Whether it's at a village fair or a backyard bonfire, photographing fireworks is a great way to flex you new-found low-light shooting muscles. Capturing these brilliant explosions of color and light is not as hit and miss as it may first appear. This is especially true for digital shooters as the results of our efforts can be easily reviewed on the spot via the monitor on the back of the camera.

The explosion of a firework takes place over a period of a few seconds. There is the initial thump or sound of the mortar as the shell is launched skywards. This is followed by the first explosion, maybe a series of smaller bursts and a host of trails of twinkling light. To ensure that you capture the full effect you will need to use a long exposure. So start by setting your camera on a tripod and point it to the general location in the sky where the first few bursts occur. Try to avoid including complex backgrounds or well-lit structures in the frame as these will distract from the fireworks themselves (and may over- expose your sensor given the long exposure times). This said, judicially positioned horizon detail does provide a sense of scale for your images. So check out the environment. Take a few test shots before making up your mind.

Next turn off the auto-focus mechanism and manually focus the lens into the distance. For most situations the 'infinity' setting works fine but it also pays to check this focus setting with the first couple of photos and adjust where necessary. Next attach a cable release to the camera. If you don't have one of these set the shutter speed to 4 seconds (this is a starting point and can be altered later when you review your first few shots). Now that you are set up simply open the shutter when next you hear the thump of the mortar and keep the shutter open for the full length of the burst, releasing the button only when the last trails die away.

And don't forget to try your hand at capturing lightning, nature's own fireworks, the next time you are in the midst of an electrical storm. Though not as predictable as shooting Fi3ure 1818 Lightning is a lot less predictable to photograph than fireworks

a fireworks show, successfully photographing these spectacular strikes uses all the same principles outlined above.

Figure 18.17 Using a cable release you can keep the shutter of the camera open long enough to record the full burst of the fireworks. To record multiple bursts cover the lens of the camera with a dark cloth or black baseball cap in between individual fireworks explosions.
Figure 19.1 Portraits of your pets should be no less full of life and character than those of your friends or family, but just like these images, such personality-filled pictures require much patience and skill to capture.
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