The weekly newsletter on the art of photography from
Tuesday, July 01, 2008
Featured Gallery
Welcome Note
This Week's Tip
Updates From BetterPhoto
Q&A 1: 4th of July Firew...
Q&A 2: Fireworks, Backli...
Q&A 3: Reflector: What I...
Q&A 1: Graphics Tablet...

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How to Photograph Fireworks by Charlotte Lowrie
If fireworks are a feature of summer activity in your part of the world, I thought I'd share my tips on exposing for fireworks. This technique works for fireworks at a good distance away - not for close-up shooting.
1. Mount the camera on a tripod and point the lens toward the area where the fireworks will explode.
2. Use a telephoto lens or set the lens you have to the longest telephoto zoom setting.
3. Focus the lens on infinity - the furthest point at which the lens will focus. For setup, focus on a distant tree or rock or star.
4. Set the camera to M (Manual) mode. Then set the exposure thusly: ISO: 200 ... Aperture: f/11 ... Shutter Speed: 1/3rd sec.
Now it's a matter of timing to catch the explosions at their peak before the smoke begins to form. Take some practice shots, and you'll soon get the hang of it. Then you can take a seat next to the camera, pressing the shutter button once in awhile as you enjoy the show!
You can also capture multiple bursts on the same frame by setting the camera to Bulb and using a black card to cover the lens between bursts. When a burst happens that you want to capture, remove the black card from the lens for a few seconds, and then replace the black card until another burst happens. This takes some practice, but can result in great shots!
It's also advisable to use a cable release instead of pressing the shutter button with your finger.
Editor's Note: Charlotte Lowrie teaches Camera Raw: From Capture to Finished Photo and Learning the Canon Digital Rebel Camera here at

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Golden gate's golden night.
© - William88 

Welcome to the 375th issue of SnapShot!

As a new month kicks off, we are excited about the July 2nd launch of our Summer online photography school! But with so many awesome courses to choose from, the decision-making process often isn't easy. To help you choose the online class that's best for you, try our very cool and very easy-to-use CourseFinder. ... In this issue of SnapShot, don't miss the timely advice on shooting fireworks - in the Q&A, and also This Week's Tip by instructor Charlotte Lowrie. ... That's it for now. Have a fine week of photography!

Jim Miotke
Where Is Jim?

