Given that the NDP is just around the corner, this tutorial which has been previously published by RDP, may be useful for those of you out there venturing into fireworks photography!
Please note however that the location may not be the same this year; do check it out before going down!
Beginner's Guide to Capturing Fireworks
A Newbie Guide
Every year at the stroke of midnight on the 31st of December, the entire Marina Bay sky will be brightened up with dazzling fireworks that last for 10 to 15 minutes.
Apart from New Year eve countdown, there are also numerous chances of capturing images of fireworks. Examples include Chinese Lunar New Year (January/February), National Day Parade (August) and Singapore Fireworks Festival (August). If this is your first time attempting fireworks pictures, here's a guide to teach you how.
Firstly we will go into the gear required for fireworks pictures. Secondly, we will give some suggestions on the best locations to take the fireworks around the Marina Bay area, based on the firing point. Next we will go into the necessary preparations before the event. Finally we will go into the steps to take during the fireworks.
Here is a list of the gear you need:
It is not compulsory to take fireworks pictures using a DSLR. You can also use a point-and shoot camera. We will tell you the parameters to set as a guide as you ready on. However it will be advantageous to use DSLR.
For those with DSLR camera, you can use a variety of lenses. However we will encourage you to use the widest lens (shortest focal length) that you have. (Example: Consider a lens with a focal length between 10-20mm for a Camera with a APS-C cropped sensor (Such as Canon 1000D, 450D, 50D, Nikon D60,D90,D300, Sony A350 etc). For cameras with a 'full-frame' view, one should consider a lens with a focal length from 14-24mm. This is to ensure you have the widest field of view to capture not only the fireworks but also the beautiful Marina Bay as the backdrop.
The most important equipment apart from the camera will be a sturdy tripod. Each exposure time (time at which the shutter will open is around 2-8 seconds, during this time) Ensure you can attach your camera sturdily using the tripod screw so as to point your camera skywards.
4. Wired Remote Trigger
It is important to use a remote trigger to trigger the shutter. Although you can use your finger to press the shutter, your movement might lead to unnecessary camera and tripod movement, which may lead to blurred images.
Phottix Wired Remote Trigger (Now selling at $19 each)
Once you have prepared the necessary gear, the next question would be: where to take the pictures?
In previous years, the fireworks were launched over the reclaimed land opposite the National Day parade floating platform. However due to the construction of the Marina Sands integrated resort on the reclaimed land, the fireworks will be launched on a floating platform in Marina Bay. We have provided a simplified map as a guide to the best locations around Marina Bay to take fireworks pictures.
Simplified Map of Marina Bay
1: Bridge along Esplande Drive
2: Waterfront in front of Esplanade
3: Marina East - Only for the adventurous. Not easily accessible.
4: Open space in front of One Raffles Quay building
Creative fireworks composition taken from Marina East
Experience has shown due to the huge crowd drawn to the Marina Bay area during the New Year Eve, you will need to reserve the best and unrestricted spot to take pictures. Since you will need to set up a tripod, your best bet will definitely be the parapets besides the waterfront. It is advisable to go there a few hours early to secure a space. There are people who go there at 2 pm to secure the best view in the area.
After selecting your location, using the map as a rough guide, visualize where the fireworks will be firing from and place your camera field of view to cover it. Set up your tripod and mount your camera on it. Attach your remote trigger to the camera (recommended to be wired for fast response). If your tripod is still shaking, you can hang something heavy (example: Bags, Water bottle) on the tripod to improve its stability.
Camera set up with Phottix Wired Remote Trigger
Now comes the million dollar question: What are the settings for capturing fireworks?
- For DSLRs
Set your camera at ISO 100
Any higher ISO will cause the pictures to be over exposed. You will be surprised how bright the trails produced by the fireworks are.
Set your shutter speed to bulb or "B" setting
This can be easily switched on your camera dial. By setting to Bulb, your shutter will be opened as long as you press the shutter.
Set the aperture of your camera to f/8 to f/16
This will give you sufficient depth of field in focus.
Focus camera to infinity
The problem with fireworks is that there is nothing for you to focus until the actual launch of the fireworks and even during the performance; you will have little chance to focus anyway. Thus set your focus to infinity and switch off your auto focus. You can manually focus on a building or landmark in the distance.
- For point and Shoot Cameras
Similarly, mount your point and shoot on a tripod. Most of the latest point and shoot models will have a fireworks mode that you can use. If you have it, use it.
Otherwise, you can switch to the camera's manual mode. Try to switch to similar settings as above. However, one cannot attach wired remotes onto a point and shoot cameras to control the shutter, you will have to adjust the shutter speed to about 4 -6 seconds so that the shutter will open for this duration when triggered.
Make sure you test your set up especially the operation of the wired remote before the fireworks and mentally rehearse the sequence to open and close the shutter using the wired remote. Remember, once the fireworks starts, it will be too late to do any trouble shooting. Hence it is recommended to start playing with your setup and be familiar.
Taking fireworks is a trial and error experience. Fortunately, there are plenty of chances in Singapore at the Marina Bay for you to gain experiences to improve your pictures whole year round.
The most beautiful fireworks pictures will normally come at the initial first few bursts. This is because after that, the skies will be filled with smoke. These smoke do not look good in pictures and they will scatter all the light making your pictures over exposed.
At the moment when the clock strikes 12, open your shutter so that your camera can capture the trails of the fireworks projectiles. As the projectiles burst in air, let the streaks of light open like a flower. When you feel that the spreading of the fireworks flower is sufficient, close your shutter to prevent over-expose from the subsequent fireworks burst. Immediately preview your pictures check and see if your camera is tilted and is able to capture the fireworks. If the fireworks are out of the picture, adjust your camera. This time round you will have the fireworks happening concurrently to guide you. Do not spend too long else you will be wasting your chances.
Check also if your background and the fireworks are at the correct exposure. If under exposed, you can increase the ISO higher or increase the aperture (smaller f/stop). If over-exposed, adjust ISO lower or decrease the aperture (bigger f/stop).
Once you are satisfied with your first round and made minor adjustments, go for the second round. Again, get into the rhythm of timings of the fireworks bursts. Open and close your shutter in sync with the rhythm. Immediately check every trigger using camera review. Go for subsequent shots again. Remember this is the digital era and digital memory is cheap. Take as many shots as possible.