Firework, Friends and a Forgotten Camera

OK, I had planned to swing by the office and pick up a camera body, a lens, my tripod and a cable release, but we were having a busy family day and we wound up at my brother’s condo (a 4th of July family tradition) without a camera.

His condo overlooks the bridge leading to Clearwater Beach, Florida and his balcony has a great view of the fireworks, and since this was Clearwater’s 100th anniversary, they promised the Bay Areas biggest fireworks display. All the more reason why I should have made sure I had time to swing by the office and pick up my gear. Sadly, I did not.

Luckily, my brother loaned me his Canon Rebel 2Ti, with an 18-200mm lens. He even had a tripod, but no cable release, but beggars can’t be choosers, so I was happy to have anything. The T2i, despite being a pretty old camera [it debuted back in 2010 â” you can find them used today for under $200], it did a pretty decent job. I used the same settings I listed here on Friday, except for I experimented with different shutter speeds (though the one I shared on Friday actually worked the best).

ISO: 100
f/Stop: f/11
Shutter Speed: 4-seconds to 8 seconds
Shot in: Manual Mode

I would have liked to go wider than 18mm, especially since this was a cropped sensor body so it was more like 28mm on full frame, but there was a wall on the left side of his balcony and it kept creeping into the frame so I wound up stuck at around 28mm cropped, which is like a 44mm lens on a full frame if, of course, they made a 44mm lens.

OK, it’s almost “grand finale” time (above) and things are about to get crazy. Although the grand finale is always the most fun to watch, it’s also the brightest part of the display, with everything kinda going off at once, and it takes a bit of post-processing (mostly, just dragging the Highlights slider to the left will do the trick, but they don’t make a long enough Highlights slider to bring back what’s going to happen in the next photo (the grand finale).

Well, I tried. It was just too much bright light for that T2i.

I can tell you three things I did in post that helped a lot:

(1) Applying the new Dehaze slider in Lightroom CC â” it helped a lot in reducing the smoke from the fireworks.
(2) I increased the contrast a bit so the image didn’t look flat and backed off on the highlights to keep things from being too blown out.
(3) I increased the Clarity a bit to enhance the overall detail.

While I certainly didn’t “crush it” I had a lot of fun (and the fireworks show was really cool). My brother made some incredibly yummy hot dogs (with all the toppings) and (wait for it, wait for itâ¦) Kraft Macaroni & Cheese (not the Deluxe stuff in the horizontal box â” this was the “real deal” in the tall blue box. That stuff is magic!). Anyway, the kids loved it; Kalebra loved it; I loved it, and another family tradition continues on at my brother’s condo downtown. Until next year, where I’ll do my best to remember my gear, but if I don’t, at least I know there’s a T2i there I can use. :)

Hope you all had a great 4th!



P.S. I’d love to see some of your fireworks shots from Saturday; post ’em here or send me a link to them if you’ve got a sec. :)



  1. For first time in years I didn’t shoot fireworks, we have all 6 grands in a ( real nice) cabin in the a Smokies and have had an awesome time with the jewels of the Toney clan :)
    Hope everyone had a safe 4th!

  2. Thanks for the tips. I used bulb mode instead of setting a set shutter speed and this is one of my favorites that I was able to capture.

  3. Great shots, Scott. a tip I learned from shooting fireworks at Disney is to add an ND filter to my lens when shooting fireworks, especially the finale. I didn’t shoot this year, because I felt I should stay home and keep my dog feeling more secure. This is one I took from last year:

  4. Of course, I read your tips, Scott, before I went out that eve to shoot fireworks on Saturday !
    I shoot this show every year and ever year I hunt for a new vantage point. This year a huge, lit American flag was on the trestle, and I worked to incorporate that into the show. Used bulb mode, focus set to infinity, shot w/my Tokina 28-70mm, @ f/9.

      1. Thank you, Mark. I have three others I like also, but this was probably the most dramatic one.

  5. For the 4th we were at the Hollywood Bowl (Smokey Robinson and Fireworks with the LA Philharmonic). A friend was told at security check that he could not bring in his “professional” camera. It was a top of the line Canon camera from 20 years ago loaded with Ektachrome. His grandfather gave it to him a few years back before he passed away. I guess if you keep it long enough even retro looks professional.

  6. Hi Scott, Those are very good pics for a T2i! Here’s a photo of the Grucci fireworks on Saturday night – Canon 6D, 24-105mm f/4, bulb mode, cable release. I had a spot a few hundred yards from where the fireworks launched. Started at f/8, but ended up at f/22 as the intensity increased towards the grand finale. The de-haze slider in LR-CC works nicely to reduce the smoke (good tip)!

  7. Hey Scott, keep up the great work at Kelby One. Here’s my favorite shot from the past 4th of July. Nothing to fancy. It was a simple firework shot that I liked because it reminded me of something I have taken shots of before! “Dandelion”

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