Updates From BetterPhoto

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Photo Q&A

1: 4th of July Fireworks
I have a Nikon D300, great camera but my amateur skills are not great. I want to take pictures of some fireworks for the 4th of July. How would I do so? Slow shutter speed, ISO, aperture, etc.? I won't be working with a tripod, since I will be on a boat. Thanks.
Fireworks require shutter settings like 5 or 10 seconds. That's impossible without a tripod, Andray.
- W. Smith VIII
W.S is probably right, but with the D300 if you have no choice but to hand hold, try ISO 3200 w/noise reduction on. No slower than 1/60th wide open. The image (IF) it comes out, will take a few moments to process due to noise reduction on. This is normal.
- Pete H
Select matrix metering and aperture-priority on your D300 and shoot wide open at an ISO high enough to allow for whatever comfortable handholding speed that yields the results you seek.
This "comfortable speed" will vary by each individual. There are techniques for handholding that can allow for much lower than recommended shutter speeds ... such as leaning against something solid or sitting on the ground and propping your elbows on your knees.
Your shutter speed and lens settings will of course vary, dependent upon your distance from "ground zero" (i.e., how much black sky is included within the same frame as the bursts) and also what lens focal length you plan to use. Typical displays are long enough to allow for adjustments to be made at the scene. You can view the results as you go and adjust as necessary.
You definitely want to avoid long exposures at a high ISO (which you cannot do anyway without firm support), if you want to retain the color in the bursts.
My tests with a wide-angle lens a few hundred yards from ground zero have suggested that at 100 ISO, with a mid-range aperture setting of f-8, the colors will blow out and turn yellow or white on exposures longer than four seconds.
If my math is correct, you should be able to shoot at ISO 1600 at 1/4 second (with the same lens at that aperture setting at the same distance) and get similar results.
If you have a lens that opens to f-4, you can get to 1/15 second at ISO 1600 and retain the color of the bursts without overexposing.
Some may feel that their "comfort zone" for hand-holding falls within that range (or even slower) but personally, I'd opt for the tripod and select a much lower ISO and shoot 1 to 3 second exposures to get better quality.
- Bob Cammarata
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2: Fireworks, Backlighting, Sharpness
Hi everyone,
My arsenal includes a Nikon D80, Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 D AF, Quantaray 55-200 mm F4-5.6, Nikon SB-600. I have three questions:
1. How do I shoot a fireworks so that the image comes out perfectly?
2. How do I shoot a backlit subject to get a good and correct exposure? What are the settings and flash exposure?
3. How do I get a sharp picture, when shooting a group of people (4-8), so that everyone is sharp in the picture?
Thank you.
- Vadim Boriskevich
1. No flash, shoot in Manual exposure so that the camera isn't setting an extra-long shutter speed. ISO 100 or 200, and set aperture for f/8 or f/11. Maybe set focus manually since AF may fail in the darkness. A shutter speed of about 1/60 will give a good freeze of the individual sparks, but longer shutter speeds, even bulb (use a tripod and remote release) are better to get the streaking on the way up and blossoming of the firework.
2. Spot meter on the subject so that the meter ignores the bright background. Or use the flash - balanced fill flash is automatic for the D80 with the SB-600 set for i-TTL BL
3. There can only be a single focus distance, people nearer or farther will be progressively less in focus. So set f/8 to get enough depth of field (Av or M mode, matrix metering).
- Jon Close
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3: Reflector: What It Is, How to Use It
I just bought a set of lights and all the goodies that come with it, including a reflector disc. What is that used for? And how does it work? Thanks so much for any responses. Dee :)
- Dee Augustine
You use a reflector to reflect/bounce light from the source onto the subject. It's usually used to "fill" shadows on the subject with a bit more light, so that they won't be too hard, too harsh, or too black.
- W. Smith VIII
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1: Graphics Tablet?

Hi there,
I'm planning to buy a graphics tablet to use for editing my photos. I like to do a lot of painting on the images, use different filters and brushes etc. There are so many choices. Anyone have a recommendation? Any input would be appreciated.
- Angela C. Wood

A tablet (like the Wacom 6x11 Tablet) makes sense if you do a lot of painting, as you say. They are not for everyone, and if you haven't used one before, you will want to be sure you feel skilled with painting or drawing freehand. I am not, so use a Kensington Expert Mouse as my input of choice.
Another thing to pay attention to with the tablet: the size. Some have dimensions configured to work better with wide screens and dual monitors, so you'll want to pay attention to the sizing. in comparison the ratio of your display.
As I don't get along so well with my tablet (but know it can be a great tool for those who do!), I hope others will chime in here with their experiences, because as you point out, there are a lot of choices. I found calling the company and asking a representative about what would be best to be helpful.
Hope that helps!

- Richard Lynch

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Hi Angela,
I tried the Graphire tablet a couple of years ago but I didn't use it much. When I recently decided to buy the Coral Painter X program, I decided to get the 6 x 8 Wacon Intuos 3 tablet. and I always use it with the Painter program to convert my photos into paintings. I know a couple of people who use the tablet all the time (dont even use a mouse) but I have never become that comfortable with it. It takes a little getting used to and can be a little uncomfortable at first. It does a great job with painter and if you have artistic drawing/painting abilities, you will like using it even more. I debated over the size but I am happy with the 6x8.

- Carlton Ward

Thanks again for the input, everyone! I think the Intuous sounds pretty good for what I want, I think that may be the way to go. Really appreciate all the help.

- Angela C. Wood

Hi again, Angela,
Just curious, are you going to use the Corel Painter program? It is fun and I even took a 4 week course from Jim Zuckerman Making Masterpieces with Corel Painter to get me up and running with it.
It was a fun course and got me from know nothing about Painter to navigating & using the tools easily and very quickly.
I have a few of my images posted in the "arts" section of my gallery on my web site.

- Carlton WardSee Sample Photo - Essense - Festival Stiltwalkers

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