If you’ve photographed fireworks you know they practically photograph themselves. Put the camera on a tripod, hold the shutter open, and the moving fireworks trace their own trail across the sky. Easy? Yes, but after a few hundred such pictures the results start to be predictable. You may want to experiment with a new approach.
I found a technique on the web that completely changed my concept of fireworks photography. I tried it on the 4th of July last year and here are some of the results. They are more abstract, more unpredictable, and to me, more beautiful than my conventional fireworks photos.
The basic idea is to change focus during the exposure. If you start with the lens focused close, so the fireworks are blurry, and twist the focus ring on your lens until they become sharp, it changes the shape of the burst. Each streak of light starts large and dim near the center because it’s blurry, but as the the streaks move outward they get sharper, smaller and brighter.
Here is the technique: like conventional fireworks photography, you need a tripod and a camera that lets you choose manual settings. A lens that lets you focus manually is also necessary. Change the setting from autofocus to manual focus so you can twist the focus ring by hand.
Try setting the ISO at 100, the shutter at 1 or 2 seconds, and the f/stop at 11. Set up the camera and tripod to frame the part of the sky where the bursts are happening. Focus the lens on the fireworks and look at the setting on the focus ring. You’ll need to find this point again during each shot. Then twist the ring to some point way out of focus. Now you’re ready to shoot.
At the beginning of a burst trip the shutter. During the one or two seconds it’s open twist the focus ring on the lens from blurry to the sharp point you found earlier. Then the shutter will close, and you’ve made a photograph.
Don’t expect every shot to be good. This is a hit-and-miss process and the more you shoot, the more successful frames you’ll get. Feel free to make any adjustments that may help. For more information see this article: http://learnmyshot.com/capturing-fireworks-using-focus-blur-and-long-exposure-171/
Get ready to be surprised. Some results won’t even look like fireworks.