Tuesday, November 8, 2022

 TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY


To me, travel photography is about traveling abroad, exploring parts of your own country or state, or even traveling outside your comfort zone in your own county. That can include weeks of travel or simply taking a day trip.

Travels can take us to cities or towns, the countryside, or even into the woods; into nature. I have images that cover them all. However, for this month's tip, I will focus on the most standard definition of travel photography--cities and towns. 


During my trip to Switzerland several years ago, I preferred to walk in the cities/towns of Zurich, Luzern (Lucerne), and Zermatt. I can see so much more when I walk--it minimizes those rehashed "vacation" pictures. 

I did just that in Luzern. I just walked and walked for blocks, looking for Lion Monument.
When I travel, I don't just look for the "Top 10 Things To Do In......" I don't just aim to photograph places listed in travel guides. I leave myself open to whatever I see; to whatever happens.

Such was the case when I saw Lion Monument in Luzern. I saw a group of tourists gathering in front of it. As they gathered, I started seeing good compositions developing. Then, to add to that, a young lady just happened to walk into my composition, just a few feet from me, as she too admired the monument. I was about two feet from the ground. click!

There wasn't much color in the scene, except for one man's red umbrella. It occurred to me to convert the image to black & white, except for that one red umbrella. 


And, yes, I do have a photo of the Lion Monument, but this image is more dynamic and has a lot more interest than just a picture of the monument. The lion, by the way, was artistically carved into the rock. 

Several miles from Luzern, bordering Italy, is the beautiful town of Zermatt, nestled into a box canyon, like Telluride, Colorado. From town, you can see The Matterhorn, which serves as an awesome backdrop. I do have some beautiful images of the famous Matterhorn, but for this month, I want to share another scene that yells, "Switzerland." I loved this composition: the structures, especially the bar, the couple walking up the street in rain gear, and the blue bicycle. Just as I got ready to get the shot, a worker at the bar opened the side window, as if to say, "You want me to improve your composition?"

My tip here is to capture the culture of a place, not just the expected; the popular; the most photographed. For example, the bicycle, though not something your eye first goes to, represents the culture of Switzerland. In every city or town I visited, there were tons of folks riding their bikes to work or around town, but without the "Lance Armstrong wanna-be" outfits. 



Now we go to New Orleans, Louisiana, or NOLA, or Nawlins, however you pronounce it.  Among the many photos I have from my six visits to "The Big Easy," this one still stands out. This young street performer was entertaining us with his patched-up tuba. Culture. That's what I go for in many of my shots.

Notice I didn't photograph the entire tuba or his entire body. Cropping, in-camera, often gives us more dramatic, more striking, and more provoking images. 

   



Similarly, in Chicago, I saw another street performer, a man with a saxophone. As I did with the young boy in New Orleans, I cropped tightly in-camera; I zoomed into his hat, which, to me, was his "signature." I loved his sunglasses carefully placed on his black hat. This image is more a reflection of character; personality, rather than the physical man himself. 




I visited the small, quaint and historic town of Eureka Springs, Arkansas. The entire downtown is on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. What that means is they have stringent city ordinances as to what you can build downtown and what you can or cannot do when you submit applications to the city to renovate your business building or personal home, if they're within the designated preservation area. What that also means is that you can visit there in 1988, then again in 2018 and the town looks the same--like time stood still.

Knowing that history, I decided to get up very early one morning, before normal life woke up, to photograph the frozen-in-time downtown. I'm glad I did. I later converted the image to an early-era sepia photo. Ghostly, huh? Not a human in sight. This was taken in the late 1990s.  




Seattle, Washington. I have only been there once, but I took advantage of my short visit. I always believe that no matter how much we plan and prepare, we should always leave ourselves open to a little bit of luck. Such was the case when I visited Seattle. The city, I assume, had contracted with an artist to (temporarily) paint several downtown trees blue, yes, blue! I took advantage of the surrealism of this scene. Not only were there blue trees, but silver and copper figures sprinkled throughout this downtown courtyard--look for them. 




Salt Lake City, Utah, and the state are known for their LDS (Latter Day Saints, or Mormons) history. There is beautiful landscape scenery around the area, but Mormonism pretty much blankets its culture, business, politics, and religion. That said, they are meticulously detailed about presenting their religion to visitors and guests. That is clearly seen in this photo of Temple Square, right in the center of downtown. The square covers five city blocks. The temple itself was completed in 1893. 

