Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Art of Fireworks

I have never taken really good pictures of fireworks before. They probably don't thrill me enough to make me really try to get good pictures. Besides, on New Year's Eve the champagne and company I'm with are more important than a simulated state of war.

That all changed last Sunday at the final fireworks display that ended the Frühlingsfest here in Stuttgart. The weather was good and I felt like walking down to the Wasen to take some pictures. I had some ideas in mind before I headed out but was still surprised at what I ended up with.

The display lasted 15 minutes, during which time a couple of current pop songs were played to accompany the big bangs in the sky. I had positioned myself in a relatively open area so that I had an unobstructed view with my Minolta 100-300mm lens.

Then as the rocket began bursting in air, an iPad II appeared before me in the hands of a young man whose hair matched the divers angles in which the phosphorus flew. I immediately focused on him and his little screen, leaving the lens's lovely bokeh to take care of the flaring fireworks.

The experience reminded me of the New Yorker cover where a young couple is at the museum standing in front of a huge Jackson Pollock canvas and looking at it on their little 3" digital camera display. This young man recorded the 15-minute display with the iPad's video capability and it appeared to me that he and his girlfriend were glued to the small display throughout.

I took about 650 pictures in those 15 minutes (at 12 frames per second, it goes quickly!), so I have many more beautiful shots like those above.
Shortly before the grand finale I aimed back up into the sky and captured some nice bursts using slow shutter speeds. The iPad pictures were taken using a 1/25th sec. shutter speed. The ones below and the first two ranged between 1/5th and 1/13th sec.

When I saw these pictures on my screen at home afterward, I was glad that I had taken so many in short bursts. Here timing is everything.

I was discussing the photographic genre "photographic art" with my photography class the previous week, trying to define it together. So I thought I'd try moving the lens a bit as the fireworks raced across the sky.

I often make these types of photos while I'm walking home at night, allowing my gait to create certain patterns. Here I had a little more control and make more subtle, almost minimalistic, forms.

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