fireworks differently ("defocusing" during exposition)

As summer fireworks season is approaching (think 4th of July), here's a one cool photo technique tip I would like to share with you folks. Before you'll head out to find a best spot and try to capture this beauty same way as last years, consider to try something new this time. I had to wait whole year to try it, but finally, my wait was over - last Friday city of Ballwin was celebrating their Ballwin days! Hooray!


So what is this buzz all about? It's actually simple. Put your camera on tripod, set up exposure to have shutter speed at 2 or 3 seconds and then try to aim to the epicenter of the explosion.
Then while having your shutter open, rotate your focusing ring (hence "defocusing fireworks") from infinity where the fireworks is sharp to a minimal focus distance your lens will allow you (or vice versa, play!). The full focus ring rotation has to happen during those two seconds. It is a very similar method to "zooming" technique, which Bryan Peterson maybe taught you in his books, workshops or online school. But instead of rotating zooming ring, you'll be rotating focusing ring.


Couple of things you need to take into a consideration for your setting:
  • Longer focal length will work better, as the difference between "focused" and "out of focus" is more visible. But you don't want to go too long, as than chances that the firework will explode in your  viewfinder are getting thinner with your telezoom. All pictures here in the post were shot at 70mm with my 24-70mm lens or at 85mm with my prime lens. Between 60-100mm you should be safe. 
  • Get as close as possible to the fireworks, but don't forget - safety first!!
  • Be on tripod, but have your head slightly loose so you can operate a bit and aim for the explosion epicenters.
  • 2 or 3 seconds are necessary to have enough time to capture movement and get de-focused trail. My settings for the majority of the shots here were: 2 seconds at  f/11 with ISO 400
  • It's a lot about being lucky, so the colorful shot will explode in the middle of the area you are aiming. So don't be frustrated, if 80% of your 100 shots made during 10 minutes will go straight to the trash ;)
  • Turn off your auto focus, obviously. So your camera will fire right away when you'll click the shutter. You will "focus and defocus" on your own anyway.
  • Make sure to arrive well ahead to get a good spot - no trees, lamps or buildings blocking your view and set up your tripod and camera.
And that's it. All pictures here are (almost) straight out of the camera. Some of them I've cropped a bit and/or added a bit of color saturation. But other than that - this is what you'll get. Easy, huh? Have fun!
PS: This came across my inbox first time last summer (thanks and credit goes to Clayton!), when fireworks were over and I hate cold, so I declined to go out to shoot it on New Year's Eve :) But, the wait worth it, right?
PS2: Po slovensky tento článok vyšiel tu.










    
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19 comments:

  1. Those are simply beautiful images. A very different take on the countless articles that "focus" on sharpness. Thank you for the tip.

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    1. Thanks Roger! Hope you'll be tomorrow evening out and you'll be "defocusing" as well! Share you images, please!

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  2. Oh my goodness, this is awesome. I can't wait to try it tonight!

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    1. Hey Shan! Thanks for comment! Have a fun tonight and don't forget to share your shots at our PPSOP.cz facebook page - www.facebook.com/ppsopcz ! :)

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  3. Thanks for taking the time to share this tip, Patrik. I'm looking forward to using it as soon as possible.

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    1. Always a pleasure to learn and share! Have fun!!

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  4. I am anxious to try this! Thank you for sharing! Your photos are absolutely GORGEOUS!!!

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    1. Thanks Tina! I'm really really glad you feel comfortable here. Please do come more often - and mainly, don't forget to share your firework shots! at www.facebook.com/ppsopcz

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  5. Very out of the box. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Hey thanks! As said above - a pleasure to learn and a pleasure to share... You are very welcome!

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  6. I just checked out your website and all of your work is simply amazing. Thank you for your inspiration.

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    1. Thanks Joe, compliments are always welcomed! LOL
      Hope you'll have fun with shooting fireworks and it won't be cancelled due to the fire hazard risk, as it happen in our area tonight :(
      I'm so glad I had time to try it already during Ballwin days!
      Don't forget to share your amazing shots at our fan page - www.facebook.com/ppsopcz

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  7. Gorgeous work! So excited to try it tonight! thanks so much!

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    1. Thanks! You know what was the best part - it was soooo fun! ;) Hope you'll have tons of fun too... Happy 4th of July!

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  8. YEs!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Thank you sooooooooooooooo much!!!!!

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    1. YES!!!!!!! You are sooooooooooooooooooooo welcome!!! :))

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  9. Thanks for the tip! I might not have even taken my camera this year but this got me excited about fireworks photography again. It took me a little while to get the hang of it but it was fun.

    Here's some of mine. The last two I decided to try zooming during the exposure.
    https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.474202605941518.118027.100000553496704&type=1&l=39bb68bed3

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    1. Hey Richard! Thanks for comment and stopping by. I'm really proud to read that my tip initiated taking your camera out first time this year! That's cool and your pictures looks neat ;) Have a great weekend!

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  10. Patrik, thanks for this awesome tip. I was reviewing how to shoot fireworks and I came across your page through PPSOP. I tried it and it was amazing!! Here's one using the defocus technique. Can't wait to try it again! https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=4396059864361&set=a.1265051631112.40334.1374413227&type=1&theater

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