For this photo, I liked the combination of the temple, Temple Square, and visitors enjoying their visit. Notice how immaculate the grounds are.




Taos, New Mexico, More specifically, the Taos Pueblo. It is one of the longest continuously-inhabited communities in North America. Some of the oldest settlements in New Mexico date back 1500 years! Below is a photo of how the pueblo looks today. 




I always say that I know no strangers. I talk to everyone everywhere I go. The Taos Pueblo is no exception. During one winter visit, I started a conversation with one of the local artists in the pueblo. He invited me into his abode, which doubled as his house and studio. His name is Meko. He was kind enough to let me photograph him in his small, intimate, and colorful studio/ home. As I said earlier, I like to capture culture when I travel. This is not Hollywood. This is real life. 

My photography is much more than a depiction of my technical skills as a photographer. It reflects my love of, and respect for, life, cultures, and everything out there for me to see, experience, and enjoy.



I hope I have given you some ideas and approaches to travel photography. Enjoy your travels; enjoy photographing them. 

E-mail me at vegaphotoart@gmail.com with any questions you might have, or if you would like a field lesson if I'm ever in your town or if you live nearby Hot Springs, Arkansas. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

 DIFFERENT WAYS OF PHOTOGRAPHING WATER


How many different ways can we photograph water? Well, it's virtually endless. There are waterfalls, beaches, rivers, lakes, ponds, and even puddles. However, it's not the subject, so much as the way we photograph the subject. Think perspective, timing, time of day, time of year, or weather. 

Below are examples of what and how I incorporated water into my compositions. I'll start with a scene that was not easy to photograph. It was a cold winter day in October, in Colorado. In those conditions, I had to take a 4-mile round-trip hike to beautiful Lake Isabelle. As you can see, It was well worth the effort. The message here is: Do what others are not willing to do.


I photographed this soothing, tranquil scene in the early hours during a very foggy morning in Hot Springs, Arkansas. It's called Stone Bridge. This scene does not have this "feel" at all during a sunny morning. Weather is the keyword here. 



We have seen hundreds of waterfall images. They are indeed beautiful to behold. However, for this next image, I decided to capture the essence; the "feel" of the waterfall, similar to what I did above with the bridge and pond in heavy fog. Although I took several photos of the actual waterfall, this one turned out to be my favorite. Sometimes, photographing just a small part of the subject can have more impact, whether it's dynamic or soothing. 

This is Ouzel Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado.  



Now, for this next image, I did photograph the entire waterfall. I captured both the waterfall and the creek it creates. This is Fish Creek Falls near Steamboat Springs, Colorado. I prefer to photograph the context in which a waterfall is, rather than just the waterfall itself. 



I found this composition near the Grand Tetons in Wyoming. I liked the way the Snake River meandered along the landscape, with the Grand Tetons as a backdrop. The lighting is what attracted me that morning. The foreground lit by the sun, while the clouds sprinkled sunlight on the mountains, gave this scene a three-dimensional feel. 



The water in this scene created interesting geometric shapes--a sort of surreal look. This is beautiful Garvan Woodland Gardens in Hot Springs, Arkansas. 



Sometimes, it's the not-so-obvious that grabs my attention. On a nice summer day, I hiked, again in Colorado, after heavy rainfall. There were several puddles of water along the trail. The hikers that day, including me, had to hop over the puddles along the trails.

On my way back down from the hike, a puddle grabbed my attention. I no longer saw a simple puddle of water; I saw art, nature's art in the puddle. My message here is this: Don't just look for something to hit you between the eyes and say, "Here I am. Photograph me." Sometimes the most subtle, the less conspicuous, can be gems just waiting for us. We need to see; not just look.


This scene was not difficult to find. It is a short, easy hike to Maroon Lake, where you can sometimes see the reflection of majestic Maroon Bells, two of fifty-six "Fourteeners" in Colorado--peaks that are at least 14,000' in elevation. It is important to arrive early at any lake before the breeze starts to pick up. That is how we pick up those beautiful reflections, which we simply cannot see when the mountain breezes sweep across the surface of lakes and ponds. 



