The Calgary Stampede is a great time to create some great fireworks pictures. For ten nights, the sky above the Stampede grandstand is set a blaze in a fantastic display. This being the Stampede's 100th Anniversary the fireworks are being set off simultaneously in the four quadrants of the city on weekends. I did not catch that action on the first weekend on Stampede but I did manage to get some great shots nonetheless.
Below is my favourite from the first Sunday of Stampede.
A Great Spot…
Getting good fireworks shots starts with having a great location. I had scouted out Sunday's location months before Stampede. I knew it would be a great spot. It had all the pieces. It was very close to where the fireworks were being launched, it had a clear view to downtown so there would be a good background and the Elbow River was in the frame which meant great reflections. I was so sure it was a great spot I arrived about an hour and a half before the show just to make sure I got my spot. Much to my surprise, I was the only person shooting at that spot.
If you Google how to shoot fireworks you will get about a million articles to get you started but I will share a couple of tips that may not be as common.
Tip one: Set the white balance to tungsten. I shoot a lot of night photographs of cityscapes and by far tungsten gives me the best results. Fireworks also seem to look best using tungsten white balance. But the best reason to use tungsten is it makes a night sky very blue. Of course, it won't work on a pitch black sky but if there is still some blue in the sky, tungsten will make it very blue, which looks great.
Tip two: My faithful sidekick and partner was beside me on this particular fireworks shoot and her advice was "make sure you get the first one because it's going to be the best". By "best" she meant it will be the cleanest, clearest sky. As subsequent fireworks are launched and burst apart in their colourful explosions, the sky becomes a cloudy mess of smoke which reduces the clarity and perceived sharpness of the entire image.
She was right, the first ones were the best.