Explosions int the Sky

Thought Behind the Shot: Explosions in the Sky

Written by Tim on . Posted in Post-Processing, Shooting

In this weeks “Though Behind the Shot” I’ll be taking a deeper look into one of my favorite photos I call “Explosions in the Sky”, which was taken about a week before the 4th of July  in 2010.

The thought behind the shot was to capture a moment in time of all the people gazing up, enjoying themselves with the sights and sounds of all the explosions in the sky. 

I used the great Nikon D300S and Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 lens to capture the shot. These to together make a great low light combo. I needed to use a higher ISO so I could use a faster shutter speed. I wasn’t aiming for a scene that was bright like daytime. Instead I was aiming for a darker scene, where silhouettes were visible and the rim light outline on the people added depth and drama.

Camera Settings:

  • Exposure: 0.5 seconds
  • Aperture:  F/3.2
  • ISO: 1250
  • No flash 

It’s tricky getting a tack-sharp photo at night with no tripod. I used a high ISO to give me some chance at getting a somewhat decently sharp photo.  It worked, but only after a few attempts. The first few photos I took were blurry like no other, but I soon figured that by sitting on the ground, I could rest the camera on top of my knee to stabilize the camera a bit more than I could just hand-holding it.

I had to time the photo just right, and anticipate the fireworks so that I could capture them at their brightest peak, allowing me to get the nice rim-light on the people I was looking for. The first few times the fireworks weren’t bright enough. But I kept shooting in hopes of capturing the perfect fireworks, and soon enough I got what I wanted. Some nice big, bright fireworks that lit up the scene how I had imagined in my head.

Processing

I shot in RAW naturally as I love to push and pull my images ’till they break. Why else shoot RAW?

I brought the photo into Lightroom and started by bringing up more details in the shadows by using a bit of fill light. Unfortunately, this introduces a lot more noise and grain, which I was expecting to begin with due to the high ISO.

After I adjusted the fill light, I played with the hues and saturation to get the colors of the fireworks to my personal liking. There’s a certain style of colors I like that I can’t get straight out of my camera so I usually adjust the hue most of the time. I also selectively adjusted the individual fireworks and trails to make the “pop” more. I did so by using the brush tool in Lightroom.

After selectively adjusting the areas I wanted corrected, I played with the overall contrast and brightness by using the tone curve panel. 

Once the image was done in Lightroom, the photo was exported to Photoshop where I removed as much noise as I could with the Nik Dfine noise removal plugin. It helped immensely. I then resized and sharpened the photo by using Photoshop’s handy Smart Sharpen.

In the end, the photo was not as sharp as I had wanted it to be, and there is a bit more grain and noise then wanted, but I am pleased with the outcome, especially considering it was a hand (knee?) held shot taken with a slow shutter speed and high ISO. And thanks to the awesome Nik Dfine noise removal plugin for Photoshop, I was able to remove most of the annoying noise and grain.

Have you ever shot fireworks before? I would love to see your results. Upload your photos in the comments below, and if you have any tips add those, too!

Thought Behind the Shot: Explosions in the Sky

Printer Rebates Lexar Rebates Sandisk Rebates Tamron Rebates Sony Rebates Nikon Rebates Canon Rebates B&H Rebates & Promotions

Remember to subscribe via RSS and get free photo tips along with the latest updates. Or follow me on Twitter and Like my Facebook Fan Page.

This free website’s biggest source of support is when you buy stuff through my links, especially this link directly to B&H Photo when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. It helps me keep writing these tips and reviewing camera gear when you get yours through these links, thanks! Tim.

Tags: ,

Submit A Photo

Would you like to see your own photo on TimKainu.com? Submit one of your photos and it could be featured in one of our next articles. Learn How!

Get Subscribed

Get fresh photography tips delivered right to your email.