So, go out and look for water. It's everywhere. But, don't just set out to see the obvious. Look all around you. Something exciting is waiting for you to see it. Look with your eyes; see with your imagination.

Have fun! 


  

 

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

TAKING A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE


Taking a different perspective can significantly enhance the impact our images create. It helps us to make the common uncommon; the mundane insane. 

So what do I mean by a different perspective? I mean creating an image from other than eye level while standing up, which is the most common perspective from which most pictures are taken. It involves getting outside our comfort zone. It's easy; more comfortable to just stand there and take a picture.

I encourage you to simply look at life differently, from different heights and different angles. In other words, different perspectives. You will notice a big difference in your images. 

I might add that oftentimes, the viewer will know even realize that you took the shot from a different perspective other than eye level. Sometimes the effect is subtle. However, it will still have a stronger impact, regardless of whether your intentionally different perspective is evident or not. 

This is the perfect time to share my first example. This doesn't give any hint as to where I was when I created this image of the amazing Sangre De Cristo Mountains in Colorado. This mountain range has the same feel as the Grand Tetons in Wyoming. When I was there, I could barely see a small body of water midway into the scene. I wanted to see more of it so    I got on top of my vehicle, stood up, set up the tripod, and got this shot.


 I was with a camera club at a historic cemetery in Leadville, Colorado. I was demonstrating the use of perspective. In the middle of the cemetery was a giant depiction of Christ on the cross. The cross was black; Jesus was white. 

As I demonstrated, I placed my camera underneath Jesus' feet and shot straight up. The camera was so low I couldn't see what I was taking. I had to estimate. However, prior to the shot, I preset my settings: large f/stop (small opening to get lots of depth of field), set the focus point in the center of the viewfinder, and overexposed it slightly so the cross and Christ wouldn't turn out too dark. I picked up some flare in the upper left-hand corner. I could have deleted it, but I left it because it added a spiritual feel to the subject.  

This perspective gave me a more powerful view of Christ on the cross. It would not have had the same impact had I photographed it from a distance at eye level.  



This next example is also of Jesus on the cross, but the perspective is just the opposite-- a view of Christ on the cross, but looking straight down. 

This is actually one of 30 renditions included in my new book, Renditions of Famous Paintings. In the book, I go into detail about how I staged this shot and the complex computer software applications it took to create the final image. For this blog, however, I want to stress the idea and importance of taking photos from different perspectives. Get outside your comfort zone. 

Articulated screens on the back of some cameras can help with this, especially if it's difficult for you to get down on your knees or bend your knees to get a shot.




I was at the Oklahoma City bombing memorial--the memorial to the devastating 1995 bombing of the federal building in the city. It was quite emotional seeing 168 chairs that represented each of the victims. I let my emotions lead the way for me.

As hundreds, if not thousands, of people have done since 1995, I too took several photographs in and around the beautiful and touching memorial. After several minutes of taking photos, I wanted to create an image that better matched the feeling I was getting as    I walked around. I placed my camera on the grass and took this shot of the chairs.




I mentioned earlier that the viewer cannot always tell that you took a different perspective to create your image. Such is the case with this next example. I get a lot of positive feedback on this image, but never, never has anyone commented, "I like the perspective you took." 

I saw this beautiful grouping of varied colored tulips along Pearl Street Mall in Boulder, Colorado. I didn't want to take the shot looking down at the tulips, from eye level. I lowered my tripod to about 1.5-2 feet from the ground to get this shot. The point here is that a new perspective can make a big difference, even if no one knows you took a different perspective.




I took several photos of the table and table setting in this next example. I used a wide-angle lens for some to capture the entire room, or most of the room. Then it occurred to me to also take my camera and aim it facedown on the table. To do this, I extended my arms away from me and above head level to get this shot. 

If you don't have a lens with an image stabilizer feature, you might need to increase your ISO to get a faster shutter speed, in order to get a steady shot. Consider this simple technique for a variety of subjects.





There is a very unusual annual event in Nederland, Colorado. It's held in mid-winter, and it gets cold in Nederland! The event is called Frozen Dead Guy Days. It covers more than one day. The annual theme is "dead guys;" anything that has to do with death. They have a parade that includes folks competing for the best hearse, best coffins, etc. As I said, it's quite unique.

