Richard Shoaf

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Fireworks Photography

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Well this weekend presents itself with the great opportunity to go shoot some fireworks.  Being a safety professional as well, I do not advocate any consumer grade fireworks.  Leave it to the professionals.  Safer, greener, and even cheaper.

This weekend I had the opportunity to spend a few hours with some new friends in the St. Louis Night Photographers group and a fellow professional photographer Edward Crim had scouted out a new location (for me anyway) for shooting photographs of the St. Louis Fireworks at the VP Fair.

If you are thinking of this a couple of things to remember if you are only planning on shooting shots of the fireworks:

1)  You do not have to shoot it wide open.  I left all of my f 2.8 and 1.4 lenses at home and went light with my 28-300mm f3.5-5.6 (never shot any faster than a f/10 or 11 all night)

2)  Tripod, tripod and did I mention not to forget your tripod.  I do not care if you have the balance of a seasoned marine sniper – you need a tripod.

3)  Drop your ISO because you have your tripod (see above)  Shot all night at ISO 100

4)  Now that you are at F11, ISO 100 all you need to vary up is your shutter speed.  If you want the long trails you can go to blub and as soon as you hear the shot fire, hold, watch the plume (hazmat guy showing, I digress) then release.  You should get some nice shots. Most of mine where between 3-15 seconds and varied due to ambient light from setting sun even at 2130.

5)  Do not forget to turn off your vibration reduction if you have that on your lens.  Since you are on your tripod (see #2) it may not realize you are on the tripod and make some adjustment you do not want.

6)  Focus – take it to infinity and bring it back a bit, then turn off the auto focus.  you do not want it searching all night long.  (not infinity and beyond as our Pixar friends yell out – and my nephews)

7)  Have FUN!  Shoot wide and crop later.  Try not to chimp as you will lose some shots you want later.

NOTE:  Chimp occasionally – as you see above even after you have done your legwork and checked your equipment, left your flash at home (no use here) clean your optics, clean them again (ok I am type A) just after the second shot a nice 6 legged friend visited the nice calm, not too breezy location inside my lens hood.  As I was not chimping and was confident in my settings after checking the first couple – I just shot away with a remote shutter release.  Lesson learned – Chimp occasionally.   My official story is it was a UFO enjoying the fireworks in St. Louis – a GREAT Midwestern city with lots to offer.  Come visit some time.

NOTE 2:  Photographs by Richard Shoaf (for now until new site is up)  Music by Dean Shostak (c) a great musician out of Virgina who extended permission for its use in this slideshow.

NOTE 3:  Lake Saint Louis Fireworks – 2011 (with out 6 legged friends)


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