Rocket Glare

The technical side of fireworks photography is easy and repeatable: low ISO, small aperture, infinity focus, bulb shutter, remote shutter release. The artistic side is much harder; one must find the right location and angle, and time the shutter to get the optimal part of the explosion. One also depends on the skill and imagination (or lack thereof) shown by the pyrotechnicists.

The fireworks people who do the annual Independence Day show in Champaign always seem to send their rockets up into exactly the same part of the sky, so I’ve begun shooting individual bursts and making composite images in post. Here’s July 4, 2011, viewed from the back patio of a friend’s house:

Pretty Boomy Things

In 2012 I was at the same friend’s house but didn’t get the composite I wanted out of that session, and in 2013 I had to stay home during the show.

This year, I was finally able to shoot from the east side of Assembly Hall:

Pretty Boomy Things II

Without the twilight behind to define Assembly Hall’s silhouette, I could not have made this picture. I haven’t given much thought to 2015 yet, but I know that I don’t want to repeat myself.

Wibbly-Wobbly Lightey-Whitey

A few Christmases back, we hung a string of lights on our mantelpiece, and we liked the effect so much that we left it up. (They’re not Christmas lights, they’re mood lights. 🙂 ) My mind quickly turned to thoughts of long-exposure camera-in-motion photographs. I took an evening to experiment, and out of 15 exposures, one was clearly superior to the others:


A friend subsequently challenged me to ride through the U of I campus with my camera set for a long exposure. It took some time to find the right opportunity, but when it came I was driving and we were not on campus. The idea was still a good idea, though, and once I explained it and prepared the camera, my wife was game to help out:

Auto Abstract 1

This next one got high marks from a friend who is a graphic designer and a good photographer in her own right:

Auto Abstract 2

First and (so far) only joint photographic project I’ve undertaken. Alicia, you were fabulous; I may have set up the camera but you chose where to point it, and you chose well.

All the images above were taken in 2010. For the next couple of years I noodled around from time to time with long exposures, not really trying and certainly not producing anything of value, until my wife was driving me home from work one very gloomy afternoon last fall:


After that little sortie into hyperspace I don’t know that I have much left to say with camera-in-motion exposures, but I’ll not say “never again.” Whenever I do, it always comes back to haunt me.