According to the American Pyrotechnics Association, 42 states and the District of Columbia allow, by law, consumer purchase and use of fireworks. Another 4 states permit just wire or wood stick sparklers and other novelty items (Illinois, Ohio, Iowa and Vermont). Only 4 states ban consumer fireworks entirely (New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Delaware).
Chances are, therefore, that you live where consumers may purchase and use fireworks. If you do, then you have an opportunity to tell a photographic story of one of the reasons Americans like the Fourth of July so much: They have the freedom to celebrate it as individuals, creating their own “bombs bursting in air.”
You can start this story by taking your camera with you when you shop for fireworks. Take your children too (they are likely to insist) because their interactions with and reactions to the enormous displays of fireworks for sale is where the excitement begins to build, so this is where your story should begin. Allow each child to pick a fireworks item, so you can capture the wonder in his or her eyes. It’s also a great opportunity to teach your children about digital photography and fireworks safety.
Safety is paramount when igniting fireworks in your yard or neighborhood. The National Council on Fireworks Safety is a good resource to learn how to use fireworks safely. Don't assume you know the safety rules. Visit fireworksafety.com and read its contents, and with your children as another important lesson in fireworks safety.
With safety in mind, consider joining with a neighbor or two to stage your backyard fireworks show. One or more adults can be responsible for igniting the fireworks and keeping a sharp eye that hot debris doesn’t land on a roof, on spectators or easily combustible materials in the yard or the street. Now, you’re free to roam with your digital camera among family, friends and/or neighbors and concentrate on capturing the best images of this special night.
As with your community’s big fireworks display, minimal equipment is needed for backyard fireworks: a camera with manual exposure and focus control; a small zoom lens, from a wide angle to approximately 120mm; and a tripod and remote shutter release device. Generally, a flash will throw too much light, diminishing the effect of the fireworks; however, try using it as a fill flash. It’s a great opportunity to experiment a bit.
One of the benefits of photographing backyard fireworks is that you’re able to move much closer to where they are being lit. An interesting image to consider is placing your camera low to the ground, using a tripod, near, but at a safe distance from where an adult is igniting rockets. Then, use your remote shutter release to capture images of the rockets launching into the sky and bursting above the camera. Although it’s possible to shoot photos safely from directly below fireworks bursts, be very cautious about any hot debris falling on you.
A primary source of great digital photos of your backyard fireworks show is the reaction of spectators, of all ages. Much like the tips for photographing your community’s fireworks extravaganza, you want to take pictures of the explosions’ light and colors reflected from faces. Children will be wide-eyed and excited, and some may be holding sparklers. Use the light just from the sparkler as the only illumination to reveal the joy on their faces.
Backyard fireworks on the Fourth of July is a special part of the day, often the last activity of the day. Make it one of your digital photography challenges of the summer, helping you improve your abilities to tell a story in pictures.
Digital photography is as much a learning experience as a picture-taking experience. Learn more of the skills that will make you a better photographer when you click here.
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Photograph by Photography Talk Member Kay