The Digital Photo Guy

Independence Day Fireworks

by on Jul.05, 2010, under Monday Morning Tips, Photo Editing, Photoshop Elements, Workshops

Fireworks and Indian Pow Wow

Mary, Alf and I spent the weekend at Pechanga Casino and Resort for the pow wow and fireworks display. The fireworks were OK but I guess I’m burned out on “bombs bursting in air”. We had staked out a spot on the top floor of the parking structure with our car, thinking others would respect that. How foolish of us! When we got there, kids had literally crawled over our car to climb up on the 3 foot retaining wall. These are the same kids whose parents would sue for millions if they fell off the wall.

Anyway, I suddenly realized that fireworks are pretty repetitous. If you’ve seen the basic patterns, it’s just more of the same without some context. I tried framing the Pechanga Hotel to add context but there wasn’t much there. The following is a composite of a red peony and a green peony.

The base photo was taken at f/4.5, 1 second, ISO 100 to keep the hotel from blowing out with the longer exposures. The fireworks were taken at  f/11, 8 sec, ISO 100. They were then cropped and added to the base image.

Pow Wow, Oh Well!

 The pow wow was pretty much a waste of time due to confusing rules. On Friday and Saturday morning, I could photograph from my favorite position, next to the announcers’ stand. Suddenly, on Sat afternoon, security pushed everyone out of the area and said we could only photograph from outside the 3 rings of EZ-Ups set up by the dancers. That effectively killed all photography except from the grandstands which were facing into the afternoon sun. Here are some I took Saturday morning before the rule change.


The next two show how how to fix a clipped feather by expanding the canvas and adding a feather tip from another photo. I was shooting high speed burst when I caught two photos of this dancer. The first had a complete headfeather but his foot was in the wrong position. The second pose was better but the headfeather was clipped. I borrowed the tip from the first photo and cloned over the clipped tip of the second photo. I did all this in Photoshop Elements.


Tylor to the Rescue

Fortunately, I had a test shoot scheduled with an adorable young lady. I had met Tylor at another pow wow and arranged to meet her and her Mom at Pechange for a test shoot.


All were made with a 40D and 70-200/4 on a Gitzo 3530 and Markins M20. All were made at f/4.0, 1/160 and ISO 100. I had 2 remote flashes on lightstands to camera right and left. The right was always the key light and the left was fill.

This coming Saturday, Tylor and I are doing a “50s-style pin-up shoot” with convertibles of the era. I’m hoping to make some great photos for review and critique by David Mecey, a former Playboy staff  ‘tog, at the California Photo Festival in Sept. If you’re interested in attending CPF, literally, tell them, “I’m a friend of Lee Otsubo, The Digital Photo Guy” and they’ll give you a 10% discount (promo has ended) (I am not affiliated with CPF in any manner. I’m a known photography instructor)


2 Comments for this entry

  • Shelley

    Very nice pictures.

  • Al

    Hi Lee,
    I was also out taking my first digitals of fireworks this weekend.
    I followed most of the advice I had read and shot on a tripod with a 100-400 mm f/4.5, ISO 200, aperture between 8 & 11 and shutter speed between 4 and 8 seconds.

    In some, I tried to create some reference by including the boats and crowd in front. The close-ups are cropped.

    I would appreciate it if you would give me some feedback on them (feel free to be critical 🙂

    I understand that because of the slower shutter speed, you get a little more “movement blur” but just wanted to get some feedback from people who have more experience.


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