Tag Archives: photography

Holiday Repeat — How to Photograph July 4th Fireworks


Fireworks

Fireworks

It’s that time of year again, and here’s that perennial favorite on how to photograph July 4th fireworks:

I more and more frequently find myself using a simple point-and-shoot for much of my photographic needs, but occasionally I simply have to get out the more sophisticated equipment to get the most out of certain subjects.  For these shots I used my trusty, tried-and-true  Canon EOS 5D.  The great thing about the 5D is that it was the first “affordable” digital single lens reflex (DSLR) on the market using a 35mm-equivalent sensor.  That means that not only would all my older Canon 35mm lenses work with the EOS 5D, but they would also have the same magnification factor as they did with my 35mm film cameras of the past.

Fireworks

Fireworks

The glass I chose for this outing was my only L-series, professional grade Canon lens—my Canon 24-105mm f/4 L IS (Image Stabilized) zoom.  This is my favorite lens, and the one that fills the requirements for the vast majority of my shooting situations.  It’s just that versatile, and the f/4 aperture in conjunction with the EOS 5D’s exceptional low noise performance at high ISO settings make it a true godsend in low light situations.

Fireworks

Fireworks

Also included in my kit that night was a tripod and, of course, a remote switch.  In the old days, our “remote switches” were cable releases that screwed into a small hole atop the shutter release button.  In the digital age, they’re now electronic switches that plug into the side of the camera to allow operation of the shutter without the need to touch the camera, thus reducing the likelihood of camera shake or vibration ruining the shot.  My choice of remote switch is the Canon RS-80N3.  For tips on how to photograph in low available light without a tripod or remote switch see: Available Light Photography Without a Tripod.

Fireworks

Fireworks

Now, the important stuff—camera settings:  I set the ISO to 100 to minimize noise.  I also have Custom Function 02 (C.Fn-02) on my EOS 5D set to option 2.  But you don’t care about that.  You just want to know what it does:  This setting applies additional in-camera noise-reduction processing for all exposures over one second.  Pictures were taken in Canon raw format to allow for the most leeway in post-processing, but I believe I could have obtained pretty much the same quality if I’d set the camera to shoot in JPEG format.  White balance was manually set to “tungsten” to give a more pleasing “warmth” to the colors.  I used Canon’s “Standard” picture style to obtain the highest preset color saturation because, let’s face it, with fireworks it’s all about the colors.  The lens was zoomed to approximately 40mm to obtain a sufficient amount of width to capture the action, yet still narrow the range enough to bring out detail from the bursts.  Exposure times were mostly in the one- to four-second range using the aforementioned remote switch, but some of the photographs were exposed for up to eight seconds with no visible degradation in quality or increase in detectable noise levels.  The lens aperture was stopped down to f9.0.  This was an arbitrary decision on my part, and it turned out to be almost exactly what I needed.  The aperture was wide enough to capture even the smaller sparkles, yet not so wide as to blow out detail in the brighter areas.  Indeed, in post processing I found that I could comfortably increase highlights without fear of blowing out details and colors.

Fireworks

Fireworks

The camera was placed in portrait orientation atop the tripod to take full advantage of the vertical travel of the rockets.

Fireworks

Fireworks

Post processing was kept to a minimum.  Indeed, after conversion to JPEG, the only post processing I did were minor tweaks in saturation, bumping up the highlights, and some creative cropping to increase the visual impact of the shots.  Conversion from raw was performed using Canon’s Digital Photo Professional, which I also used to correct lens aberration prior to conversion.  Post processing was done with Google’s Picasa photo editing software, which is available as a free download.

Fireworks

Fireworks

And here are the results:

 

1 Comment

Filed under Photography, R. Doug Wicker

Fun Photo Friday — Take Me Out to the Ball Game


Daytime photograph is easy, but . . .

Daytime photograph is easy, but . . .

There are some tricks to capturing a sporting event, and it gets really iffy in nighttime, artificial lighting situations.

. . . nighttime?  Not so much.

. . . nighttime? Not so much.

