Sydney NYE Fireworks

Since Martina hasn't seen the Sydney NYE fireworks display first hand, we decided to do exactly that. My friend Lenny (oldest brother's high school friend), camped out at McMahon's Pt Ferry Terminal with his brother, tent and tarpaulin from the 29th of Dec to ensure a good vantage point. He posted on Facebook:

                                                  An open-invite to his family and friends for NYE fireworks.

                                                  An open-invite to his family and friends for NYE fireworks.

Lenny was actually interviewed by media about his eager beaver-ness. The link to one of the news articles is here.

Sydney skyline during the day. 1/500 sec, 42mm, f/5.6. ISO100.

Sydney skyline during the day. 1/500 sec, 42mm, f/5.6. ISO100.

I went with Martina and Soojin (Martina's friend), after double checking with Lenny. 

Martina & Soojin getting out games to play while we wait. 1/60 sec, 12mm, f/2.0, ISO100. Only shot taken with M.Zuiko 12mm f/2.0.

Martina & Soojin getting out games to play while we wait. 1/60 sec, 12mm, f/2.0, ISO100. Only shot taken with M.Zuiko 12mm f/2.0.

Soojin (left) & Martina (right). 1/800 sec, 22mm, f/4.2, ISO100. In retrospect I should have shot at a higher f-stop number.

Soojin (left) & Martina (right). 1/800 sec, 22mm, f/4.2, ISO100. In retrospect I should have shot at a higher f-stop number.

So getting to the crux of this blog, I have been keen to try my hand at some fireworks photography. I already enjoy low light, night or astro-photography so photographing fireworks is very alike. A lot of the camera settings I used today was learnt from a photography website called Photography Life, from their "How to Photography Fireworks" tutorial.

A summary of Photography Life recommendations are:

  • Location, Location, Location (Sorted)
  • Shoot in RAW format (I always do)
  • Use Manual (M) Mode 
  • Optical Zoom lens (I used my kit lens, M.Zuiko 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 IIR)
  • Tripod (Used Martina's flimsy extendable 1m high tripod)
  • Remote shutter release (I use a 2 second delayed timer, because i don't have a remote)
  • Lowest ISO
  • Shutter Speed 3-5 seconds
  • Aperture @ f/8.0-10
  • Don't just zoom into the fireworks, capture surrounding landscape too
  • Switch off image stabilisation since you'd be using a tripod.
Sydney Harbour Bridge at twilight. 1/3 sec, 42mm, f/5.6, ISO100. The iconic nature of the Harbour Bridge's pylons cannot be understated.

Sydney Harbour Bridge at twilight. 1/3 sec, 42mm, f/5.6, ISO100. The iconic nature of the Harbour Bridge's pylons cannot be understated.

There were 3 sets of fireworks: 

  1. 9:00 p.m. (Children's)
  2. 10:45p.m. (Tiny)
  3. 12:00 a.m. (the New Year)

These are some of the results I got:

9:00 p.m. fireworks. 5.0 sec, 14mm, f7/.1, ISO100. I was testing exposures at greater than 4 seconds and felt like it was too long.

9:00 p.m. fireworks. 5.0 sec, 14mm, f7/.1, ISO100. I was testing exposures at greater than 4 seconds and felt like it was too long.

A long nightscape exposure with boats rushing passed. 13.0 sec, 42mm, f/5.6, ISO100. The [centre] sharpness of the kit lens surprised me.

A long nightscape exposure with boats rushing passed. 13.0 sec, 42mm, f/5.6, ISO100. The [centre] sharpness of the kit lens surprised me.

9:00 p.m. fireworks. 2.5 sec, 15mm, f/5.6 ISO100.

9:00 p.m. fireworks. 2.5 sec, 15mm, f/5.6 ISO100.

9:00 p.m. fireworks. 3.2 sec, 15mm, f/8.0, ISO100. Coincidentally the fireworks look like an unhappy skull face - that's why I like it so much.

