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Fireworks

Taking fireworks pictures, photoshopping fireworks pictures, and parking for the San Diego Big Bay Boom

How I Did It

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

It wasn’t until two years ago that I became interested in taking pictures of fireworks. Fireworks and portraits were about the only things missing from my vast collection of photographs.

Eric CooperIn April 2011 I hired Eric Cooper to help me catalog my photo collection and put Russel Ray Photos on SmugMug, Fine Art America, Facebook, and the place where I was blogging at the time. I had over 55,000 photos and about 500 more arriving every day. I couldn’t keep up, much less catch up or even get ahead.

Eric had been unemployed for six months after the portrait studio that he had worked at for six years closed down when the owner retired. Eric had a huge collection of fireworks pictures and had asked Jim and me if we wanted to go watch the 2011 Fourth of July fireworks with he and his girlfriend. We said yes. Those were my first fireworks pictures, and, smartypants that I was, I took my pictures and Eric took his. Not until afterwards did I wonder if we truly had been at the same event. My pictures were dastardly and his were worthy of National Geographic.

He told me it’s actually really easy to get good fireworks pictures but it’s exactly the opposite of what I was thinking and doing. My thoughts were that since it was dark, I needed a high ISO. Since I was using Auto on my camera, if I set ISO, the camera would set the aperture value and the shutter speed. The camera doesn’t have a fireworks mode; some do now.

So here are the secret settings to taking great fireworks pictures:

Canon 550DFirst, buy a DSLR. You just aren’t going to get great fireworks pictures with a point & shoot camera.

Second (for you Bashar), buy a tripod. This is the only time each year that I use a tripod.

Third, set your camera to MANUAL. This is critical because you don’t want the camera making any decisions for you. Mr/s. Camera is smart, but still not as smart as you!

Fourth, set your ISO to 100. It’s true that it is dark outside, but you are not taking a picture of the darkness. You are taking pictures of fireworks, which are very bright and can be seen miles away.

Fifth (of Wild Turkey), set your aperture to somewhere between f/8 and f/16. This is going to depend on your camera and your lens. It’s another setting that appears to be counter-intuitive. Usually the more light you want (it’s dark outside), the lower f value you would use (f/2.8 for example). Not the case here. Remember that you are taking pictures of extremely bright fireworks, not the dark sky.

Fireworks over San Diego CountySixth, take longer exposures. This is where your tripod is critical because those longer exposures mean that you simply can’t hold the camera and expect to get a great picture, much less a good one. My exposures are anywhere from four to ten seconds. This is how you get the streaks and the multiple fireworks in the pictures. If the exposure time is too short, you miss out on something, like the streaks of the fireworks as they head up into the sky. If the exposure time is too long, you get glare from the fireworks smoke. Streaks (good) and smoke glare (bad) can be seen in this paragraph’s picture.

FireworksSeventh, remember what my wise old grandmother said as she was cutting pictures up and creating her picture scrapbooks and photo albums: “What comes out of the camera is just the basics to start with.” When I get home, I take the pictures to Photoshop (this year it will be Photoshop CC) and clean them up. That means that I might darken the sky, up the contrast to get more color, or even combine pictures to get the best fireworks all in the same picture. In this paragraph’s picture, I originally had a lot of smoke glare. Darkening the sky gave me just the reflected colors off the smoke seen at the bottom of the picture.

Eighth, learn how to use a good digital photo editing program to clean up your pictures. I use Photoshop CC but I can also recommend Corel PaintShop Pro X5, GIMP, Picasa, ACDSee, Aperture…. There are so many…. Pick one and learn how to use it.

Exposure too longFireworks

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Too much glare off of smokeFireworks

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Above picture cleaned up in PhotoshopFireworks

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Fireworks

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

My very first fireworks picture, un-photoshopped2011 San Diego Big Bay Boom fireworks show

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

There ya go! Have fun! And don’t forget to let us see your fireworks pictures in your blog!

