.

I am going to Disney World in a few weeks and would love some advice on nighttime photos, parade photos, fireworks photos, etc. Settings, angles, sample pictures, anything and everything appreciated!!
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Old 05-13-2013, 12:26 PM   #2
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What settings have you tried in low light situations and what lenses do you have?

If there's not enough light getting to the sensor, the camera will compensate by giving you a longer shutter speed in most cases, resulting in blurry shots.

Do you ever use a tripod?

If you can't get a fast enough shutter speed to prevent shake, then you need to stabilize the camera for a longer shot (with a tripod or on a solid surface like a trash can or table).

Are you talking about low light stationary shots or low light moving shots?
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Old 05-13-2013, 01:34 PM   #3
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The key to nighttime photography is equipment. I know you stated you have a T3i, but what lenses do you have (make it easy on us non-Canon users and give the lens specs also), do you own a tripod (one that travels easily if your flying), do you have a remote control, neutral density filter? To some extent these are the tools necessary for nighttime/lowlight photography. Don't expect to get non-flash moving objects with a consumer 18-55 f3.5-5.6 lens. For things like fireworks you will need to stabilize your camera (lens is not as important for these shots) and either use the camera's shutter delay or a remote control. The remote control and a tripod is the preferred method. Trashcans and the like have been used in a pinch, but are not the recommended way. After you review your equipment, then think about the type shots you want to take and then we can make some recommendations. There is a lot of collective knowledge on this forum, however we do need some specifics to make recommendations.
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Old 05-13-2013, 02:00 PM   #4
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Sounds like you are stuck on auto settings, that don't work well in low light.
Pop-up flashes don't have a great distance. And with a nearby subject, you get a blown out subject while losing the background.
And without a flash -- if on auto, the shutter speed may slow down too much, causing you motion blur.

The 2 best pieces of equipment for night time photography are:
1 -- A tripod. So you can do slow shutter speeds without camera-shake. Also fantastic for fireworks, where you want to 5-10 second exposure. That's simply impossible handheld. But even at 1/10-1/20 of a a second, a tripod is helpful.
2 -- A faster lens. Not necessary for fireworks. But for other night time pics, a faster lens will let you get adequate light without a flash, and with a faster shutter speed. The "cheap" fast lens is typically the nifty fifty, 50mm/1.8 lens. There are more expensive alternatives.

Without additional gear, some basics of night time photography:

Avoid the flash except for nearby stationary subjects. The using the slow sync/rear curtain flash modes. But both the photographer and the subject need to be very stationary. (Again, a tripod helps a lot!)

When not using the flash, crank up the ISO. Not all cameras will fully crank up the ISO on auto modes. (My camera will go up to 1600 on auto, but can go up to 12800 is set manually). I'd shoot in Shutter priority mode -- Try to get the fastest possible shutter speed with a proper exposure. If the picture is too dark, increase the ISO more. If the action is moving, such as a parade, try to shoot at 1/200 or faster, which may require a very high ISO.

The best fireworks photos are absolutely taken with tripods. The settings I used were fully manual mode -- ISO of 100, Aperture set to 8- 11, and a shutter speed of 6-8 seconds. (this was on the RX100, on a dSLR, I'd use a smaller aperture and longer shutter speed) .
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Old 05-14-2013, 08:24 AM   #5
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Just some examples with settings. I shot in RAW with a Nikon D7000.

Hand-held night parade:
http://allen-c.smugmug.com/Travel/Al...SC_6770-XL.jpg
Shutter priority. Lens: 50mm f/1.8.
f/1.8. 1/250 seconds. ISO 1600. 50mm
Exposure adjustments and noise reduction in post.

Buildings at night:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/allen_c...in/photostream
Tripod. Remote shutter release. Aperture priority. Lens: Tokina 11-16mm
f/14. ISO 100. 20 seconds. 11mm
With a tripod you can do long exposures and keep the ISO down to preserve details and avoid too much noise.

