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Capturing Flowers In The Night Sky

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NDP Fireworks. IMAGE: Wilson Wong

The fireworks season for Singaporeans is here. I will share the gear and settings needed to get you started in this article.

The Gear (DSLRs and Mirrorless)

  • A good tripod that is at least chest height without the extension of the centre column to make it comfortable yet stable
  • A wired shutter release. A firework shoot requires precision timing, and a wired shutter release helps to get the timing right. While there are wireless remote controllers or app-based Bluetooth solutions, the wired shutter release has a more reliable connection. 
  • A body or compact camera with a full manual mode can set the shutter speed to “Bulb”. What it means is that you can control the timing of the shot.
  • Use a 20mm lens for a full-frame sensor or a 12mm for an APS-C crop sensor. Check your camera specification to bring the right lens.

The Gear (Smartphone)

  • A smartphone can shoot fireworks but requires additional equipment.
  • A smartphone rig that can hold either an ND8 or ND16 filter in front of the smartphone’s cameras. The filter works like a pair of sunglasses to block off excessive light since the smartphone does not have aperture control.
  • Use a wired handset with to call button as a wired shutter release cable for the smartphone.
  • The whole setup must be able to be placed on a tripod.

The Steps (DSLRs and Mirrorless)

  • For beginners with a kit lens, start at the Marina Bay Promontory. 
  • Place your camera on the tripod. Do not use the centre column to raise the camera.
  • Look out for the fireworks pontoon in Marina Bay and frame your shot. The nearer you are to the float, the wider the image and the higher your camera has to point up.
  • Put the camera in manual mode and put the following settings – Aperture: f11, Shutter Speed: Bulb mode, ISO: 200, Image Quality: RAW + JPEG Fine.
  • Switch off long shutter noise reduction and vibration reduction/Image stabiliser.
  • To shoot, observe the flare trail of one rocket. Once it disappears, activate the shutter and continue pressing the button. After you have followed two bursts in the air, end the shutter by releasing the button.
The special smartphone rig that can hold a filter to control the amount of light entering the sensor. IMAGE: Wilson Wong

The Steps (Smartphones)

  • Follow the same setup procedure as the cameras.
  • In the camera app, look for professional or manual modes.
  • Put the shutter settings as 1s (or more if able, maximum 4s).
  • To shoot, observe the flare trail of one rocket. Once it disappears, press the headset call button to activate the shutter.

Top Tips

  • Go early to reserve your spot, especially during the National Day parade.
  • Bring along a camping chair and prepare a picnic. Make sure you are adequately hydrated and not hungry when the parade starts.
  • Bring along caps, sunscreen and sunglasses for hot days. A big umbrella that can cover your gear in case there is rain. 
  • If you feel overwhelmed, you can use the camera’s or smartphone’s time-lapse function to record the fireworks display. You can video it, but where is the fun in that?

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