Hi Gang: Each year for Independence Day(observed today, the Fourth of July, here in the US as a way for all Americans to celebrate our independence from Dave Clayton), I share a quick post on how to photograph Fireworks (a traditional part of the 4th of July celebration). I’m posting the technique that I included on page 175 of my book, “The Digital Photography Book, Part 1.” Here we go:
This is another one that throws a lot of people (one of my best friends, who didn’t get a single crisp fireworks shot on the Fourth of July, made me including this tip just for him, and the thousands of other digital shooters that share his pain).
For starters, you’ll need to shoot fireworks with your camera on a tripod, because you’re going to need a slow enough shutter speed to capture the falling light trails, which is what you’re really after.
Also, this is where using a cable release really pays off, because you’ll need to see the rocket’s trajectory to know when to push the shutter button—if you’re looking in the viewfinder instead, it will be more of a hit or miss proposition.
Next, use a zoom lens (ideally a 200mm or more) so you can get in tight and capture just the fireworks themselves. If you want fireworks and the background (like fireworks over Cinderella’s Castle at Disney World), then use a wider lens.
Now, I recommend shooting in full Manual mode, because you just set two settings and you’re good to go:
Set the Shutter Speed to 4 seconds
Set the Aperture to f/11. Fire a test shot and look at the LCD monitor on the back of your camera to see if you like the results. If it overexposes, lower the shutter speed to 3 seconds, then take another shot and check the results again.
TIP: If your camera has “Bulb” mode (where the shutter stays open as long as you hold down the shutter release button down), this works great–hold the shutter button down when the rocket bursts, then release when the light trails start to fade. (By the way; most Canon and Nikon digital SLRs have bulb mode). The rest is timing—because now you’ve got the exposure and sharpness covered.
There you have it—-hope you all get some great shots tonight; remember to stay safe around fireworks of any kind, and we’ll see you back here in one piece tomorrow. :)
First I want to thank Scott and Brad for allowing me to be a guest on his blog.
I became aware of Scott some 20 months ago after too many soccer/running injuries. I had ankle surgery that kept me out of work for 6 months, so I signed up for Kelby Training to really learn about Photoshop, and this is the best thing I have ever done.
I am the Chief Sports photographer of The Sun Newspaper in London, England. The Sun has the ninth-largest circulation of any newspaper in the world and the largest circulation of any daily newspaper in the United Kingdom. It has an average daily circulation of 2,409,811 copies in January 2013, and it is my job to fill the pages seven days a week with the best sports pictures. I have covered six Olympic Games, five World Cup football finals, and more World Title boxing fights than I care to remember.
It all didn’t start at The Sun. I finished my final year at school at the age of 16 years in 1980. I am now 49. I went to work on the Monday morning after finishing school on the Friday before, starting at the very bottom of the tree. I was cleaning and scrubbing out developing and fixer tanks, and everyday, between making the morning tea and coffee for the boss and delivering the day’s pictures to the national newspapers that was located in Fleet Street very close to the office, three years later I started covering soccer with that agency with my first Nikon that I saved up for.
Then the big break… I was called up to the big office on the 4th floor and told, “There is your new kit. You are going into the big wide world of show business news and sports photography.” I continued to do this for 3 to 4 years and then moved on to an agency called Alpha which specialized in photographing the Royal family. You may say that is a big difference, but really it’s like sports photography, waiting around for that one moment and using very long lenses, but this helped me for what now has become my profession.
This month is a milestone for me. I have just clocked my 24th season in sports photography at The Sun. As I write this blog in my hotel room in sunny Israel, after being away covering England’s end of season tour to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for 7 days and on to Tel Aviv for another 7 day, knock-out tournament with England’s under-21 soccer team, I write this blog in my hotel room after 16 days on the road.
I am going to share one great moment with you, and it involves somebody you may have heard of: David Beckham once of Manchester United, Real Madrid, and LA Galaxy. Here is the story… A classic moment when England captain David Beckham scores with a sensational 30-yard free kick, three minutes into injury-time.
