Fireworks photography-- Canon A1 and tungsten vs daylight film questions

Discussion in '35mm Cameras and Accessories' started by pharmboycu, Jun 3, 2011.

  1. pharmboycu

    pharmboycu Member

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    Hi everyone--

    Please forgive me if I've posted this under the wrong category-- I could see how it would fit into both camera and film, so I figured this would be okay.

    Tomorrow night, I have a chance to photograph fireworks for the first time at a local baseball game.

    I've read a *lot* about doing this and I feel confident enough to try it, even though I know I most likely won't get it 100% correct if I do go through with it. Although I do have a nice digital camera, I'd prefer to use analog film for this. I'm interested in what ya'll think about the following:

    1) My Canon A-1 for this job. I do not believe it has a mirror lock up feature. Will this be a significant enough issue to preclude me from using this camera? If it will certainly blur the photographs, there's no point in me even trying to use the camera. There's a chance the F-1 I found may arrive today, but even if it does and if it has the mirror lock up, there is an issue with the metering/battery that makes one have to set the iso 1-2 stops higher to compensate (GRRRRRR!) which might complicate this process for me. But that's a subject for a different thread...

    2) Film choice and/or use of filter. I have the choice of several different types-- Ektachrome 100VS, Ektachrome 100G, Ektar, Velvia 50, Ektachrome 64T, and regular Kodak 200 speed. I've read that some people prefer to use Tungsten balanced film for fireworks and I wonder if I should use that or daylight film, -or- if I should use a daylight-to-tungsten filter with the daylight film?

    3) Are there any tips/tricks/words of advice you all might give me in order to have a greater chance at getting decent images?

    Thank you all in advance!

    John
     
  2. bblhed

    bblhed Member

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    Your film choice sounds alright, my advice would be f/8, focus to infinity, shutter set to bulb, tripod, and a shutter cable. That is what works for me, I have to admit getting the tip from a digital shooter, and having tested it with a DSLR before doing it with film, but that is what works for me, I have even done some shots hand held that way and got good results.

    And yes, slide film is the best way to photograph fireworks, and they show best projected.

    Good luck, you may miss a lot of shots, but the ones that do come out will make it worth all the bad ones.
     
  3. donkee

    donkee Member

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    It has been a while since I photographed fireworks, so I am going by memory.

    I used Ektachrome 100. Set the camera on the bulb setting and close the lens down to f16.

    Attach your cable release and keep the shutter open till you catch a burst or two or more. I would let a couple bursts go off while I composed so that I would have more centered shots.

    Don't worry about mirror lockup, not necessary. Also, daylight film works great.

    I have only recently picked up the cameras after 17 years, but this should be just about right.
     
  4. Jim Jones

    Jim Jones Subscriber

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    Mirror lock-up is not necessary. However, a good tripod or some other steady support is. A remote release helps. I always used daylight color film with no filter (or B&W) for fireworks. For Kodachrome (alas, gone but not forgotten) I set the aperture to the square root of the ISO and left the shutter open long enough to capture one or many bursts. For negative color film, one stop wider aperture might be better, and even more for B&W. The maximim time of the exposure is limited by the ambient skylight. Try to avoid bright stationary lights in the frame. Automatic exposure is useless for fireworks. There is much information on photographing fireworks online. Some of it is good, some not. If you have a way of solidly supporting both the A-1 and your digital camera, try both. The first digital exposures can guide you in getting the most of your film. Some digital cameras are practical for time exposures. Others may exhaust the battery fairly quickly in this use. The camera manual or online sites can guide you in this.

    (edit) I agree with bblhed and donkee, who posted during my slow typing. Don't worry too much about pricise exposure. It isn't critical in capturing fireworks.
     
  5. Lee L

    Lee L Member

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    Kodak's advice in the attached.