Fireworks:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/allen_c...57627344397028
Tripod. Remote shutter release. Neutral density filter. Manual exposure. Bulb mode.
f/14. ISO 100. 23 seconds. 15mm
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Old 05-14-2013, 08:27 AM   #6
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Read Understanding Exposure, also.
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Old 05-14-2013, 09:15 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PythonFan888 View Post
Fireworks:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/allen_c...57627344397028
Tripod. Remote shutter release. Neutral density filter. Manual exposure. Bulb mode.
f/14. ISO 100. 23 seconds. 15mm
I know these are just examples and are very good recommendations, however I want to clarify that you don't need a (N)eutral (D)ensity filter to get good fireworks shots. If you wish to get the long exposure multiple explosion shots, then yes the ND is required. Due to the long exposures with the ND filter you will get a limited amount of shots. To do it without the ND filter: Tripod, remote shutter release, bulb mode, manual focus (I have found that focusing out to infinity, then back off slightly, f8-f11 (I prefer f11), shutter speed 2-8 seconds, lowest possible camera ISO. Also, I would recommend getting as many shots at the beginning as possible because as the show goes on there is more smoke. The lens you use is totally up to you and not a major factor. I have shot it with consumer lenses and professional lenses. Both came out well. How wide you go, again, is your choice.


Dessert Party FW by Terry McGraw Photography, on Flickr
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Old 05-14-2013, 10:23 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gianna'sPapa View Post
I know these are just examples and are very good recommendations, however I want to clarify that you don't need a (N)eutral (D)ensity filter to get good fireworks shots. If you wish to get the long exposure multiple explosion shots, then yes the ND is required. Due to the long exposures with the ND filter you will get a limited amount of shots. To do it without the ND filter: Tripod, remote shutter release, bulb mode, manual focus (I have found that focusing out to infinity, then back off slightly, f8-f11 (I prefer f11), shutter speed 2-8 seconds, lowest possible camera ISO. Also, I would recommend getting as many shots at the beginning as possible because as the show goes on there is more smoke. The lens you use is totally up to you and not a major factor. I have shot it with consumer lenses and professional lenses. Both came out well. How wide you go, again, is your choice.
Agreed. If you can keep your shutter speed low (less than 10 seconds would be an estimate depending on the brightness of the bursts) you should be able to keep the highlights under control.

Next time were down there I actually plan to shoot fireworks with a couple of lenses that don't accept filters. It should be interesting.

Also, excellent point on the manual focus settings.

Nice fireworks shot BTW!
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Last edited by PythonFan888; 05-14-2013 at 10:29 AM.
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Old 05-15-2013, 08:55 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gianna'sPapa View Post
I know these are just examples and are very good recommendations, however I want to clarify that you don't need a (N)eutral (D)ensity filter to get good fireworks shots. If you wish to get the long exposure multiple explosion shots, then yes the ND is required. Due to the long exposures with the ND filter you will get a limited amount of shots. To do it without the ND filter: Tripod, remote shutter release, bulb mode, manual focus (I have found that focusing out to infinity, then back off slightly, f8-f11 (I prefer f11), shutter speed 2-8 seconds, lowest possible camera ISO. Also, I would recommend getting as many shots at the beginning as possible because as the show goes on there is more smoke. The lens you use is totally up to you and not a major factor. I have shot it with consumer lenses and professional lenses. Both came out well. How wide you go, again, is your choice.
Very nice pic!

Quote:
Originally Posted by PythonFan888 View Post
Agreed. If you can keep your shutter speed low (less than 10 seconds would be an estimate depending on the brightness of the bursts) you should be able to keep the highlights under control.
Question for both of you...how do you time your fireworks shots to get the proper burst scene? Any tips, tricks, etc that may help would be apreciated!
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Old 05-15-2013, 09:22 AM   #10
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Very nice pic!

Question for both of you...how do you time your fireworks shots to get the proper burst scene? Any tips, tricks, etc that may help would be apreciated!
You can simply know the show. Helps to use a remote shutter. But really, unless you know the show, you can't do much planning. You can listen for the sounds of the fireworks being fired.

Mostly.... I know for my fireworks pictures, I just do 6-8 second exposures, one after the other, non stop until the end of the show. And I walk away with several good shots.



Epcot Illuminations by Havoc315, on Flickr


Epcot fireworks from World Showcase by Havoc315, on Flickr
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Old 05-15-2013, 09:43 AM   #11
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Quote:
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Question for both of you...how do you time your fireworks shots to get the proper burst scene? Any tips, tricks, etc that may help would be apreciated!
I think I wrote this on another thread: The Disney fireworks shows are precisely "choreographed" and the burst sequences are fairly easy to time once you're familiar with the shows. Although Illuminations has gone through some changes in the past few years (you can see distinct differences in my shots from 2011-2012-2013) you can still prepare. Watch youtube videos. Familiarize yourself with the music and the changes in the color of the castle and how these are connected to the bursts. Look around these boards and on flickr for fireworks shots taken by others.

