Tuesday, July 4, 2017


After reading up online about "how to photograph fireworks" - there are several sites that claim to have the recipe - I decided to give it a try. This was a new adventure for me. Photographing fireworks provided a good opportunity to go outside my current photographer comfort zone. It turns out that almost every setting on the camera is completely different to photograph fireworks: manual mode, fixed ISO and f-stop, focus fixed at infinity, tripod required, and *really long* exposures.

Nearby Milford was one of many local towns with a fireworks display last night, and so off I went, to "fight the crowds" and get some fireworks photos. Turns out the crowds weren't too bad. The hardest part was realizing as I got close to the venue that the police had closed the street from cars, and so I had to park about a 15 minute walk away. Not a big issue, though I do have an older kind of heavy tripod, which made the walk a tad more challenging.

My Olympus camera has three different long exposure modes: bulb, "live time", and "live composite." Also, it's got a built-in fireworks scene mode. I tried 'em all except for bulb, which requires one to hold the shutter button down for the entire shot. Live time is the same as bulb, except one pushes the shutter button once to start the exposure and once again to end it, which is a lot easier. Live composite mode is a unique special mode Olympus makes available in some of their cameras. I'm pretty sure no other major camera manufacturer offers it. In live composite mode, one first sets a time, which is the time of each picture. I tried 1, 2.5, and 4 seconds, which are all recommended values for fireworks. When the user first presses the shutter the initial "background" shot is taken. Then when pressed again, the composite sequence begins with each shot adding to the image, but only where pixels are brighter than the existing. This is equivalent to the Photoshop "lighten" blend mode. The nice thing about this approach, is that the background doesn't get over-exposed. I can check the progress of the image on the camera's LCD screen and watch as each fireworks explosion "adds" to the image, stopping the composite exposure when it looks about right.

Alien Invasion
25 1 sec exposures at f/11

Echo Burst
13 x 1 sec.

Special Orb
3 x 1 sec.

Las Vegas Neon
12 x 1 sec.

Double Fountain
17 x 1 sec.

19 x 1 sec.

18.7 sec.

Sky Filler
11 x 2.5 sec.

8 x 4 sec.

Green Ghost
6.8 sec.

Red Feet
Fireworks Scene Mode, 4 sec.

Crowd Pleaser
23.7 sec.

All photos © 2017, all rights reserved.  Contact me for licensing or to order prints.


  1. Beautiful! I don't feel like I missed anything staying home. :)

    1. Thanks! Glad you feel that way. Hmmm, you might have missed some loud scary sonic boom sounds. I tried to capture the best parts of the rest of it ;)