For the Fourth of July this year, our neighbors invited us to join them at an office overlooking Lake Union here in Seattle. At first I wasn’t going to bring a camera. I’ve just finished six weeks of constant work to deliver back-to-back book manuscripts, and toting a camera with me felt like work. My lovely wife suggested I bring it along anyway—I’m glad she did.
The office we went to had a great view of the lake, with the launch barge to our left and the Seattle skyline behind us on a gorgeous, hot day. There was a lot of good food, plenty of desserts, and the chance to just hang out and socialize with good people.
Lacking the traditional July 4 cloud cover, it didn’t get dark until past 10 p.m. But when darkness came, the sky lit up. We didn’t have access to the soundtrack accompanying the show, so we got to watch it old-school. And like every year, I found myself whooping occasionally at the display. Big fireworks displays are awesome.
Photographing the show was fun, too. It mostly involved setting up my camera on a tripod and anticipating where the explosions were going to be. The hardest part is setting manual focus, because you don’t want the camera hunting for focus on things that disappear quickly. So that took some trial and error. I set my aperture to f/5.6, which lets in a decent amount of light without working with a shallow depth of field. The last key element is attaching a cable release and setting the shutter speed to Bulb mode: when the fireworks happen, you want long exposures to catch the trails of light. With a cable release, you can press and hold for anywhere between 2 to 8 or 9 seconds to leave the shutter open.
Then it’s a matter of enjoying the show and attempting to anticipate when the big bursts will happen. I ended up with plenty of so-so shots, but also a few satisfactory ones, too.
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