Yes, I’ve shot many such events. It’s not impossible to do well, but you need the right equipment and probably some patience.
Getting good shots of fireworks is easier than you might think — finding a good spot to photograph them, waiting for midnight and staying warm might be your biggest challenges.
I’ve shot fireworks at New Year’s Eve events many times from many locations over the years. Kerry Park on Queen Anne is great, but is crowded, and you will need to arrive very early to get a spot. Hanging out at Seattle Center, while also crowded, is another great place. A wide-angle zoom lens would be perfect there.
The photo with this story was shot from the Magnolia Bridge, which wasn’t too crowded — you will just need a long lens (70-200mm works well). Many people walked from their homes to watch the fireworks from Ursula Judkins Viewpoint near the bridge. It also had a great view of the show.
A DSLR with a zoom lens is ideal for photographing fireworks. Point-and-shoot cameras can work as well, especially if you can control the speed of your shutter.
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You will also need a tripod and a cable release to make sure your images are sharp.
Set your ISO at 100 or 200 and use an f/stop of 8 or 11. Manual focus and exposure work best — try focusing on a building or something else near where the fireworks will be going off. Set your shutter speed on BULB, open the shutter when you first see the rocket shooting into the sky and leave it open until the burst is dissipating.
It is easy to overexpose fireworks, so check your LCD often to make sure the shutter is not open too long. You can always close the aperture to f/11 or f/16 if necessary, or shorten the amount of time your shutter is open. If there is an automatic flash on your camera, be sure to turn it off. Taking any filters off your lenses is also recommended.
Including buildings or silhouettes of spectators in your images will add interest and give you more variety.
If you are able to set your camera on BULB, it is possible to get more bursts in your images if you just leave the shutter open and put a black card in front of the lens (without touching it) between bursts. When the next rocket is set off, remove the card and get another firework in your image.
Fireworks leave smoke in the sky, so if there is no breeze, the earliest bursts will be the cleanest. The smoke also might make your images overexposed. Be sure to check your LCD often and make corrections as the show goes on.
The show this year on the Space Needle will be longer than usual — 10 minutes long. Let’s hope for good weather and just have fun. It’ll be a great show.