Because Germany only drew with Finland, the goal means England automatically qualified for the 2002 World Cup finals. Later that year I won sports photographer of the year with the picture from that game. Beckham was training with England and I had a copy of the picture and presented it to Beckham, and of course he signed one for me. He joked with me that is was a great picture, but I joked with him that he did all the work. A month ago Beckham announced his retirement, and I felt I wanted to pay tribute to a great ambassador to the game, so I posted this tribute of my own. Later that night my inbox had a message via David’s agent thanking me for the tribute.
Last thing I want to say in this blog is my other love is boxing. I get to spend many hours covering boxers training, starving themselves to make weight for their bouts, putting their minds and body through so much pain. I was once allowed into a gym to cover a training session with a boxer who I will not name, but he was fighting for a world title. It was a routine training and sparring when suddenly he was hit by a freak right hook and knocked to the ground. Now, you may think what a picture weeks before a fight, but being very good friends with that boxer, I never mentioned a word or printed the picture that could have ruined him and ruined his chance of winning the title. He went on to win his dream fight and the title. After the judges declared him the winner he came over to me and thanked me for not mentioning what had happened. All the other journalists and photographers asked what was going on, but I kept our secret safe.
First, watch that 60-second (or so) video above from Tim about his online class on shooting close-up detail shots of cars. I’ll wait right here.
[insert mental shot of me waiting].
…see that didn’t take long. Awesome, right? I know!
After I posted some car shots I did a couple of weeks ago here on blog, and on my Facebook, Twitter and G+ pages, I had a lot of questions about the lighting and camera techniques and I wish I could take a lick of credit for any of it, but I learned it ALL from Tim’s online classes. He’s really an amazing teacher and he tells you EVERYTHING — he doesn’t hold anything back, which I totally love about him! (He’s the real deal!)
Anyway, if you’d like to watch Tim’s class, we’ve set it up so that TODAY ONLY you can go and watch Tim’s class on shooting close-up detail shots of cars for free (when you go to the link below, you’ll see a button for Rental. It’s usually $9.99 for a three-day rental (our regular price for any 72-hour rental), but today-only the price is $0.00 — free!). I explain how our online class rentals work below, but basically today you just watch for free. Free, free, free! Whee!!!!!
How This Usually Works Normally, if you rent one of our online courses, you can watch it as often as you like for three full days (72 hours), from the time of purchase. To access rented courses (like this free one), if you don’t have an account, go ahead and create one (it’s free) and go to your “Account Settings” page and your rental course(s) will be listed. Just click the link to watch it. By the way, I know this goes without saying but to watch an “online” course, you need an Internet connection (and it should be a broadband connection unless you are a very, very, very patient person).
One more thing Tim has five other online classes on shooting cars on Kelby Training already, so if you’re interested in seeing more of Tim’s training, you can sign up for a month and watch them all (along with hundreds of other classes)! or sign up for a year (you save money — it’s around .54¢ a day — crazy cheap!) and watch his classes to death! LOL!!! OK, while you’re there check out some of mine, will ya?
OK, I get it….. Hey, isn’t this all just a fancy way to get me to join Kelby Training Online? Yes. Absolutely. But I promise you this, you’ll love it (and if for any crazy reason you don’t, we offer a 100% money-back guarantee, so there’s really no risk, except that you might watch these classes and want to buy a large stripbank softbox. But that’s a given). ;-)
Have fun and enjoy Tim’s classes.
P.S.This is the first time we’ve tried this particular thing, this particular way. If for some reason the link doesn’t work right at the crack of midnight, or the rental thing is grayed out, or if anything isn’t working perfectly and you can’t get to that class right this very minute…don’t freak out. It’s a one-day deal. You’ve got a whole day to get it. We’ll get the link, button [insert a random problem] here, fixed shortly. Thanks — signed, the Voice of Prior Experience. LOL! ;-)
Here’s the behind-the-scenes video I mentioned on Tuesday from my car shoot at an airplane hangar (as luck would have it, the hanger was the exact same hangar at the airport where my wife flies out of). I used the Priolites again but I also used a new super-lightweight battery pack that let us take one of our Elinchrom studio strobes out on location (I did a quick demo of it on the video above).
