Welcome to Aperture Chat

Welcome to the Aperture Chat Blog.

We are a collection of photographers, videographers and cinematographers, who want to expand and share our world with others.  We’ve all had similar and yet extremely varied experiences and interests.  Overcome some of the same and yet many different obstacles, and we all have different backgrounds and goals.

Our desire is to be a resource for all photographers, no matter where they are with their skills, experiences, or goals.   And hopefully be entertaining and relevant as well.  You will see everything from gear reviews of anything we can get our hands on, to musings on industry trends, taking gigs and setting prices, to publishing work, and much more.

We encourage comments, questions, requests, and all other forms of interaction.  Because, the conversation gets better when we all get involved.

Fireworks Tutorial

Fireworks Tutorial:EP Fireworks

OK, here’s what you need:
A camera, with a bulb setting.

Remote shutter release
A lens.
Your tripod.

Here’s how you do it (based on my 2013 settings):

Find a spot where you can see clearly.  Last year I took pictures on three different nights, and I can tell you this, over the bay with a long lens sounds like a good plan, but your lens is probably not actually long enough.  My 250mm wasn’t good enough to shoot anything more than about 2 miles away, and you may not realize it but the bay is at most points, wider than that.  I found the absolute best pictures I took were from India Point Park for the East Providence fireworks show.   Shooting for McCoy Stadium is tough if you’re not really high up or already in the park.

You’re not going to get every burst, so don’t get upset if you miss some.  Even if they were really really awesome.  Because there are more awesome ones coming.  In fact, I use the first 3-4 bursts to set my focus in live view, then lock it down.  Oh and focus…

MANUAL FOCUS.  The camera doesn’t know how to focus, especially when you’re starting in the dark.

What mode should I be in? MANUAL Mode.  (The one with the M.)  You’re going to have to with Bulb anyway.  And don’t leave the ISO in auto either, set that at 100-200.  No more than that, or it’ll just make the sky really noisy and distracting.

Hold the shutter open from as early as you want (whether or not to catch the mortar trail is up to you) through the whole burst.  Why so long? Because…

Shoot at a very high F-stop.  I shoot mine at f/18 or f/22, it keeps the blacks black and the brights get through just fine.  Plus you will have no issue with depth of field that way.  Some people will shoot at f/8 or f/13 justifying that they’re already shooting in the dark, but I don’t think that helps.  You end up with more of the ambient light from the reflections off the smoke.  Maybe you want that, then go for it.

Have a friend around.  Or several.  Last year I shot once from the roof of a store, which I couldn’t use the shots because the fireworks weren’t as high in the air as I had hoped, and ended up with the power lines cutting through all of them.  And I was alone up there and after a while it got kinda boring.  When I shot at India Point Park, I had my friends Jesse and Meg with me, and they not only kept me company but Meg and their daughter sat on the ground in front of my tripod which kept people from walking in front of it.

Oh yeah, the TRIPOD.  It’s kind of a big deal.  Stability.  Tied right in with that is the remote shutter release, and you’ve got a camera that isn’t moving.  You won’t be moving it by shooting handheld, and you won’t even vibrate the camera when you push the shutter wince the remote release will take that out of the equation.

So recap:
               Angle: whatever fits, last year it was right around 50mm for my India Point Park shots.
                Aperture:  Smaller is better. f/18 is where I liked it.  (Not f/1.8)
               Tripod:  Mandatory
               Remote (Cable) shutter release:  Good idea.
               Portrait/landscape:  Mix it up.
               Time:  Bulb, experiment, but from just before the mortar to the end of the burst is great.
               ISO:  100-200, NOT AUTO.


Today’s Lesson: RTFM

So this past weekend I was out shooting the Ziontific Summer Solstice Music Festival, and I was getting some ok, but not great shots of the fire dancers.  I said to myself, “OK, let’s set up some rear-curtain-sync flash…  that will let me have the fire trails, and then freeze them at the end of the movement without making everything all blurry.”  Mind you these are dancers.  They are dancing.  They’re not going to pause in the middle of their act to let me take their picture, plus the fire wouldn’t look as cool anyway.

So I start digging through the camera menus.  I know it’s in here… settings… settings 2…  there it is, Custom External Flash Settings.  Open it up.  “M”  that was it, just a big M, that looks eerily similar to the M on the flash letting me know it’s in manual mode.  Duh, I was shooting in manual mode because I didn’t want to be a dick, and I could keep the flash low power.  Ok.  Get that switched over to E-TTL, and….

Oh wait, need to close and re-open the menu so it sees the new settings…


Bingo!  There are the settings I’m looking for.  Specifically where it says “First curtain sync,” but… wait…


Ugh.  Well, it is an older flash, maybe it can’t handle it, and the menu is just telling me that I’m on first curtain sync.

I give up, and just stick to high ISO / quick shutter speeds, it’s good enough, I guess.

So today I start thinking to myself again (as you can see, this happens a lot,) “Self, let’s ask the internet why that didn’t work.”  So I go to Google and put in “Canon Speedlight 550ex” and what comes up first?  The Canon website with the manual.  Duh.  Let’s look at that.  Sure enough, I start reading through.  This thing is older than I thought, but still works extremely well so whatever.

Section 1… setting up (batteries and such), skip, Section 2, skip, blah blah blah.

Finally I get to “Advanced techniques,” where there is a heading for “Second Curtain Sync Operation.”  Glad I wasn’t completely set in my ways of calling it “Rear Curtain Sync,” I might have missed it.  So I’m reading.  It can do it.  OK, what was I doing wrong in camera?  Nothing.



You have to press the + and buttons simultaneously ON THE FLASH to switch between first and second curtain sync.


Shouldn’t that be a signal that the camera sends…  WTF?

I will never understand engineers.

Anyway, after all that ranting, the moral of the story is…

(And if you’re not sure what that means, go read the funny manual.)