Editing Fireworks Photos

I was lucky enough to spend New Year's Eve in Auckland, New Zealand. Auckland is the first major city to see in the New Year so it was great to be there and witness the firework display. The fireworks are launched from one of the city's best known landmarks, the Sky Tower. The tower is 328metres (1,076 feet) high making it the tallest building in the southern hemisphere.

I've not really photographed fireworks before so it was a little experimental. I decided to set the camera's shutter to 'bulb' release which meant I could control exactly how long the shutter was open for once I had opened it. After some experimentation before the display it looked like an 8 second exposure would expose the scene pretty well. When it came to the display itself I opened the shutter when a new burst of fireworks was launched and then closed it after about 8 seconds, though this varied according to each burst of fireworks. Inevitably this led to some overexposure where the fireworks were brightest but generally the rest of the scene looked pretty well exposed.

The image below on the left is the original unedited photo and the one on the right is the image I have edited in Adobe Lightroom. The dynamic range of the D800 means that the detail is still recorded in the overexposed areas which really helps.

Settings: Nikon D800, 16-35mm lens at 35mm. Manual exposure. f10. 10sec. Cable release. Tripod. Pre-focused on tower and then set to manual focus.