Sunday, February 17, 2008

Capturing Fireworks through the lens.

A Fireworks show dissipates in a matter of minutes in mere flashes. It's just memory and smoke soon afterwards.
Here are a few tips to capture it on camera.
Location Location Location!!! yes it applies to shooting fireworks as well as buying a good piece of land.
Find a location away harsh light or street lights that might strike your lens and point the camera against the dark sky (as majority of fireworks show start in the dark).Reason being,stray light on the lens will produce unwanted distraction in your final image.

A tripod is a necessary requirement for this kind of shooting as the exposure can last several seconds through possibly several bursts.

Type of camera - an SLR is ideal. But these days a compact camera will provide several seconds of exposure.
Type of lens is entirely up to you, depending on how much of the fireworks show you would like to capture. If it is an SLR, do not use auto focus, as the lens would start to hunt for focus.
Wait for the fireworks burst to start and focus on a couple of bursts and fix the camera position on the tripod. From here you are just a few easy steps away from shooting some interesting fireworks with your camera.
If you have an SLR or and advanced digital compact camera, set the exposure mode to either manual or shutter priority and in either of these modes you would set the shutter speed to bulb (keeping the lens open). It would be immensely helpful, if you would have at your disposal a good size black cloth or a big enough black card board cut so that it can completelt cover your lens.
if your camera has a cable release fix it else it is the kind triggered by a wireless remote adjust the camera so that it would respond only to your wireless remote control. This is done to eliminate any possible vibrations induced from pressing the shutter release using your fingers.

Once the above steps are taken care of click to keep the shutter open as the fireworks show is going fulls steam ahead. Capture several bursts while the lens is open, to accomplish this, Wait for the first burst to be captured, cover the lens with either the cloth or the black card board until the next burst gets ready to explode. Uncover the lens till that burst disappears. Cover the lens again and repeat the process until you are satisfied you have gotten several bursts. Its time to close the exposure by either clicking the shutter release or if it is an advance digital the max exposure would be 30 secs to a minute. Hence it will close on its own accord.

This is not an exact science. It is more of trial and error. The above is shot of fireworks was captured in stone mountain park Atlanta GA. This was the second show of the evening. I had the advantage of watching the first one to get an idea of the sequence and waited for the second one to capture it in my camera. The above shot captured several bursts using the technique described above. Experiment all you can with a digital camera you have nothing to waste and a lot to learn.

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Sunday, February 03, 2008

Alpenglow or Alpengl├╝hen in the Alps

I came across the phenomenon of Alpenglow while reading Galen Rowell's book "Inner Game of outdoor photography". His website features Alpenglow's in all forms on high mountain ranges. Mountaineers witness them on a regular basis almost. A few years ago, While visiting the swiss alps. we had started on a short hike between mountain villages of Murren and Gimmelwald in the Bernese Oberland. It was late hour of the evening, Walking back to Murren around sunset from Gimmelwald that was at a higher elevation, the view was breathtaking. At that time, I was still shooting film and my Nikon N80 had a roll of Fuji Velvia 50, the camera was dangling on my neck. The day had been clear with blue skys earlier and a little after the sun went down, I looked up and could not believe my eyes an Alpenglow. Then a brilliant almost red band of light crowned the peaks. The drama in color was heightened by the scatter of the snow.
I swung into action composing the shots and firing away. Soon the roll finished and I loaded another and squeezed a few more before it disappeared as soon as it had initially appeared. For the next couple of days I was there,I never observed another alpenglow. I was merely lucky to witness one of the best alepnglow's in my life.
But for someone on a mission of hunting an alpenglow, it would pay to do some research to be at the right spot and find out the direction of the sun and patiently wait for one to make an appearance.

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