You have to balance your camera’s sensor limitations against the need to freeze the action.  Remember, the smaller the sensor the noisier the image at higher ISO settings.  This night I was using a Panasonic FZ1000 with a 1″ sensor because I needed the longer telephoto reach over my 1.5″ Canon G1 X, but that meant I was going to be limited to around ISO 800.  That in turn meant I was not going to be able to freeze the action.  Most of the shots you see here were taken at 1/80th of a second.  You have to make choices, and I chose image sharpness over freezing the action.

Stiii—RIKE ! ! !  And the bat disappears in a blur

Stiii—RIKE ! ! ! And the bat disappears in a blur

My location also placed a severe limitation on me.  I was behind the safety netting, and auto-focus tends to focus on the nearest object.  So this night I found the players and field were softened at telephoto distances, but that the netting was distractingly sharp.  This is the time you simply must switch to manual focus if your camera has that capability.  Fortunately, the FZ1000 does.

Manual focus through the safety netting

Manual focus through the safety netting

In action photography it’s easy to guess when to press the shutter release if you’re panned back to see the entire scene.

This type shot can easily be timed completely through the viewfinder

This type shot can easily be timed completely through the viewfinder — the foul ball is the blurred white streak midway between the pitcher and batter

But what if you’re zoomed in on the batter and can’t see when the pitcher is releasing the ball?  In this case you have get creative using both eyes.  Glue one eye to the viewfinder or LCD screen (viewfinder is better when manually focusing, obviously) while keeping the other eye open and watching the pitcher.  This is also a skill you want to acquire in firearms shooting, so it has other applications.  Do the both-eyes-open thing and you can get this kind of perfectly timed shot (the ball is the white streak to the upper left and the bat is mildly blurred at the start of the swing):

Keep one eye in the viewfinder and the other on the pitcher

Keep one eye in the viewfinder and the other on the pitcher

Here’s another example from Wednesday’s post using this technique:

Incoming!

Incoming!

And another:

Foul ball

Foul ball

Now for some favorite shots from this enchanting evening courtesy of our wonderful neighbors Randi and Jim Brewer:

Off his leash

Off his leash

A happy fellow

A happy fellow

El Paso skyline

El Paso skyline

1 Comment

Filed under Photography, R. Doug Wicker

El Paso Chihuahuas AAA Baseball — Southwestern University Park


Daytime Panoramic

Daytime Panoramic

Well, I believe this was a first.  For the life of me I simply cannot recall ever having gone to a professional baseball game, although I’m sure I had to have attended at least one sometime in the past six decades.  Nice park, don’t you think?  And just a short while ago it was City Hall (see Getting Even with City Hall).  So, imploding this:

El Paso City Hall

Into this:

Thar she blows!

On the same weekend El Paso also turned this (see The Demolition of a Historic Landmark):

ASARCO Smokestack — briefly the world’s tallest

Into this:

T-I-M-B-E-R !

 Is what got us this:

Nighttime Panoramic

Nighttime Panoramic

And “this” is the award-winning Southwest University Park, voted in 2014 the best new ballpark in the country.  And, just like City Hall, the ballpark is losing money.  But that’s another story.  Anyway, it’s a great park with lots of amenities and some really great but expensive food.  The drinks aren’t cheap, either, as I found out in the Weststar Bank Club.  Yes, that means Ursula and I were suite guests thanks to our good friends and neighbors Jim and Randi Brewer, so I’m definitely not complaining about dropping a buck or two at this rather exclusive club.  In fact, I’d buy the booze again for this wonderful outing.

the Press Box had nothing on our view!

the Press Box had nothing on our view!

Check out the view from our suite location:

Not a full house this night; too much to do on Fridays

Not a full house this night; too much to do on Fridays

Although the “seats” past the outfield looked fun as well for the families who were there:

The "cheap" seats even look fun

The “cheap” seats even look fun

Now for my second video production.  It’s a short (less that a minute and a half) view of the park and the electronic scoreboard:

I haven’t done sports photography since high school football, so I had a lot to learn and a short time to learn it.  I’ll give some pointers on that in this week’s Fun Photo Friday.  Until then, enjoy today’s gallery (just click on any image below to bring up the slide show):

3 Comments

Filed under Photography, R. Doug Wicker, vacation