Festival of lights - is a festival for photographers
IT IS Diwali - a major festival in India - the thought of this one flashes lamps, sweets and crackers in one's mind. As a photographer where there is light there is an opportunity. I have added my recent images from Diwali 2020 and shared some tips & experiences in capturing the wonders in the sky. I have drafted them in the form of questions that would appear to anyone who may want to capture this.
(1) Where would I have to frame these crackers in the sky? How do I select an area?
With all the crackers that rise up in the sky and explode to beautiful patterns and colours one cannot be always very sure of what, when and where these will be formed in the skies (unless of course you are orchestrating your own celebration!). So this to me is the critical part where we need to identify areas where there is a good opportunity and probability of these crackers appearing. Although it may sound like it is going to be a chance, spending a few minutes can get you a good gut feeling about where to focus. If you are in your terrace you will see that in some common areas there are a good concentration of these bursts happening. They will be a different distances but thats ok as we will be focusing on infinity. Main thing is to spend time and observe and pick some spots.
(2) What camera settings would one need?
As with other forms of astro photography this one would also need a long exposure technique. These are my typical shooting parameters.
Shutter can be anywhere between 3 - 30 seconds
Aperture can be between 7.1 - 11
ISO should be as low as possible to avoid noise - I am at ISO 100
Needless to say - your camera must be mounted on a tripod for long exposures like this. Also to trigger the camera try to either use a wireless trigger (or) a wired cord so you do not have to press the shutter release button that in itself will cause a shake. I used a remote trigger to start the exposures.
(3) Where do you focus?
As we are going to be taking far off shots focus on infinity. To do that I changed my focus mode from auto to manual in the lens and moved the focus right to get a sharp rendering of the farthest building I could see through my viewfinder. Once I had that I never touched the right again.
(4) Why do you try different shutter lengths?
The shorter the shutter we may get more instantaneous frames (bursts of flames, sparks etc), but with a longer shutter you will be able to follow the path of every light/fire streak thus forming paths in your images.
Both are aesthetically different and one should experiment both.
(5) What were your thoughts for compositions?
I explored the following compositions - for both ground and sky crackers.
Fireworks on the ground - simple and in your control. This was a chakra that spins on the ground. By having a higher shutter speed I was able to free the sparks that go out (rather than trace their light path). These spark themselves light up a space below then and create the illusion of a lamp. Do you see what I mean from the picture above?
Framing a small part of the neighbouring home terrace - just a few elements. To do this I went very wide at 17mm and compose once to ensure that I had enough of the sky where some action was happening.
A vertical composition of the same neighbouring terrace. Orient the camera in a vertical position and frame this.
Capturing a skyline of the cityscape. Few things to check when you do this. Look at the ambient light and decide the exposure. If there is too much ambient light and you go for a long exposure it will result in a bright image, taking the effect of the fireworks. Also a long exposure may help with multiple bursts of fireworks at different parts of the frame. Try as many combinations as possible. Don't worry about a wasted opportunity. Once you get confidence the turn around time will decrease.
Capturing just fireworks in the sky with no other elements. Orient your camera to the most happening part of the sky and also zoom in if required to get a more impactful frame.
Hope some of this made sense - do write to me at email@example.com if anything else can be of use for capturing fireworks.