The event draws hundreds of people from a 45-mile radius, which includes Boulder and Denver. Because it draws a lot of people, it's hard to get a good shot of the parade. My solution is to raise my camera above my head, aim slightly down and start shooting. The resulting images look like I am 6'10" tall and shooting down at all the people around me. 

                                                                          


   
This last example is one of my favorites--a bit surreal. It involves another annual event, but this one is in Denver, Colorado. One of the most creative events I have ever attended is Denver's annual Chalk Art Festival. The city closes a four-block area in the LODO area (Lower Downtown) so artists can spend the weekend creating their chalk art on the paved streets. It is pretty amazing what the artists come up with. 

One year, I was capturing all the fun activities, including, of course, artists creating their art. After several minutes of shooting from eye level, I started shooting straight down at the artists as they created their art on the street. I leaned forward, with arms extended, and started shooting. This image looks like I was hovering above the piece he was painting.




So, I have shared several ways and techniques I use to get different perspectives. I hope they inspire you to get out of the habit of shooting everything at eye level while standing. 

There are so many different ways to look at life. And, by so doing, our images will reflect it. 

Have fun with it! Contact me if you need to.....

Eli

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

 SEE WITH YOUR IMAGINATION


In my Right Brain Photography book, classes, and workshops, I stress the concept of "See with your imagination." If you can do that, you can see something before you see it.

This can be a difficult concept to grasp for some photographers, but here is a non-photography analogy that might help. Some people, and businesses, buy what, to us, are mundane, non-descript houses of negligible value. The reason they do that is because they see, using their imagination, what we don't see. They see the potential. They see how those houses might look if they "do this" or "do that" to them. 

I use that same visualization process when I look at scenes or subjects that have potential. They may not look like much, but I see the potential--if I "do this" or "do that" to them. If you are with me during those moments, you would ask, "What are you looking at? You're really thinking of photographing that? Why?" 

Below are "before" and "after" images that help explain what I mean. Maybe this will connect the dots for you.

This first image is of a scene that looked exactly as my eyes saw it. Pretty bland, huh? I look with my eyes; I see with my imagination. 



The more I looked at this scene the more my right brain, my imagination, took over. I could see how this scene might look if I came back at twilight, just after sunset, and "painted" those dead branches with my flashlight. I use a large off-road emergency LED flashlight for these occasions. I knew I was going to paint each of the three bush-like elements with the dead branches, then paint the alkaline sugar-like areas as well. 

I was with one of my former photography students and good friend that day. I told him what I had in mind and suggested we go out for dinner and come back later around sunset. We did.

It was dark by the time we got back. He wanted to take the same shot, so we both set up our tripods, almost side by side. With my instructions, we set our cameras on the BULB setting (research this on Youtube), set them for manual focus, f/stop at f/13, and composed our shots. I used my flashlight to light up the scene so we could both focus roughly one-third up from the bottom of our viewfinders--that's my go-to focusing point for scenes like this one. 

Once we had our composition, the right focus, and depth-of-field determined, we locked our shutters open and I started painting. I painted for about one minute and fifteen seconds. By the way, this is more art than science. I know that, except for rare occasions, I will need to bracket my shots. The length of each exposure will vary, depending on the scene, the subject, and the lighting. It's called bracketing.     I later decide which one is the best one to work with and fine-tune.
What I captured in-camera is what I envisioned in my imagination. Voila! 



One day I drove along a road in north central Arkansas before sunset. I happened to spot a really cool area to my right just as the sun was peeking along the horizon. I quickly stopped and walked to the top of a hill.

The valley below me was covered in a soothing, peaceful rolling fog. I knew I had to work fast. I took a couple of quick shots but wasn't satisfied with them. Then, within seconds, it occurred to me to change my White Balance to fluorescent to see if I could pick up what I was feeling, not what I was seeing. The moment felt serene; peaceful. This image gave me what I felt


The image below gave me what I saw, before I switched the White Balance
Big difference, right? 



Below is yet another example of what my eyes saw. 


You're probably thinking, "Okay." When you come across a scene like this, I urge you to stop, look, and see the potential. Don't just skim over the scene. To do so results in walking away, convincing yourself that there's nothing there to waste your time on. 

