A few weeks ago, I was asked to take some shots of the Sandbanks Fireworks for promotional material for a book (The Light Direction). One of the key areas featured in the book is Sandbanks, and while this was where the fireworks were taking place I wanted to capture some shots of the beach/promenade in the shots as well as the fireworks. I picked a viewpoint that I know about to take the shots… problem was, it was 5 miles away! (as the crow flies)
I like a challenge So I packed my 7D and 5Dmk2, tripod, 100-400L and wireless remote release and headed off. I arrived about half an hour before the show was due to start (it was timed for 2200), so I had a chance to setup and take some test shots. Initially, I tried with the 7D as te 1.6x crop factor translates to a full-frame pixel density of around 46MP (far higher than my 5Dmk2 which has 21.1MP). However, I quickly decided I wasn’t happy with the sharpness, I think primarily due to the tough lighting conditions, so I swapped over to the 5Dmk2.
I took lots of test shots – the above one being one of them. You can see the Bournemouth Eye balloon on the far right, and the Sandbanks peninsula in the middle of the coastal stretch, with Poole harbour to the right.
With long exposures on a tripod, there’s no point in using IS, and whilst I did use mirror lockup out of habit it’s not really necessary for exposures over a second or so. My biggest problem was wind… I found I was having to lean over the camera and tripod with my jacket open to try and shield it from the wind during shots. I must have looked a pratt, but I’ve done more embarrassing things in the name of photography!
Once the show kicked off, I fired away…
The shots above are just a few of the ones I took to give a feel of what can be achieved on a windy night with a 400mm lens and full-frame camera! I was pleased with these.
I also went along 3 weeks later to take some shots of the final display, and got to meet Lee Gibbons (@smartpyro) who works for SM Art Pyrotechnics – the people who organised the displays.
Tonight was raining and windy. The rain was coming in from the sea, and the display was out to sea. Pretty rubbish setup for shooting lights at night!
But I managed to get quite a few shots. All taken with my 35mm f/1.4, generally with a quick cloth wipe of the front element between shots as the first few were ruined by rain on the lens.
And this final one was just as the last embers of the fireworks died away.
It was great to see 2 of the many displays that happen over the summer at Sandbanks, and get the chance to try shooting them in a couple of different ways.