9:00 p.m. fireworks. 3.2 sec, 15mm, f/8.0, ISO100. Coincidentally the fireworks look like an unhappy skull face - that's why I like it so much.

9:00 p.m. fireworks. 4.0 sec, 28mm, f/8.0, ISO100. There are 4 locations where fireworks come from. One of the locations is the Harbour Bridge, another is beyond the Bridge (as shown) and the last we were unable to see from our vantage point.

9:00 p.m. fireworks. 4.0 sec, 28mm, f/8.0, ISO100. There are 4 locations where fireworks come from. One of the locations is the Harbour Bridge, another is beyond the Bridge (as shown) and the last we were unable to see from our vantage point.

9:00 p.m. fireworks. 3.2 sec, 19mm, f/8.0, ISO250. Experimenting with quicker shutter speeds to control for over exposure.

9:00 p.m. fireworks. 3.2 sec, 19mm, f/8.0, ISO250. Experimenting with quicker shutter speeds to control for over exposure.

9:00 p.m. fireworks. 4.0 sec, 14mm, f/8.0, ISO250. White balancing to the extremes to blue allowed me to pull out these vivid colours. I had a lot of fun playing around with white balance in all the pictures.

9:00 p.m. fireworks. 4.0 sec, 14mm, f/8.0, ISO250. White balancing to the extremes to blue allowed me to pull out these vivid colours. I had a lot of fun playing around with white balance in all the pictures.

After the 9:00 p.m. finished. It was now a 1.5 hour wait till the next session. The 10:40 a.m. session was tiny. Only about 2 minutes. In the mean time I tried to occupy myself with long exposure photos like the next 3.

The 10:40 p.m. fireworks were somewhat unimpressive. Thought this was the only picture worth posting.

10:40 p.m. fireworks. Let's call this 'Cray-Cray'. 0.5 sec, 24mm, f/5.6, ISO640. Only shot for this session.

10:40 p.m. fireworks. Let's call this 'Cray-Cray'. 0.5 sec, 24mm, f/5.6, ISO640. Only shot for this session.

IT'S THE NEW YEAR!!!

THE HARBOUR BRIDGE IS GOIN' OFFFFFF!!!

click on the pictures to enlarge:

2014 was a great year for Martina and I. We are looking forward to working hard this year too.

Midnight Fireworks. 4.0 sec, 14mm, f/8.0, ISO100.

Midnight Fireworks. 4.0 sec, 14mm, f/8.0, ISO100.

Midnight Fireworks expansive view. 4.0 sec, 14mm, f/10.0, ISO100.

Midnight Fireworks expansive view. 4.0 sec, 14mm, f/10.0, ISO100.

One of my favourites. Ferris wheel at Luna Park. 3.2 sec, 16mm, f/11, ISO100.

One of my favourites. Ferris wheel at Luna Park. 3.2 sec, 16mm, f/11, ISO100.

I hope you've enjoyed the pictures.

Some of the problems faced during this photo shoot are as follows:

  1. Unable to react immediately to fireworks due to delayed shutter of 2 seconds.
  2. Unstable and short tripod
  3. Slow capacity to change camera settings

Solutions to problems (which I've known for awhile):

  1. Remote shutter release (cable or Wi-Fi)
  2. Buy better tripod
  3. Get better camera body

However, there were also somethings I learnt that weren't specified in the tutorial I linked above.

  • Switch off the camera's noise reduction to increase photo taking speed. (noise reduction: takes a second photo to map the noise your sensor creates during that exposure to then correspond it to the original image and cancel it out. Though an excellent feature, it doubles the duration of your shot from 4 seconds to 8 (for me a total of 10 seconds, when shutter delay is included).
  • Use image stabilisation if you have a flimsy tripod
  • Shutter speed sweet spot seems to lie between 2-4 seconds. Depending on the type of fireworks you wish to capture. I.e. point lights vs. light streaks.
  • Shoot RAW to play with white balance. Moving your temperature and tint sliders to the extremities can provide you with unexpectedly awesome results.

[I kept the geeky photo-talk to the end, in case you don't want to read it]

 

Till next time...