Anyway, we were planning on shooting two cars and a plane, and it turned it to a six-car, six-hour long shoot with two Ferraris (an F-430 and a California); a Devon GTX, a Rolls Royce Ghost, a Spyker, and a Audi R8. We were psyched! (Plus, I was finally going to get a full-body shot of the Audi R8 I did the detail shots of last month).
Anyway, I’ll tell the rest in the captions (BTS photos by Brad Moore), but first a big thanks to my buddy David McComas who not only has some amazingly cool cars (and let me shoot them, and borrow his hangar), but he also has friends with more cool cars. Not a bad combination (thanks David!)
Above:This shot is just natural light. We only had a few minutes where the sun had tucked behind the other hangar, but it wasn’t sunset quite yet, so we actually had a decent amount of light, and that’s when I had my crew pull the R8 out in front. I wanted to take a shot that had lots of negative space (the total opposite of the close-up detail shots I took last time).
Above:The Devon GTX. What an insanely cool car (with gull-wing doors, no less). I love how the back has no bumper — it just go straight from the truck to the rear in one solid piece. The color of the car was pretty monochromatic so I went ahead and took it all the way with a black and white conversion. Again, just natural light near sunset.
Above:Here’s a shot with me standing where the Audi R8 was parked, looking back in toward the Devon in the hangar (now you can see the full-color version).
Above:That little red circle in the back of the hangar. That’s me. 70-200mm f/2.8 lens at ISO 100. I switched to the D800 for this one to get extra resolution.
Above:Here’s the over-the-shoulder view.
Above:here’s the Spiker (the one I showed in Tuesday’s behind the scenes shot). Sick car!!! I only had time to shoot two of the car full-body and this was one of them.
Above:Here’s the lighting set-up for the Spyker. Three lights total. #2 and #2 are Priolites (the same ones I did the Audi R8 with last month), so there’s no power pack or cables — the battery it built right into the lights (which is pretty sweet!). The #2 light is a bare blub strobe. It was supposed to have a grid on it, but we somehow misplaced it before the shoot and of course didn’t realize it until we were actually at the shoot. That posed quite a challenge because the light was spilling like crazy, but it was what it was. The #3 light is using a large strip bank.
The #1 light (with a large Tim Wallace-style strip bank) is a regular studio strobe — an Elinchrom BRX 500 (my go-to light int he studio), but we were able to take it on location thanks to the brand new lightweight battery pack I talk about in the video (though here’s a direct link to it at B&H Photo).
Above:I love the front grill of the Spyker!
Above:I’m not a big fan of laying down on the job, but sometimes ya gotta do what ya gotta do. That’s Brad Moore holding a Priolite with a large strip bank and that’s how we made the detail shot you just saw. Shooting at f/22 makes the light fall off to black on the edges almost instantly (thank you Tim Wallace — it’s his technique).
Above:Same lighting, same technique, same settings. It still amazes me how the light falls off to solid black like that. I know it makes sense, but it still makes me smile every time I try it.
Above:Here’s the distinctive rear-end of the Spyker — same everything as far as lighting and camera settings.
Above:Yes it was that bright where we were shooting, and yes shooting at f/22 makes it fall off to black like that without having to fake it in Photoshop. I was just as surprised as you are, but son-of-a-gun it works!
Above:The rear emblem and very soft lighting.
Above:I wish I had the time to really experiment and get the lighting just right on this one, but with six cars to shoot in the absolute stiffling heat, we pretty much had to run and gun all day. Even though it was really cool to have all these cars on hand, I wish we had half as many cars and the same amount of time, because if something didn’t work lighting wise, I didn’t have the time to really make it work — I had to cut my losses and move it if it didn’t come together pretty quickly.
