Fireworks Tonight

Larry Bolch

Well-Known Member
From my balcony...


DS7_4508.jpg what i was expecting......... do you have any advice on taking pics of "Fireworks"
Since the longest possible exposure is the goal, a tripod is essential. This storm began at twilight, so I was constantly adjusting both time and aperture as we moved into night. By these exposures it was fully dark, and the exposure was ISO100, f/18 at 30 seconds with the 14-24mm lens at 14mm on a full frame sensor. (Nikon D700)

There is nothing more boring and meaningless than lightning bolts against a perfectly black sky, unless you have some kind of kinky fetish for squiggly lines. My goal is to achieve a believable shot of night in the foreground to put the lighting into context and give the viewer a sense of scale. I shoot on full manual, and make adjustments as the storm is moving in, then check the monitor frequently to fine-tune the balance between the normal environment and the lightning captured. I also shoot continuously and cull without mercy. I got dozens of shots with lighting in them tonight, but these were the only two I considered keepers.

I shoot 14-bit RAW in order to preserve the subtle gradients in the sky and foreground. I seek a white balance in processing that does not overpower the image with the ubiquitous toxic orange streetlights, but still maintains the look. Beyond f/11, there is a great deal of diffraction, softening the image and making it look like there is a star-filter mounted. Everything in photography is a trade-off, so I choose a long exposure and accept the diffraction. Again as a trade-off, I set a brief delay when I trip the shutter. It may miss the shot of the night, but what remains is tack sharp. The slight delay means that the tripod has become totally still, and the mirror is up and causing no vibration. These could be printed at enormous sizes.

Other than white balance, not much was done in processing. A touch of sharpening and a bit of perspective correction. HDR would be lovely, but that is not something that lightning grants one. Shadows are blocked and highlights are blown out, though I could have used the fill and recovery sliders to preserve a bit more. I tried, and it weakened the images.

By the way, fireworks and lightning share the same technique, with the only difference being that you can anticipate the fireworks, using a shorter exposure and a wider aperture so there is less diffraction.
Very nice shots, I like the cooler color balance, works really well.
these are nice, I do happen to have a boring shot of a lightning bolt against a black sky. however I was not able to control the time of the storm and you are right it is boring. This looked like it happened at just the right timew to capture the sky perfect.
Looks like a negative of my bathroom ceiling!


Seriously, lovely colours and plenty of interest along with the lightning which has been used like a cloud effect.
Simply a matter of potential. A JPEG is 8-bits per channel, meaning that the dynamic range from pure black to pure white is covered in 256 discrete steps. A 12-bit RAW images increases the steps to 4096, meaning that if one needs to make a substantial adjustment to some part of the image, the resulting gradient will show no banding or colour errors from rounding to the next step. With 14-bit the steps increase to 16,384 per channel.

You may or may not see the difference between 12 and 14-bits per channel. However, with the subtle tones in the sky and the extreme dynamic range, plus the fact that I was trying to get somewhat of a natural looking white balance in a scene lit by the ubiquitous toxic-orange street lights, it may or may not have helped a lot, but it certainly did not hurt.

I expect that we will be shooting - as well as processing - at 16-bits per channel within a very short time-span. Not only that, but HDR may move inside the camera, and it is 32-bits per channel with full floating point accuracy. The common file formats will handle at least a 70EV dynamic range with ultra-fine gradients.
Assuming the same manual provided in leather-bound, hard-cover with gold-leaf on the pages at no extra cost, in the mother-country is similar in content to what we get in our paper-back, newsprint edition out in the colonies here in Canuckistan, the options are on pages 67 and 68. I go with lossless compression, since we are somewhat of an overly economically aware (cheap) Canucki lot. Mr. Nikon-san assures us that lossless means full quality at a smaller size.
as long as you have adobe camera raw 4.6 or later (which you do as you have as you wouldn't be able to use the d700 raw files at all with bridge) you are fine... each adobe camera raw release covers all functionality of the cameras it is specified for and all that came previous.
i shoot everything in uncompressed 14bit raw adobe rgb... for peace of mind as much as anything else...