As I mentioned earlier, seeing with your imagination can be hard to grasp for some. 
So, you ask, what did I see? I kept scanning the middle of the pool, seeing some reflections of nice early spring budding colors. I also saw the water in the pool gyrating. It reminded me of an impressionistic painting. 

The more I stayed on that mental path, the more clearly I saw what I was going to extract from the larger scene. Once I honed it on it, it occurred to me to do something I am known to do-- create an image, knowing that I will show it; display it "upside down," or right-side up, depending on how you see things. So, I got the shot and later turned it 180 degrees in order to give me my impressionistic image--the image I had seen with my imagination. I used a fast shutter speed (1/250) in order to freeze the water gyrations in the pool. 



Why would anyone want to photograph an outside wall of a Taco Bell? Well, if you see with your imagination, you can look beyond what a Taco Bell building is and see the art it creates.

Such was the case one morning as I drove by a Taco Bell. I saw something from the corner of my eye that caught my eye. I turned around and drove closer to the 'Bell's structure and saw something I liked. I didn't see a Taco Bell. I saw color, shapes, and shadows. But the shadows were too short that early in the morning. So, I decided to keep shooting around town and go back in about an hour and revisit the art Taco Bell had given me that morning. I'm glad I did.

                                     


I'll leave you with one more example. Stay with me on this one. Below is what I saw one day as I was shooting in the Butterfly Pavilion in Colorado. What do you see?



Now, this is an extreme example of seeing with your imagination. I drew on my college art days and training for this one. Part of seeing with my imagination is that I don't see subjects. I see light, color, shapes, forms, lines, etc. In this case, I saw the color red on those ladybug decorations on the right. On the lower left, I saw those little pinkish flowers. You can barely see them in this photo. I could barely see them in real life.

This is where my imagination took me. Light pink would look good against a red backdrop. The flowers are pink. That one ladybug has a lot of red. What do I have to do to bring those two thoughts of color together? If you draw an imaginary straight line between the tiny flowers and the ladybugs, it gives you a good idea as to where my camera would need to be in order to see those two colors together.

So, that's what I did. I walked around those plants on the left and positioned myself about three feet from the ground and, getting close to the flowers, aimed my camera at the flowers, making sure I could see red in the background. I used a shallow depth of field to blur the red backdrop and get a "soft" feel--f/7.1, to be exact. Click.



I hope I have encouraged you to go out and force the use of your right brain hemisphere and imagine. Think outside the box that's outside the box. Think crazy. Think outside the confines and limitations of your programmed thinking. 

"The mind....birthplace of limitations," from the book What A Great Idea, by "Chic" Thompson. 

If you need additional help with this, feel free to e-mail me. We can schedule a ZOOM lesson.
    
 

     





  
 





   





Sunday, July 24, 2022

THIS MONTH'S SUBJECT: CULTURE



Culture isn't just something we find only when we travel to a foreign country. Culture is all around us. 

Let's start with a definition, so we can all be on the same page. I searched several online definitions, but none of them seemed quite right for me. So, I combined a couple and came up with a composite that fits my needs for this blog. I have to admit that I sprinkled a couple of my own words into my final definition. By the way, my undergraduate was in sociology.

"The language, symbols, beliefs, values, mores, and folkways that are part of a group."
This definition allows for the inclusion of religion, race, ethnicity, gender, income groups, etc.

There are also what sociologists mistakenly call "subcultures"-- a group within a larger group.
I prefer the term "intra-cultures." They are part of a larger group. Sub implies under; below; less-than.  

With that operational definition, let me share a small segment of images I have taken throughout the years that depict various cultures, under the larger umbrella of U.S. citizens. 


New Orleans, Louisiana, aka, "Nawlins." While in the middle of the famous French Quarter, the sounds of a bass horn or tuba got my attention. As I got closer to the sounds, I saw this. Note the application of duct tape on his tuba! By the look of his cheeks, you know he's blowing. Can you hear it?




Several miles from New Orleans, several states northwest, is Boulder, Colorado. It is famous for Pearl Street Mall, an open concept shopping district that covers five blocks. It is always packed with activity, especially on weekends. On one of those weekends, there was a Mexican Independence dance troop displaying their Folklorico dances. They were so colorful and cheerful, with high-stepping Mariachi music as a backdrop. 

