For years now I have drooled over the shots of the Gwangan Bridge ablaze with fireworks. I tried to get in position but the crowds and the traffic threw me off. My wife and I got close last year but gave up in the end when the police started moving everyone back. Thus, all we got to see were the backs of peoples heads.
This year, I was lucky in enough to meet an American photographer living in Busan. Keith Homan of Homank Photography graciously invited me up to the rooftop viewing area in his building to get a great view of the show. High above the crowds we were treated to a great show.
Looking down at the gridlock that stretched from Gwangali to all directions, I couldn’t help but feel bad for the people stuck in traffic. The traffic did not budge for a large portion of the show and you could tell from the honks that people were getting frustrated. The subway was also jam-packed with people. Walking with a backpack full of camera gear was dangerous as everyone was squished into every single car the headed to Gwangali.
However, I finally got the shots that I have wanted for so long and I am sure that Keith and everyone were equally as happy with their shots as well. Check out Keith’s Facebook and Flickr page and my friend Scott Rotzoll’s Flickr page. Also take a look at Amanda’s post over at Living in Another Language
Now for the nitty-gritty, “how did I get these shots?” Well it was tricky. Of course you all know you you absolutely need a tripod. However, getting the right exposure is the tricky bit as there is no magic recipe for these shots. It is all pretty much trial and error. The main thing is that you can’t just “set it and forget it” You really have to watching your exposures carefully and figure out what type of firework over exposes that shot.
What I did was hover about f/8 to f/13 or so and tested to see which shots got the best results. I found that f/8 or f/9 gave better shots. I switch to bulb and used my shutter release. This meant that I didn’t have to set my shutter speed each time. I found that 1 to 2 seconds at f/9 works for bright shots and a few seconds longer for darker shots with less fireworks in the sky.
This is one of those times where you truly have to be in the moment and know your camera setting well. By working with the bulb function and examining the light in each scene, you can get some good results.