Yesterday was the 4th of July! which means the left over fireworks will be in the sky tonight and this will make great practice for those who want to try this out. Taking great pictures of fireworks can be very difficult because you have to figure out WHERE the explosion will be and (harder part) WHEN and how long the explosion will be.
The simplest way to figure out the direction in which a firework will head and where it explodes is to have an experience reference (lol don't look it up on Google, it's my own made up word), in other words, a past experience that you can refer too. To build this experience reference you just have to first experience what you want to capture in a photograph before actually attempting the shot. Shoot a couple of fireworks up in the air (or watch others do it) and pinpoint the area where the fireworks most explode. Of course this area will vary greatly if you use a different firework every single time so try to make it easier by watching an area that has at least 2 or 3 explosions from the same type of firework.
you have to set up your camera settings. The picture I took below will have the information for what settings I used.
1/500 Shutter Speed
This image was taken at midnight on New Years and it was pitch black outside (when there were no fireworks exploding). I had experience reference already when I took this because there were already fireworks that had been fired so that made this image a lot easier to capture since I had an idea WHERE it would explode. Since the explosion is bright I had a faster shutter speed and high Aperture # because I wanted to make it very dark without having to use a super high Shutter speed. These settings will be different for different fireworks and how bright/dark the night is, but you can use this as a reference for your first time.
This can be figured out the same way as described in WHERE; with an experience reference. Watch a couple of fireworks in the sky, count the seconds from launch to explosion. Once the firework launches start counting 1-Mississippi, 2-Mississippi, 3-Mississippi, etc until the firework explodes in the sky. Make sure that the fireworks you are counting are all the same, if you don't you will have completely different timings for each explosion and you'll be more confused than when you started. Once you have the timing down you can then decide when you will press the shutter button. I like the full explosion effect and mid explosion so I press the shutter button .5-1sec (about) after the explosion and then 2-4 seconds for the full explosion.
Lightning isn't as hard to capture as birds or fireworks but it takes a lot more luck in my opinion (not as much as flying birds though). To capture lightning you do the complete opposite of what I did with the fireworks image. In order to capture the image you have to turn the shutter speed into a long exposed shot which means the camera will be taking a single picture for a much longer period. First make sure your Shutter Speed is longer than 1 second (to do this just keep moving your shutter speed down until it goes from 1/# to #. (ex: 1/20sec to 2sec). The shutter speed will affect how wide your Aperture will be; the longer the Shutter Speed the higher the f/stop # (Aperture). So with a shutter speed of 10 seconds you will want a very closed Aperture somewhere greater than f/15. Since the amount of light varies per lightning strike you will have to do a lot of changing. The reason we leave the Shutter Speed long is to make it easier to capture the lightning. The camera sensor only works with light so once the lightning strikes the light will be imprinted into the sensor.
-Very long Shutter speed greater than 1 second (between 5-10 is good)
-Very small Aperture to avoid any other light sources from washing out the light from the lightning, and since the shutter is open for a long period it lowers the amount of light being registered by the sensor; therefore, only the lightning will show up in the picture.
-Patience and Persistence. (PnP)
To take pictures of birds flying you will need a lot of PnP (Patience and Persistence). Have a Shutter Speed that is high enough to stop the bird in flight while also removing the blur created by the birds motion. A good Shutter Speed would be any above 1/800 (you can also do less since you are moving the lens with the bird but 1/800 is a pretty secure base number) when taking close up bird images, but the further away the bird is the lower the shutter speed can be. The Aperture can vary depending on what you want in focus: only the bird (Aperture less than 5), bird and background (Aperture greater than 5). The higher the f/stop(Aperture) # the easier it will to get an image with the bird focused since the DOF(Depth of Field) is much greater. Here are a couple examples of my in-flight bird photography.
1/3200 Shutter Speed
1/3200 Shutter Speed
1/2000 Shutter Speed
1/500 Shutter Speed
Keep on Snappin',