That day, in addition to photographing the beautiful young dancers, I also wanted to capture the essence of their dancing. In order to get what I call a "right brain" feel, I talked to my left brain and told it I needed a slow shutter speed, while I got on my knees and hand-held my camera, Click.Click.Click. Continuous shooting mode helps in these situations.



Let's stay with a Latin theme for a while. Let's head south from Boulder, Colorado. Let's go really south to the rich cultural city of San Antonio, which is now the second-largest city in Texas, second only to Houston. 

For the last several years, San Antonio has hosted its annual Conjunto Festival. A "conjunto" is a Tejano band normally consisting of a drummer, guitarist, bass player, Bajo sexto player (12-string guitar), and accordionist. Sometimes they add a separate singer to their repertoire, but most often the accordionist also serves as the lead singer.

I have attended two 'Festivals. During the several-hour festival, different conjuntos take the stage, adding variety and excitement to the evening's festivities. As I listened to the music during one of the festivals I attended, I started thinking, not of musicians per se, but the emotional and psychological color of the festival. I started shooting! 

This is a double exposure. The colorful "bubbles" is "flare" picked up by my lens--they added to the emotional color of the event.  




In Anadarko, Oklahoma, they have their awesome annual American Indian Exposition. There is so much to see in the town itself, which adds to the Expo. I have been to their exposition at least three times. Below are just a few samples of my interpretations.

I have spent hours absorbing this soul-to-the-earth indigenous culture in Anadarko during their Expos. I have seen historic shelters, magnificent outfits, plumage, tepees, dynamic dancing, drumming, and much more. On a side note, you might be interested in reading Chief Seattle's letter, "How Can You Buy or Sell The Earth?" I have it hanging on my wall in my home office.


          



I went to a Dragon Boat Festival in Denver one year and thoroughly enjoyed the sense of translucence throughout the festival. They had dragon boat races in the lake! It was awesome to watch, as boat teams competed for speed and awards. I saw people, food, signs, boats, team leaders, drumming, and even dragons. I photographed all that. However, the subjects I couldn't detach myself from were the delicately-designed parasols. I couldn't stop shooting. Here's why.




I think by now you can tell that, as a photo artist, what I shoot for (pun intended) is the essence of any culture. I'm not documenting the people; I am capturing their essence; their spirit. Color does a good job at that. It's no surprise I captured this next image during a Jewish Festival in Boulder, Colorado. Although I do take a lot of wide-angle shots that show several people in the scene, I prefer those "tight" shots. They take the viewer into the essence.




I'll leave you with one more. The Taos Pueblo is believed to be the longest continuously inhabited place in the United States. Below are two images from my many trips to Taos.

 

The time of year was perfect for the image on the left. The ground was covered with nature's own white sugar, as the snow-capped Sangre de Cristo mountains jockeyed for attention.
The image on the right shows a hint of a blue door overpowered by two adobe walls of nearby homes. By some accounts, blue, in some cultures, is supposed to keep away evil spirits.
A couple I know in Austin bought a second home in Taos. They chose this image to hang on their wall. 



So, next time you hear of a cultural event scheduled in your town or a nearby town, grab your camera and look for the essence of culture. Who knows, you might learn something new in the process.


Eli Vega, Photo Artist
www.elivega.net 
Eli Vega Photography on Facebook


   





Thursday, June 23, 2022

 PHOTOGRAPHING FIREWORKS


For my tip this month, I am going to give you all the details upfront, then show you several examples of fireworks. It's easier than you think. And, if you have a good quality DSLR, you don't even need to shoot 'RAW'-- just set your camera for JPEG Large or Fine, and set your picture control on 'Vivid.' Read your camera manual to learn how to select those settings. 

Shooting fireworks is a lot of fun. When you're there, the display, the show, might last for 15, 20, or 30 minutes, but we can "capture" those split seconds of vibrant color, shapes, designs , and excitement to keep and store as forever memories. 

Okay, so now that I have shared my excitement, let me talk about the techniques I use to create my fireworks images. First, shake off the notion that you're going for perfection. No. This is more art than science. Some of the 'works will be outside your viewfinder's view; some will be a little too high; some a little too low; some to the left. That said, my first tip is shoot, shoot, and keep shooting. However, don't be amateurish and just throw spaghetti on the wall, hoping some of it will stick. I am going to show you how to be artistically calculated; as opposed to just random and wishful shooting. 