Good luck.
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Old 05-15-2013, 09:49 AM   #12
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I especially love that second shot Havoc!

I don't know how others do it, but I sort of guess on each shot. I aim for 4-8 seconds per shot. But if some of the bursts have been really bright I go for a shorter length. If they are darker bursts, I go longer. I use a remote shutter release with the camera on bulb mode, so I'm watching next to my camera, but have the remote in my hands and am counting in my head.


IMG_4698-1 by mom2rtk, on Flickr
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Old 05-15-2013, 10:04 AM   #13
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Question for both of you...how do you time your fireworks shots to get the proper burst scene? Any tips, tricks, etc that may help would be apreciated!
The neat thing about longer exposures is that you don't have to worry quite as much about 'timing' the shot, because unlike regular snapshot photography, you're not just capturing a fraction of a second in time...you're capturing a long period of time - multiple seconds. That's why the tripod is needed - if the camera shutter opens up and stays open, the camera starts gathering all the light presented to it, and imprints it to that point of the frame. If the light moves through the frame, you get a light trail or streak...the light is being 'painted' onto your photo as it travels. If the camera moves on the other hand, then the sensor itself is changing its position relative to the light it's capturing, meaning things will become blurred or streaked or ghosted. As long as the scene and the camera remain perfectly still, the light being gathered by the long exposure will fill in nice and sharp in the same place - buildings, trees, sky, etc all come in sharp and well exposed...but anything moving THROUGH the scene will streak or leave a trail showing its path during the exposure. That's the combo you want - still camera, still background, but firework bursts streaking along their paths which gives you those lovely lighted blooms in the sky. In other words, don't try to 'catch' a single burst at a specific moment, but rather start the exposure before the burst, and leave the shutter open for a while...any bursts that occur while the shutter is open will be captured. If you see a really nice burst that you just caught while the shutter was open, you can stop the exposure to lock it in, and then start a new exposure to capture the next set of bursts. If you just leave it open the whole time, you can capture dozens of bursts in the same image, all painted into your shot as they happened!

Photography is all about light - long exposures are a way to capture darker scenes by allowing the sensor to be exposed for longer periods of time, helping it find and pull in all the light it needs to 'see' the scenery. It's why even in the middle of the night, on a dark street, you can set a camera on a tripod, open the aperture up, and let the shutter stay open for 30-40 seconds, and end up with a shot that looks like daylight. Your eye could barely see 10 feet in front of you, but the camera sees the entire landscape like the middle of the afternoon - because you're letting the sensor stay exposed and let every little vestige of light no matter how dim 'burn' itself into the shot. But again, a very very still camera is needed - which is that the tripod is for - when painting in the light in the scene, the sensor and the subject being captured both have to stay exactly aligned with eachother, not even the smallest movement or vibration...otherwise that light will 'paint outside the lines', and that's where you get blur.
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Old 05-15-2013, 11:50 AM   #14
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Question for both of you...how do you time your fireworks shots to get the proper burst scene? Any tips, tricks, etc that may help would be apreciated!
Like others have said, its a matter of knowing the show and adjusting, as it goes on. You really have to concentrate on the show. That is the downside because its hard to enjoy the show when you are concentrating on the shot and planning in your head for the next. I hope you plan another day to enjoy the fireworks and put the camera down. Its like when I come home from a motorsports shoot, the first question is always, "Who won?" I really have to think and sometimes I actually have to look at the photos. I'm concentrating so hard on the shot(s) that I don't get to enjoy the event like a fan!
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Old 05-15-2013, 06:25 PM   #15
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...how do you time your fireworks shots to get the proper burst scene? Any tips, tricks, etc that may help would be apreciated!
At MK (and even at your local fireworks display), listen for the the pffffttt when they launch the fireworks. About a second later is when they actually go off.

I like to use BULB and use my remote shutter. I like ISO 200 with f/10 and the shutter speed varies anywhere from 4-10 seconds (Sometimes longer). During the Finale you can switch to f/22 as it gets very bright.
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