I can’t get enough of watching and photographing Wishes. I know it is heresy among the Disney community to say this, but I’ll take Wishes every night of my trip over Illuminations: Reflections of Earth. Now to be fair, I haven’t seen any of the Holiday variants of Illuminations so that might tip the scale in one direction but I doubt it. Thanks to tips I’ve gotten from this blog (thanks Cory, Ryan and Adam) and some of the other Disney Photographers like Kevin Davis, Tom Bricker, and Ben Hendel, I’m finally starting to like the shots of Wishes that I’ve gotten. Now that I have some shots from dead center of the castle printed out, I’m going to have to work on getting some pictures from alternate locations around the park.
In the coming weeks we are going to have an entire series of posts up on the blog for improving your fireworks photography, but for now we will leave you with a couple of tips.
- You’re going to have to get your camera on a tripod, as mentioned in my gear review here I shoot on the MeFoto RoadTrip. The shutter is going to be open for a long time and any vibration is going to turn the shot into a blurry mess.
- You’re going to need a remote shutter release. Remember how I just said that any vibration is going to turn your photo into a blurry mess? Well when you depress the shutter, you are probably (I’m sure there are shutter pressing ninjas out there in the world that can depress the shutter without moving the camera, but I’m not one of them) going to get a blurry mess there too.
- A Variable ND Filter. You are going to be leaving the shutter open a long time in order to get multiple bursts in one frame like the shot above. Without an ND filter you are going to wind up blowing out the highlights out. A Neutral Density Filter works like your sunglasses cutting down the intensity of the bursts and allowing you to get color on the castle and other objects in the image. As you leave the shutter open longer you need to adjust the amount of filter you are using.
See what I mean about blown out highlights. The first time I shot fireworks in the parks was at Hong Kong Disneyland and I didn’t have my ND filter set up right. There are spinners on the front of the castle and you can’t see a thing as they are so bright they overwhelmed the shot.
- Pray for good weather. Sometimes when you are shooting Wishes the wind is blowing from the wrong direction and your photographs will turn out to be a mess as the smoke clouds from spent fireworks flood the castle in a haze.
Here’s another shot from that night at Hong Kong Disneyland. See all the smoke clouds? When the wind is blowing the right way the castle and your shot will be overwhelmed and ruined.
- Memorize the performance. When you are shooting at a local fireworks display you just have to go with it. Maybe you can see the streak of the shots going up so you can take a good guestimate of when the bursts are going to pop open. But with the Disney fireworks shows, there are countless YouTube videos out there that show the fireworks shows. By memorizing when the bursts are going to come, you can better time when you open and close the shutter.
This shot is from PhotoMagic 2013 about six months after my trip to Hong Kong Disneyland. I had gotten a bit better then my first attempt, but the shot still isn’t what I wanted.
Many Disney Photographers have started to capture the whole fireworks show in one shot. I haven’t tried that yet but the images I see on Flickr are just amazing. We are going to see a post soon from Ben with a how-to article on this topic in the coming weeks.
On a side note, I would like to thank all the people that have found this blog again after it was dormant for so long. We’ve gotten a lot of great emails and comments from you and we really do appreciate it. We are going to stick to a regular post schedule of Monday / Wednesday / Friday for the foreseeable future as we fill the blog with content. Are there any subjects you would like to see us cover going forward? Please leave a comment (hit the Read More button below to bring up the comment form) and we’ll try to work on something to help you out.