    I've found that I prefer to use a rangefinder, as you can then watch the bursts build up within the framelines during the exposure, and know when you've "had enough" bursts to fill the frame, and how the composition is going to look. But that's general advice for those who hadn't considered it before, and an SLR will serve just fine. It's still good to know where your frame is for the same kind of process with an SLR.

    Lee L
     

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  6. pharmboycu

    pharmboycu Member

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    WONDERFUL information. Thank you! I'm reading so much online that I'm not sure what to go by.

    I do not have a cable release for the A-1, so I may be stuck with the "carboard in front of the lens" method, which is what may make or break my decision to try this.

    I will *definitely* stick with slide film then, most likely either the Ektachrome 64T or Ektachrome 100VS. I'm leaning toward the 100VS just because I've used it before and I've never shot the 64T.

    The comment about Kodachrome and ISO was *very* interesting. Does setting the f-stop to the square root of the film's ISO hold as a guide to all film when shotting fireworks or was that specific to Kodachrome only?

    John
     
  7. benjiboy

    benjiboy Subscriber

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    If you're doing several time exposures with a Canon A1 as I suspect you are please ensure you have a spare battery at hand, because they use a lot of power to hold the shutter magnets open for long periods.
     
  8. dnjl

    dnjl Member

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    Regarding the lack of mirror lock-up: try to anticipate the explosion, open the shutter (with a cable release) when it is still dark.
     
  9. brucemuir

    brucemuir Member

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    You might want to try some multi exposures .
    I'm sure that was mentioned somewhere in your research.
     
  10. pharmboycu

    pharmboycu Member

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    It was indeed mentioned. Truthfully, I've never tried multiple exposures before and I'm not very well versed on how exactly to calculate how many exposures of a given exposure time, aperture value, and ISO are permissible per frame. If I can get the math figured out and work through it tomorrow, that might prove a viable alternative to the cardboard method.

    Thanks for the idea!
     
  11. pharmboycu

    pharmboycu Member

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    Good point-- thanks for the reminder. I keep a spare battery in the bag with the A-1, but I will put a second spare in the bag knowing that there's a good chance it might give out.

    John
     
  12. pbromaghin

    pbromaghin Subscriber

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    Before I got a shutter cable I would just hold down the shutter button with my finger for 30 seconds or so. If you're careful about keeping your hand still you shouldn't have any problem.
     
  13. fstop

    fstop Member

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    The A-1 has long shutter speeds, set it for a long shutter speed such as 8, 15, 30 seconds and use self timer.No tripod? prop camera up on something or brace against a tree etc and use self timer.
    Star filter and multiple exposures are techniques I've tried too.
     
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  15. pharmboycu

    pharmboycu Member

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    You both make good points-- If I were to use the self-timer for 2 sec. delay and a long shutter speed of 30 sec, I should get a few good shots. Even if they're not all that great, it would give me a chance to experiment and get a feel for the technique involved. Thanks!

    John
     
  16. fstop

    fstop Member

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    Post some pics when you get them back, I love fireworks.
     
  17. dances_w_clouds

    dances_w_clouds Subscriber

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    When I photographed the fireworks over a few years I found that double and triple exposing a roll was not a bad idea for some shots but others were too crowded. I used both my A1 and my AE 1P. The crowds can be a real problem so look for a high spot with out a space for people to get in front of your area
     
  18. darinwc

    darinwc Subscriber

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    If you are shooting just the fireworks, the meter will be useless. And using the shutter for long periods will drain the power of the A1. So normally id say to go with the all-mechanical F1.
    However, it is generally not good to go out with an untested camera.
     
  19. mooseontheloose

    mooseontheloose Subscriber

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    Hi John,

    Others have given you some good advice already. I may be too late to offer any more but here it is regardless. ;-)

    Shooting fireworks is not an exact science. Set your lens to f/8 or f/11, focus at infinity, and keep the shutter open for as long as you want. Even though I have a shutter release I like to keep the shutter open for a long time and cover it with a hat or black cardboard to get the best bursts onto the same piece of film. It also allows you to control how much of the burst you want to see. This is important with light/white-coloured fireworks, as they tend to blow out quite quickly. Fireworks of other colours tend to be more interesting visually and you can often get the whole burst in detail.