Jim and I are going to the SeaWorld fireworks show again this year. Last year was our first at SeaWorld after several years on the San Diego waterfront watching the Big Bay Boom. SeaWorld was less crowded and the fireworks show was longer….. Well, comparing last year’s fireworks show length between SeaWorld and the Big Bay Boom might not be fair because of what happened at the Big Bay Boom last year. Here’s a YouTube video of last year’s Big Bay Boom. Don’t let the video length (29 seconds) scare you away from watching it………….lol

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

That wasn’t the Grand Finale. At the time, people thought it was the best beginning ever to a fireworks show. Unfortunately, that was 18 minutes of fireworks at three locations simultaneously going off due to several technical errors. Instead of 18 minutes of fireworks, it was a 25-second show that left everyone disappointed. San Diego took the brunt of the criticism instead of the company that sold, prepared, and operated the fireworks show.

If you go downtown to the Big Bay Boom, I can highly recommend taking the San Diego Trolley so you don’t have to mess with parking. If you have to take the car because of a large family or you have amenities like chairs and coolers full of drinks and food, park in the airport parking lot, walk across North Harbor Drive, and set up camp.

No one (except me!) ever parks in the airport lot for the Big Bay Boom because they think it is just for airport business. Ha! Thus, there is always parking, and the short walk across the street is nothing. Parking there might cost you $5 or $10, but if you have a carload of people and chairs, it’s a great place to park!

Airport parking for the Big Bay Boom in San Diego

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Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

P.S. Remember not to take your pets to the fireworks shows. The crowds and booms can frighten them unnecessarily. This is one night to leave them at home.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post

Looking for real estate services in San Diego County?
I can highly recommend
James Frimmer, Realtor
Century 21 Award, DRE #01458572

If you’re looking for a home inspector,
I recommend Russel Ray — that’s me!Real Estate Solutions

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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SeaWorld San Diego 2012 fireworks show

2013 Fourth of July events throughout San Diego County

curtains coming soon

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Christmas wreathChristmas is right around the corner.

Even closer than Christmas, though, is the Fourth of July!

Following is the latest list of Fourth of July events throughout San Diego County.

Big Bay Boom Fireworks Show San Diego – The 13th annual show launches the largest fireworks display in the county for 18 minutes at four locations. Accompanied by patriotic music on 105.7 “The Walrus” FM radio. 9 p.m. at Coronado Landing, Embarcadero, Seaport Village, Shelter Island, and Harbor Island. Free.

Coronado Independence Day Celebration – Coronado – Celebrations include Art in the Park, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Spreckels Park; Independence Day Parade at 10 a.m. along Orange Avenue, and fireworks show at 9 p.m. over Glorietta Bay. Free.USS Midway in San Diego, California

USS Midway Museum Family Fun 4th of July Celebration – Downtown San Diego – Live entertainment, family activities, and a fireworks viewing spot of the Big Bay Boom on the flight deck of the historic USS Midway. Doors open at 6 p.m. USS Midway Museum, 910 N. Harbor Dr. $15 general admission & $10 youth and museum members.

SeaWorld San Diego Fireworks Show  – Shamu presents an extended fireworks show to patriotic music at 9:30 p.m. 500 Sea World Drive Cost is park admission but you can watch this show from various points throughout Mission Bay, including just across the waterway on Fiesta Island, a spot I can highly recommend if you get there early. The far eastern ends of the SeaWorld parking lot are also a great viewing place. If you want to practice taking pictures of fireworks, head out to SeaWorld any night at 9:45 for a 10-minute park-closing fireworks show. Then you’ll be ready for the big events on the Fourth of July.

2012 SeaWorld fireworks showOceanside’s 125th Anniversary Fireworks Show – Fireworks launch just north of the El Corazon Senior Center, 3302 Senior Center Drive, with fireworks viewing at Rancho Del Oro Rd. Parking is limited. 6 to 10 p.m. on July 3 (note the date!). Free.

