Thursday, 29 December 2011

Photographing Fireworks

By Danielle Lancaster

It's that time of the year again when the champagne corks will pop, kisses are shared, resolutions are made and the fireworks will explode!
So you have your camera in hand now how on earth do you photograph all that colourful light in the sky?

There's no great trick to it and usually no matter what type of camera you have you can capture something of the light show.

Do I need a tripod?
For the best results yes! The tripod head needs to be able to support your camera and the heaviest lens you have in a vertical position. If you forget your tripod, relax and try some hand holding abstract images: drawing with the camera shapes and letters, zooming in and out during an exposure, the options are endless and can create some bizarre one-of-a-kind images.

What lens? 
This is a hard one as each lens has negatives and positives. With a wide angle you can include other points of interest like a landscape or cityscape in your image. An object that is recognisable such as a statue or monument can really look awesome.
With a zoom you can capture one burst standing solitary in the sky and eliminate  other objects that could become distracting like bright lights or even worse the backs of people's heads.
ISO 160; f3.5; 6 sec; 32mm
Position, position, position
As they say in the property game location is the key, it's the same photographing fireworks. Areas can get very busy especially at times like New Year Eve celebrations and it is not un-heard of to hear of photographers 'camping' on a site for a day before the event to secure their prime sought after position. Up higher is generally better.

Watch the wind.
It is preferable to get up wind as then the smoke will blow away from you. Still night's can be as bad as those when the wind is blowing towards you, as the smoke lingers longer in the air and is notably worse after multiple bursts. Yes you can edit it afterwards but it can also be a lot of work.

Smoke hanging around can really ruin a good fireworks image.
Manual mode; 28mm; ISO 200; f9; 2.6sec

Before and after of an image where PS has been used to reduce the smoke.
ISO 200; f20; 6.7sec
What colours are best?
Reds and greens photograph brilliantly. Some gold fireworks photograph as white so it's a good idea to play with your white balance as well.

Take your UV filter off and switch image stabilisation/vibration reduction off.

Shoot in manual mode and set your camera to Bulb. Choose a low ISO say 100 to 200. Generally we find we are shooting at an aperture of around f8 - f16. Use a cable release to control your shutter times.

Most importantly have fun and if you have managed to do all the above whilst juggling a glass of bubbly in one hand after the midnight show, then please let us know! 

Image by Sheryn Ellis
Canon 5D
ISO 200; f13; 4 sec; 25mm

Bluedog Photography shoot for corporate and private clients. They also hold a variety of workshops and courses on Photography. 
For more info visit

Saturday, 10 December 2011

The day I met a living Legend…..
Guest blog by Anita Bromley
Images by Anita Bromley and Danielle Lancaster

I noticed him immediately, sitting in a vinyl lounge chair on casters, legs covered with a multi coloured crocheted rug, staring up at the flat screen TV. I wondered if he actually knew what was currently showing and if he even was taking in the information or it was simply a way to pass time, a different view from his room with pale walls and a few token framed photographs reminding him of times gone past. 

Times where he was yes, younger, but back when his daily view was of wide open spaces in outback Queensland. Views of sunsets you have only ever seen in print and wonder to yourself – was that photo enhanced? Could there actually be sunsets that stunning in colour? Views of dust storms rolling in over the local Pub, sweeping the red dirt and the many stories each speck holds down the wide streets of a very, very small town. When you have worked all your life on the land being self sufficient and self-funded until the ripe old age of 92. How does that change the workings of your mind when you retire to a small nursing home and your legs just aint what they used to be.

Frank Purser is a character that everyone it seems in the greater western Qld knows or knows about. Just the day before when I was speaking to a group of photography students I came to an image in our presentation, one that has become quite iconic to me personally, I heard from someone in the group  “That’s Frank! Frank Purcell! He’s just over the road here in the nursing home….”  

I can only imagine how shocked I would have looked. I first saw this image back in 2009 on my first visit to Bluedog and have since lost count of the times I have viewed this image of Frank. Frank, standing in front of the iconic Birdsville Hotel, beer in hand, grin on his weathered face, black headphones (his hearing aid) on his head with a large and looming dust storm encroaching over the roof of the Pub. Never did I imagine back then that I would actually have the chance to meet him in person.

The image of Frank outside the iconic Birdsville Hotel as a dust storm rolls in
as seen by Anita so many times in the Bluedog Photography Beginner Workshop - composition session. Image by Danielle Lancaster

So how does the mind weather over time when it makes that big change from being active along with your body, to still and seemly confined when you compare it to the bulk of your life? Well it seems, for some, for Frank at least the mind stays pretty well sharp. Within minutes of Danielle and I arriving at the Nursing Home, Frank recalled the day Danielle took that image and the next half hour the two of them relived old times, stories and the people they both knew. Maybe an active life in your younger and adult years keeps the mind sharp in old age? Maybe that is the secret? Time will only tell. All I can say is that when I shook Franks hand as we left to catch our flight back home my thoughts were already anticipating my next visit to Charleville where I certainly hope Frank is still in residence.

Danielle and Frank catch up.
Images by Anita Bromley

I can only image the pride Danielle must feel to know that the image that has become so iconic to myself and many others associated with Bluedog, stands framed along with the article written about Frank, pride of place on his mantel in his room.

Note from Danielle:
I won't say I did not have a tear in my eye when I farewelled Frank this day Anita speaks of above recently in Charleville . I remember well as we were entering the nursing home saying to Anita, 'He'll most probably not remember me." And he did immediately. I felt such a privileged person when his face lit up with that smile I had come to know and love so much on my visits west. To have worked till nearly 93 and now just about to enter his second year on the pension is a story that needs to be told.

We did laugh about all sorts of things: snakes in swags, the bonus of a nip or rum nightly that his doctor says won't hurt him a bit, our mates and what's happening in Birdsville, how Don and Cooper are fairing up taking over in Frank's shoes keeping the beer cold at the Birdsville Hotel and how the old red girl is still going (she was Frank's truck).

Frank was awarded the 'Legend of Birdsville' this year - that's another image taken by me hanging in the framed print given to him for a story I did a few years ago now for 4x4 Australia, RM Williams Publishing and News Limited and some others. 

Thank you Anita for writing this, it is a blog I will cherish as one of those special ones in my life.

Good on you Frank, you are truly a legend.

You'll find them hanging in galleries, at Outback Spectacular, printed in books and magazines, on pub walls, and there's too many more in her archives to make a list, however Danielle's compassion and dedication to photograph most she meets has produced an amazing collection of portraits of the people of western Queensland at their home, in play and at work.
 Image by Anita Bromley