Chicago Fireworks, 05 July 2010


This year, due to budgetary constraints and such, the City of Chicago hosted not one massive show at Navy Pier (as per the typical year), but three smaller shows at locations along the lakefront – one on the southside, one at the Museum Campus downtown, and one on the northside north of Montrose Harbor. This was rather fortuitous for me, since I’m far too lazy to head downtown to Navy Pier, but Montrose Harbor is a (relatively) convenient hike from my apartment. Hence, it was much easier for me to attend the annual Independence Day festivities; additionally, the separate shows meant that each one drew a less-than-epic crowd, so it was much easier to set up my camera and tripod at a convenient vantage point. The following are some of the results.






Photo Information:

Camera: Nikon D80
Lens(es): Nikon Nikkor 20mm f/2.8 & Nikkor 85mm f/1.8
ISO Equivalency: 100
Color Setting: Vivid

A note on the exposures: I set the shutter speed to “bulb,” and basically winged it for each one. The average exposure time was roughly 10 seconds, the shortest being 5 seconds, and the longest being just over 15. Due to the vagaries of manual focus at night for an indeterminate range, I set the aperture to the minimum setting for the lens (f/16 for the telephoto lens, and f/22 for the wideangle); this helped to ensure that I had crisp focus, even if I wasn’t spot-on with the focus ring. [1] Obviously, the fact that I had the camera set to ISO 100 [2] and used a small aperture means that I needed to use a slow shutter speed to compensate. [3] I set the white balance to Incandescent, and I think this tended to work well for the color exposures; [4] even so, I found it appealing to increase the saturation just a bit for each photo, since, well, these sorts of photos really are all about the colors. Considering that this is the first time I’ve ever photographed fireworks, I think the results turned out quite well, don’t you?



[1]: As any of y’all who’ve taken photos at night can probably attest, this is a bit harder than it may at first sound. In this case, it was especially so, since I had little to no indication of the range to the “target,” and said targets were constantly appearing and disappearing! When dealing with point light sources at night, I prefer the look that a wide aperture produces, but in this case, the “star” effect from the small aperture is easily lost in the “bloom” from the various explosions, so I wasn’t much concerned by this.

[2]: Oh sure, I could have set this to a higher ISO setting, given that I was using a digital camera, but a) I have an extraordinarily sturdy Manfrotto tripod at my disposal, b) I wanted to capture some motion blurring in the fire trails, and c) I really, really don’t like digital noise, so if I can avoid this effect, I will.

[3]: As mentioned in the previous note, I wanted to capture some motion blurring in the fire trails, so the slow shutter speed was desirable, anyways.

[4]: These are, after all, burning materials that are falling to the ground – seeing as how the word incandescent means “glowing or luminous with intense heat,” this seemed like a good bet for the white balance setting!


2 Responses to “Chicago Fireworks, 05 July 2010”

  1. greysqrl Says:

    Great captures, especially the last one. You have some awesome photos on your blog.

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