Red, White and BOOM! – Legoland – An all day event begins at 10:00 a.m. and includes a building competition, dance party, lawn games, stroller parade, and fireworks show at 8:30 p.m. ark admission.

San Diego County Fair July 4th Celebration – Fourth of July events start with Opening Ceremony at 9:30 a.m. at O’Brien Gate, Hometown Heroes Parade at 7 p.m., and fireworks show at 9 p.m. Del Mar Fairgrounds, 2260 Jimmy Durante Blvd., Del Mar. Cost is Fair admission. This is another show that offers viewing spots from throughout the area if you don’t want to pay the $10 parking fee and the $14 (adult) entrance fee at the Fairgrounds.

Del Mar Independence Day Parade – This is a parade down Coast Boulevard at 9:30 a.m. Families are welcome to decorate their bikes, scooters, wagons , golf carts, and baby strollers, and join the parade! Powerhouse Park, 1658 Coast Blvd., Del Mar. Free.

Fireworks over San Diego CountyLa Jolla Cove 4th of July – La Jolla Community Fireworks Foundation (LJCFF) host the annual fireworks show along the coast. Live music and fireworks display at 9 p.m. 5:30 to 10 p.m. at Ellen Browning Scripps Park, 1180 Coast Blvd., La Jolla. Free.

4th of July Fireworks Celebration – Poway – Live music and games begin at 7:00 p.m. Fireworks show at 9 p.m. Poway High School Stadium, 15500 Espola Rd., Poway. $2 general admission & kids under 11 are free.

Spirit of the Fourth – Rancho Bernardo – Community fair at 7 a.m. featuring 35 vendors, live entertainment, patriotic pet contest, veterans memorial service, Rancho Bernardo idol winners, and fireworks show at 9 p.m. Bernardo Heights Middle School and various locations in Rancho Bernardo. See the web site for detailed locations. Admission for evening events and fireworks is $10 per person or $20 per family.

Fourth of July Celebration – Escondido – Live entertainment and kids activities start at 4:00 p.m. with a fireworks show at 9 p.m. Grape Day Park, 321 N Broadway, Escondido. Free.

Ramona Community Fireworks & Family Picnic, 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Activities include games, food, live entertainment, and fireworks show at 9 p.m. Olive Peirce Middle School, 1521 Hanson Lane, Ramona. Free.

SeaWorld San Diego 2012 fireworks showSantee SalutesLive music, food, inflatable toys, carnival rides, and games. Fireworks show at 9 p.m. Town Center Community Park East, 550 Park Center Dr., Santee. Free admission, parking $5-15, and minimal cost for food and activities.

4th of July Celebration – El Cajon – Kiddie train rides, live entertainment, crafts, and family games. 1:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. with a fireworks show at 9 p.m. John F. Kennedy Park, 1675 E Madison Avenue, El Cajon. Free.

Fourth of July Carnival – National City – Annual carnival from July 3-7. The weeklong event will feature games, rides, food and drink items for sale, and live entertainment. 5 to 11 p.m. on July 3; Noon to midnight on July 4; 5 to 11 p.m. on July 5; 1 to 11 p.m on July 6 & 7. Kimball Park & Recreation Center,  148 E. 12th Street, National City. Free admission, fees for food and activities.

Note that Imperial Beach has chosen not to be a part of the Big Bay Boom this year, and I can’t find any other Fourth of July activities scheduled for them.

Remember that fireworks are illegal throughout San Diego County. If you are caught using fireworks, the penalty can be as high as a $50,000 fine and a year in the slammer. Don’t do it, even though fireworks are cheap across the border. It’s not worth it. Go to one of the approved events listed above and enjoy time with your family and friends.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat

Looking for real estate services in San Diego County?
I can highly recommend
James Frimmer, Realtor
Century 21 Award, DRE #01458572

If you’re looking for a home inspector,
I recommend Russel Ray — that’s me!Real Estate Solutions

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos