Here are a few images that I shot at Winchester Rec on Bonfire Night last Saturday. I thought I’d try something out that I hadn’t tried before on fireworks: slow-exposure, focus-pulling. It sounded like a fun technique to try, as fireworks provide extended, colourful and dramatic light-sources, normally against a fairly clean background.
Without getting too boring or technical, the shutter speed on these shots varies between 1-3 seconds, and whilst the exposure was taking place, I’d rotate the focus ring from completely out-of-focus, to sharp in-focus. Turns out this is really tricky to get right, and needs a good deal of practice, as anticipation and timing are everything!
[CLICK ON IMAGES FOR LARGE VERSIONS]
[Above: These look like sparklers, but they are a couple of fireworks shot using the focus-pull technique]
[Above: The focus-pull technique gives a softer and more organic feel.]
[Above: The fireworks going up look like ferns and Pampas grass, whereas the tendrils from the exploded ones look like hanging swamp weeds.]
[Above: This 3 second exposure looks just like a dandelion being blown by a gentle breeze.]
[Above: The 50mm f1.4 lens produces a rich bokeh with the out of focus elements.]
[Above and Below: The shift from out-of-focus to in-focus is noticeable in these images, where the tendrils taper to points]
[Above: Try to guess where the big ‘show-stoppers’ will explode, and frame your shot in plenty of time.]
[Above: The problem with firework displays is that, just as you are getting your eye in, its all over.]
If you want to give this technique a try, you only need a DSLR, a 50mm lens and a tripod. Although, unless you do your own private display, you’ll probably have to wait until New Years Eve to get the opportunity!
Images Copyright © Harvey Mills 2014.
Harvey Mills is an award-winning professional photographer, whose portfolio is as diverse as it is extensive. Although a Winchester photographer he works across the UK and beyond, undertaking a variety of commissions, projects and assignments.