First, you need a tripod. Sorry, but you will need a good tripod. Not super expensive; just good-- not wobbly. It should extend four-five feet high, or higher, depending on your height. You need one that allows you to quickly adjust from vertical to horizontal, so you can vary your shots during the display. Most displays last from 15-20 minutes or so.  

CAMERA SETTINGS:
Cable Release. I strongly recommend a good, reliable, quick, cable (or remote) release.

Lens
. I recommend a zoom lens so you can be zooming in and out as needed. Obviously, if you are far away from the action, you'll need a stronger focal length. I like to be close to the action, like across a lake. Throughout the evening, I use a range of roughly 18mm to 40mm, with an APS (cropped) sensor, as opposed to a full-frame.

F/Stop. I like to shoot with a range of f/8-f/11. Why? As carefully as I manually focus where     I think the 'works are going to explode, I'm never quite sure, so, that range of f/stop will assure me that everything will be nicely focused. For some of the shots I will share, I kept mine at f/11 throughout the display. F/11 also keeps a lot of the fireworks from being overexposed, i.e., it lets less light in during each burst.

 
Shutter Speed. I always use the BULB setting--that becomes my "shutter speed," as I'll explain later. 


Exposure. Again, the BULB setting also helps me with my "exposure." I will share later what else I do to get my exposures for each fireworks bursts. 


Image Format. Believe it or not, I have always shot all my firework displays in JPEG Large.    I set my Picture Control to VIVID (your camera might have a different designation).   

TECHNIQUE. Now that I have shared the left brain stuff, now let me share what I do once I have all the left brain stuff taken care of. I first wait until the first display--that gives me a hint as to where they have their equipment aimed, knowing that some will be off a little from that point. That is why I use wide focal lengths. I'd rather get a little more space than I need, and then crop my images later, if I need to. I vary my focal lengths, the position of my camera, and switch from horizontal to vertical shots during the evening. 

Now, you might ask, what about that BULB setting? I usually have an opaque piece of material-- a camera manual, folded copy paper, etc. The key point is to take something to use as an improvised "lens cap." I recommend roughly 5"x7" or larger. It needs to cover the lens in-between each fireworks burst, yet flexible enough to remove it quickly when the next burst comes up. Believe it or not, that piece of folded-up paper becomes my "shutter." 

Here is how I use that piece of paper as my "shutter." I place the piece of paper carefully in front of my lens, so it won't receive any light. THEN:
1) I see a beautiful display go up in the sky. I take the paper away from the front of the lens and trigger my cable release at the same time. Right before the display dissipates, I cover the lens again with my hand, BUT I don't let go of the cable release--thus the shutter in the camera is still open, but not receiving any light. I then see another colorful explosion. I take the paper away again, then cover my lens again when that second display begins to dissipate. Then I take my finger off my cable release. I have, in essence, created a double exposure, combining two displays! How fun is that? 
2) I repeat the above process, but this time I do it for three firework displays, just to be different. Now, I've created a triple exposure. I've combined three displays in the same image! 
3) I then repeat the above process, but just do it for one burst/display.

I go back and forth between steps 1-3 bursts, as described above, during the course of the evening, getting one, two, or three firework bursts in my images. It's fun, exciting, and can even be jaw-dropping.

Software fine-tuning. Most folks today call it "post processing." Actually, this process I follow requires only a little fine-tuning. All I do is crop (if necessary), burn, or dodge--darken some areas or lighten some areas of the images and maybe add some contrast.

As Forrest Gump once said, "Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get." 

So, with that, I hope you enjoy seeing samples of my previous fireworks. Have fun!
Most of these examples, unless otherwise designated, are from Estes Park, Colorado.


Estes Park, Colorado


Estes Park, Colorado

Grand Lake, Colorado

                                                                 Breckenridge, Colorado


Estes Park, Colorado

Estes Park, Colorado

Estes Park, Colorado 

Grand Lake, Colorado

Estes Park, Colorado


Branson, Missouri


So, research your nearest fireworks display on the 4th, keep my notes handy and have fun with it! Your friends will ask, "How did you do that?" It will remain our little secret. 

Contact me for my 1-on-1 ZOOM or in-the-field lessons on any photo topic of your choice: 
vegaphotoart@gmail.com   www.elivega.net 


Eli