Today will be filled with cook-outs and fireworks in honor of America's 236th birthday. Here are a few tips for capturing the celebrations with your cameras:
Photo by Kai Harth
For fireworks, a tripod is an absolute must, and a remote or cable release will prove worthy. Arrive at the viewing location early for an unobstructed spot with a clear view of the sky in the direction of the bursts. Pack an assortment of lenses and decide on the best one(s) once at your viewing area.
Understand your camera's settings in advance (many point-and-shoots will have a fireworks mode) and become familiar with its functions. For digital SLRs, ISO 100 will be ideal with an aperture of f/8 or f/16 and longer exposures will capture neat patterns and trails, so experiment. Use bulb setting to capture multiple bursts on the same frame using the camera’s remote and try leaving the shutter open and blocking the lens with a black board between bursts to prevent overexposure. And, don't forget to charge up those batteries and pack an extra memory card just in case. If shooting with your camera phone, look for fireworks-specific or nighttime applications orapps to slow down or speed up the shutter,
Fireworks explosions always look great when filling up the frame but also when other elements are included in the photograph. If it's the National Mall Fireworks Show you're after, try framing shots using interesting buildings such as the Washington Monument, Capitol Dome, and Memorial Bridge, or use silhouettes of other people to provide perspective and interest. Water reflections are also great if available from your viewing location.
If possible, determine wind direction when planning your location and stay upwind so smoke won’t settle in front and block your carefully selected view. Take plenty of photos at the start just in case the view does become obstructed by smoke.
Photo by Phil Yabut
*CHARGE YOUR BATTERIES AND/OR TAKE EXTRA
*Use ISO100 (even for film)
*Use remote or cable release to prevent camera shake
*Does your camera have a fireworks setting?
*Use Aperture of F/8 or F/16 (or landscape setting)
*Longer shutter speeds will capture streaks and patterns, so experiment
*Use bulb setting to capture multiple bursts on the same frame using your camera’s remote. Leave the shutter open and block the lens with a black board between bursts to prevent overexposure.
*If using bulb setting, open the shutter at the start of the explosion and release a second or two after to get cool effects
*Pack extra memory card
*Bring several lenses to the location and decide which to use once you’re there
*Frame your shots using interesting buildings (Washington Monument, Capitol Dome, Memorial Bridge, etc) or use silhouettes of other people
*Consider water reflections if possible
*If possible, determine wind direction when planning your location and stay upwind so smoke won’t settle in front of you and block your view. Take plenty of photos at the start just in case the view becomes obstructed by smoke.
*Don't forget to enjoy the fireworks! Take some time to sit back and just watch - they're right in front of you!
Possible spots for watching and photographing Independence Day fireworks:
(Note: I haven't confirmed access to these areas so do your research before heading out & check out the National Park Service's Things to Know Before You Come for important tips)
*Iwo Jima Memorial & Netherlands Carillon, N Meade Street, Rosslyn, VA
*National Mall with a few thousand of your closest friends
*Coveted rooftops all over the city (if you can get access!)
*Gravely Point, access from northbound side of GW Memorial Parkway
*Overlook at Meridian Hill Park, 16th, Euclid, 15th, and W Streets, N.W.
*Mt. Vernon Trail, North of Memorial Bridge
*Eastern Market with Capitol Dome in foreground
*Washington National Cathedral, Wisconsin & Massachusetts Avenues, N.W.
*The Ellipse, 1600 Constitution Ave, N.W.
*Lady Bird Johnson Park, access from southbound GW Memorial Parkway
*Columbia Island Marina, GW Parkway
*FDR Memorial, Ohio Drive, N.W.
*Cantina Marina, 600 Water Street, S.W.
*Air Force Memorial, 1 Air Force Memorial Drive, Arlington
*Roaches Run Waterfowl Sanctuary, access from southbound GW Memorial Parkway
*Hains Point, 1090 Ohio Drive, S.W.
*From a boat on the water if you’re lucky!
*Masonic Temple in Alexandria, VA