Are you interested in learning how to photograph fireworks? Of course, you are! Why else would you be here? A fireworks display occurs only a few times a year and lasts about 5-15 minutes, making it crucial to be prepared to capture the magic during that brief timeframe.
If you wish to avoid mistakes while photographing fireworks in New York City, here’s what you need to do!
There are numerous opportunities to witness and photograph fireworks in New York City throughout the year. Below are the major events officially sanctioned by the city.
No real New Yorker will be caught dead in Times Square on New Year’s Eve, but if you can get to a nice vantage point, then go.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, there used to be a fireworks display on the Hudson River to commemorate the beginning of the Lunar New Year. It has been canceled for a few years, but if it resumes, post up at a spot along the waterfront on the New Jersey side.
The Astoria Park fireworks show is one of the most anticipated summer nights in Queens. People set up their picnic and barbeque spots starting around 6 pm while the fireworks show will begin after sundown around 9 pm. Regarded as Queens’ premier fireworks show in New York City, it can be viewed from virtually any location on the north end of the East River and the Upper East Side of Manhattan.
Arguably the biggest fireworks show in New York City, this pyrotechnic display has been getting even bigger each year. Many places in the US have started opting for drones only as a way to be quieter and more environmentally friendly, but NYC insists on flexing and did both. The fireworks are launched from the East River and Macy’s provides an official viewing map. However, be prepared for insane crowds.
Since the fireworks in New York City go off between E. 26th and E. 40th Streets, Gantry Plaza State Park in Long Island City is the best location to watch them.
Every summer in mid-June, the New York Philharmonic Concert in Central Park is a highly anticipated event attracting classical music enthusiasts from across the city. The globally renowned orchestra offers a free performance on the Great Lawn.
Following the concert, fireworks illuminate Central Park, usually around 10 pm, and are visible from Cherry Hill.
Also in Central Park, the Marathon’s Opening Ceremony always takes place on the Friday of race weekend. Following the participation of runners from around the globe in the Parade of Nations, the event concludes with a fireworks display. Among all the fireworks displays in New York City, this particular one is my favorite! Finding a spot in Central Park to capture the fireworks is easy and spacious because everyone is on the West Side to witness the Parade of Nations.
Every Friday in the summer, around 9 pm, Brooklyn’s iconic Coney Island has a fireworks show that lights up the beachfront skyline.
Since the subject is moving light, it’s going to be a long exposure. Long exposure photography, otherwise known as slow-shutter or shutter-drag photography, is a technique that involves keeping the camera shutter open for a longer period to capture motion blur.
A tripod is a must. Your shutter will be open for an extended period, so even the slightest shake can blur your image. To prevent any camera shake when triggering the shutter, there are a few options. You can use a shutter release remote or your camera’s timer. Personally, I prefer setting the timer or using the in-camera interval function.
To capture the shots, you’ll want to be in full control, so shooting in manual mode is essential since the shutter speed will be open for a while. Be sure to set your camera files to RAW for maximum post-processing flexibility.
Also, switch to manual focus. The last thing you want is your camera struggling to focus on the subject. If you’re using a Sony camera like me, the focus peaking function can be your best friend!
Turn off long exposure noise reduction so that it doesn’t take forever for the image to generate in the camera. Every second counts!
Now, these are just suggestions. I always say it sharing camera settings is kind of useless because the light in your environment will be different than mine. However, these are general starting points and the rest is experimentation.
That’s it! Once you know how to do long-exposure photography, it’s just about practicing until you get what you like.
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