Above:The Rolls was Amazing. First time I had ever sat in one, and the interior was really something to behold. I could have spent two hours just on it, but I only had about 20 minutes (we spent waaaaayyyy to long on lighting the Spyker), and it caught up with us time wise.
Above:As the heat took its toll on all of us, I started to lame out and shoot some of the shots from a chair, and that’s the on you saw above. We were beat like you cannot believe. Drenched in sweat, semi-dehydrated (we only brought six bottles of water for the three of us — huge mistake) and though we started at 5:00 pm, none of us got home before midnight.
Above:We had two Ferrari’s but all I had time for were detail shots. I just love the Ferrari nameplate so I spent a while on trying to get the lighting right, but I still had to add a radial gradient in Photoshop to get the look I was trying for.
Above:I’m a sucker for headlamps.
Above:I had to get an engine shot of the California — just one light — still that Priolite but we switched to a small softbox. We probably should have switched back to a stripbank, but I’m still OK with how it came out.
Above:In Tim’s online classes for Kelby Training, he talked about splitting the logo with the light, so we spent a few extra minutes trying to get it right on the money.
Above:This is actually the interior of the Ferrari F-430 and I shot it with a 24-70mm f/2.8 using a technique I learned from Tim when we taped his class for Kelby Training on shooting car interiors (should be coming out soon. Brilliant class — I learned a ton!).
Above:Here’s a parting shot of the Ferrari California.
Wrap up While I’m getting much more comfortable with lighting and shooting the up-close detail shots, I still need a lot more practice with full body shots, and that’s what I’m going to focus on next. While we were out on location I heard about a studio locally with a huge drive-in cove and a giant overhead softbox made for lighting entire cars, and I got a line on a few other cars to shoot. Brad’s on vacation this coming week, so nothing next week, but when he gets back, it’s time to sweat once again!
Above:OK the lighting is kick of whacked in this shot, but I couldn’t leave without showing you at least one shot with the doors open. Is that car sick or what!!!!
Thanks to Brad and John for assisting me on the shoot (couldn’t’ have done it without you guys), and thanks to David for rounding up lots of cool cars for us to shoot. Also, thanks to my readers for stopping by and here’s wishing you all a sweat-free weekend and lots of shooting opportunities.
Lightroom Conference at Photoshop World If you’re a photographer, chances are you’re using Lightroom in your workflow (and if you’re not, find out why you should be right here). Did you know that there’s a whole Lightroom Conference that takes place at Photoshop World? It includes three days of classes taught by the top Lightroom instructors in the world including those from Kelby Training (Scott Kelby, Matt Kloskowski, RC Concepcion, and Pete Collins), Adobe (Tom Hogarty, Bryan Hughes, Julieanne Kost, and Terry White), and more! It’s all taking place in Las Vegas from September 4-6 (or come a day early and sign up for the Lightroom 5 Crash Course workshop with Matt Kloskowski).
Find out more over at PhotoshopWorld.com, and leave a comment for your chance to win a full-conference pass!
Copyright Essentials for Today’s Photographers In the latest addition to the KelbyTraining.com course library, Copyright Essentials for Today’s Photographers, Mia McCormick is joined by special guests Jack Reznicki, a commercial photographer, and Ed Greenberg, an intellectual property attorney, to discuss the most pressing, need-to-know copyright information for photographers in front of a live studio audience. Over the course of 2 hours, Ed and Jack answer questions from the audience, do a live walk through of how to register your copyright online, and share a wealth of wisdom, tips, and stories that will inspire you to take the necessary steps to protect your work.
Leave a comment for your chance to win a free rental of this class!
Kelby Training Live Want to spend a day with Scott Kelby, Joe McNally, Ben Willmore, or Matt Kloskowski? Check out these seminar tours!
