Experimenting with light

As soon as I got up a brilliant idea struck me, to capture the lights and fireworks as it was Diwali today. The pictures of fireworks I had seen online over the years looked spectacular and now that I am learning photography , I thought its a great opportunity to get some beautiful shots .The sparklers , the fountain firework, the row of candles and diyas , the colorful bright explosions in the sky, they all  look amazing. I was quite confident that it would be a cakewalk capturing these, just point at them, wait for the right moment and 'Click', its done!  I was excited and thought would read a few things about shooting fireworks online. As I did some reading, here were few things I learnt :
  1. Set your ISO to the lowest possible value ( 80 to 100 ).
  2. Set the camera’s white balance to auto mode.
  3. Use a tripod to ensure that the camera does not shake and defocus the main subject.
Except for the fact that I dint own a tripod it all sounded simple. There were other articles and there were other tips but the ones mentioned above seemed to have produced a good output like the one below.

Source: http://www.digital-camera-photography.org
I thought it was a good pic taken with a point and shoot camera.I was looking forward to some fireworks picture collection of my own by the end of the evening.

After the puja at home, I set off with my camera to capture some light.At a distance I saw some kids getting ready to launch a rocket, one of those which goes up and explodes into bright colors. Now here was my chance, I switched on my camera,marked the trajectory and pointed the camera at a point I thought the rocket would explode. I heard the small 'whoooossh' sound and few seconds later, I pressed the shutter button, result- a blacked out pic. 'Never mind' I thought, the kids lighted another one and it exploded and ended before I could press the button. It took 6 rockets for me to realize its not working and I told myself not to get disheartened as its my first attempt at something like this. Next target - Fountain firework , now that sounded reasonable, I get enough time to focus as it lights up, also gives me enough span to click. I went a little further to find some people lighting those, I checked the settings ISO set to 100, white balance auto, so yes I was all set. And these fountains were the colorful ones , cherry on the cake. As they lighted it I found that these produced a lot of smoke and every time I clicked a pic,I could see more smoke and less of light. Moreover the the pics were very blur, But I kept trying and some of pics looked good in the camera although not as good as I was expecting them to be. Most of the passer by were staring at me as I kept looking for a frame, my camera settings and clicking so many pics(when in reality i was struggling to find the right setting and had no clue what was going on), I was relieved no one asked me to show them the pics there. However it felt good to look and act like a pro, gives you quite a confidence.  I came back home and wanted to see the pictures on a bigger screen, copied them to my laptop and well, here they were. Pretty disappointing but well.

I went back to streets to look for more fireworks but guess due to the rain earlier in the evening or may be because of more awareness, I saw less fireworks this year. It wasn't very good for my photo-shoot attempt (feels good to refer to it as photoshoot!!) but definitely a good news for the environment and I was glad about it.I wasn't done yet, I thought capturing those candles and diyas at home would be an experience and would give me enough opportunity to get acquainted with ISO settings. Now that I had all the time in hand, I kept capturing the diyas in various ISO settings to see the difference.  I realized that the the light source (candles/diyas/tube-lights) shot with low ISO focuses and provides clarity to it , whereas with higher ISO the pictures come out brighter with a lot of noise. 

Here are some of the pictures I felt happy about.

One of the first attempts at capturing diya (ISO 200)

My best click for the night in my opinion (ISO 64)

Puja Thali (ISO 400)

Liked the way i could see the details of the flame in this (ISO 64)

Almost finished candle (ISO 100)

Although I could not capture the  prize winning pics I had decided to when I went out with my camera tonight, I was content with what I learnt. A few hours back I did not know or understand the ISO number I see on the camera , now I do. With that last picture I thought I would call it a day. Kept the camera aside and went out to see the rockets exploding and this time I got a clear shot with the best in the class lens I was using, 'My Eyes'.

  • ISO - Its the sensitivity of the camera to the light. Higher the number , higher the sensitivity and the noise in the pic.
  • Image sensor (the most expensive part of the camera) is controlled with this setting , its is the image sensor that decides how much light to gather.
  • At Higher ISO, a lot of noise (grains) get added to the picture.
  • To capture a source of light, always keep the ISO low. It gives clarity to the source and eliminates the extra lighting effect around it.
  • A tripod is a good idea while shooting fireworks, helps you keep the focus.