    I almost always shoot fireworks with normal slide film. Tungsten will give you paler, softer colours, which I quite like but don't shoot a lot of.

    And, of course, keep at least one roll of film ready for the fireworks at the end of the sequence, which will probably be the most stunning. I always end up shooting multiple rolls on the beginning stuff and then have very left for the end.

    I have quite a few fireworks pictures but they aren't all accessible to me here in Japan. But here are a few examples of different films in Ottawa on Canada Day and at the Miyajima Fireworks in Japan.

    The first two in Ottawa are on Portra Tungsten film, the third on Provia 100F. The ones in Miyajima are also on Provia 100F.
     

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  20. zsas

    zsas Member

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    ^Wonderful photos!! Can almost hear it...
     
  21. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    For future reference shooting fireworks, the time to open the shutter is when you hear the mortar launch the projectile. You always hear it about a second or two just prior to the burst. The best displays are preceded with multiple thumps of the launchers. Now I can't wait for the 4th to get here!
     
  22. Jim Jones

    Jim Jones Subscriber

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    During long time exposures for multiple displays I sometimes hold a card in front of the lens until the display explodes so I can eliminate in camera the flash bombs that are very unphotogenic. This also reduces the exposure build-up of any skylight.
     
  23. pharmboycu

    pharmboycu Member

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    Thank you! Wow, what great photos! Thank you for the examples on different films. I have about 2/3 of a roll of Ektachrome 100VS left in the camera, so I will make sure finish that roll up quickly at the beginning so I can change rolls before the finale. I'll probably break out one of those Ektachrome 64T rolls to use at the end.

    I'll be sure to post some images when I get them back. There's not an E6 lab where I live and the only one I'm familiar with is Dwayne's, so it might take a week or so.

    John
     
  24. pharmboycu

    pharmboycu Member

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    Well, as promised, I got the photos back from Dwayne's today. I shot these using ya'lls great advice on Ektachrome 64T film using my Canon A-1. While I'm sure it could have turned out better, I'm very pleased with my first effort at photographing fireworks. I'd be interested in hearing from you veteran photographers if there was anything that turned out well or anything I could do to make future efforts better.

    Thanks again for all your help!

    John

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  25. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    You don't need mirror lockup because it won't make a visible difference with exposures of that length. It works best for the slower instantaneous shutter speeds, not for longer manually timed ones. But you do need a tripod, and I'm not sure how that will go over at a baseball game.

    I use ISO 64 speed tungsten films for fireworks. I usually cut the film speed in half so that I can use one aperture larger than those normally recommended for fireworks, and also double the exposure time. (Normally this would cause a two stop overexposure, but it doesn't work that way when combining ambient and burst exposures, as the exposure time does not effect the brightness of the bursts; only the aperture does.) Then I have the film pulled one stop when it is processed. Doing all this reduces the contrast, giving you more in the shadows. I think with cityscapes that f/5.6+1/2 to f/8+1/2 for 20 to 40 seconds has worked well for me with ISO 64 speed film rated at 32 with a one stop pull. However, at a baseball game, you may actually be able to get a good meter reading, as opposed to guessing ambient exposure times like you often have to do with cityscapes, and you should go with that (still using the downrating and pulling technique).

    Remember, the shutter speed controls the ambient exposure and the number of bursts in the shot; the aperture determines the brightness of the bursts. The pull processing will affect all tones, but especially the bursts and mid tones. If you want to boost the lower tones even more in relation to the bursts, keep your aperture the same and extend your exposure time another stop. This would be kind of like rating the film at 16 for the ambient exposure, and 32 for the burst exposure.
     
  26. waynecrider

    waynecrider Member

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    If your reasonably close use a wiiiiiiiiiiide lens. 50's don't make it except for further shots.
     
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