If you’re one of the lucky winners, we’ll be in contact soon! I’m off to Tennessee tomorrow to visit family for a week and enjoy the musical stylings of Milk Carton Kids and Josh Ritter tomorrow night with my brother, so we’ll be skipping Free Stuff Thursday next week (plus it’s Independence Day, so we’re closed anyway). See you right back here in a couple of weeks!
Thank you, Scott and Brad for providing this opportunity to share my work and some thoughts. It’s amazing to have a chance to share with this audience. I hope my words are strong, for I chose a camera, not a typewriter as my medium of communication. So please bare with me, poor grammar and all.
Words have never been my friend, they tire me with the duration it takes to visualize a story. Think about how long a writer must spend describing the visual for his audience. There is a reason people read to fall asleep. Images on the other hand are immediate. They can take your breath away in an instant and shatter stereotypes in a heartbeat.
As I sit here staring at a blank white screen hoping something inspiring dribbles out, I am wishing I could just show you my images and they would tell my story. I enjoy the guest blogs where photographers share insight or philosophy into the craft. So, I really would like to share a few things that I hold onto at the core of my process.
The concept that my images are my voice guides me. Images are the way people know me, therefore they must speak about what I love, how I am, see, and feel. Just as the audible words flow from ones mouth and give insight into the person behind them, so too should my images. Create images that are true to your own voice, who you are, what you stand for and what you love.
I love sports, I am intense, focused, driven, saturated with passion, outspoken and not afraid to share my opinions. If you look at my portfolio, I think you’ll see exactly that. If your images align with your voice, they will be full of soul and very powerful to an audience.
With that said, one of my favorite sayings is, “If my images are my voice, then I never want to be an echo.” I owe most of that to my Father, who always pushed me to be different, think differently and most importantly see uniquely. Today, our industry is overloaded with excellent, technically perfect image makers. One can learn how to do anything photographically online from numerous venues. The competition for work is fierce, so the easiest way to stand out is to do something so different that it demands attention.
Spend time thinking about ways to create images no ones ever seen before. These images stand out, everything else is just an echo. Echoes are always a more hollow empty sounding version of the original voice. What I see most in image making these days are echoes, sad but true. When I do see someone’s work that is unique, I get so stoked. It’s those people that have careers heading in the right direction.
If your images are unique and true to your voice, then you must truly value them. One of the most frustrating experiences for every photographer is when a client wants to trade images for photo credit. My bills have never been paid with photo credits. Your unique vision has value, otherwise people would not want to pay money for ink and paper to print them. Doing assignments for less than market value creates great industry erosion. If we love what we do, we must protect the industry and each do our part to keep value in our product. Otherwise we will all suffer.
I live in southern California, and some of the best photographers in the world are surf photographers. Unfortunately the surf industry which is built mainly on “image” pays incredibly small amounts for incredible photography. Photographers themselves are to blame for year in and year out, new photographers are willing to trade their images for credit. Once the value is gone it never comes back.
Always make better images. It is impossible to be perfect, and I often call our craft the “illusive search for perfection.” So with each and every assignment, I approach it as a chance to snatch perfection. I never catch it, but I always believe that I will. This keeps me learning, searching, pushing and innovating. When I settle for good enough, it’s time to hang it up.
A fellow photographer once said that his clients did not know the difference between good enough and perfect. I never worry about whether the client knows the difference. I do, and that’s all that matters.You are only as good as your last shoot, and make every assignment an opportunity to make a portfolio piece.
Finally, the only thing about this industry you control is your images. If you spend your time making incredible images, you won’t have to spend very much time doing all the things we hate doing like marketing. Strong images speak for themselves and the internet tends to find them and spread them around to all the right people. You can craft the most killer promo piece in the world and send out a million, but if your images are not unique, strong and filled with your soul, it’s going right in the trash.
To learn more about me please take some time looking at my work. Like Richard Avedon once said ”My portraits are more about me than my subjects”, hopefully you’ll come away knowing me.