Malaysian International fireworks competition 2008

I went to last Saturday’s competition at Putrajaya with a friend and I have to say, I was rather impressed by the show.

This event is spans over a few weeks by different countries competing for first place. The reason why it spans over a few weeks is because preparations can take many days. Hence the reason for the huge gaps in between performing countries.

The event is actually held at the Putrajaya International Convention Center (PICC). Its about 45 minutes drive from Petaling Jaya, why is the event being held so far from anywhere? to reduce the lightly hood of any incidents should something unexpected happen as well as reduce light pollution from the city. Although I suspect its to draw people to Malaysia’s rarely seen and used Putrajaya sector which to me feels like a big white elephant.

The competing countries are: (each on a different date)

  1. Team Malaysia (12 August 2008)
  2. Team China (16 August 2008)
  3. Team Canada (20 August 2008)
  4. Team Spain (24 August 2008)

With the Grand finale on the 29 August 2008. I have so far only gone to Team China show as the Malaysian team was on the 12 of August which is a week day.

In any case, if you want to go to this event, you will need a few things.

  1. Tripod (most important item, if you don’t have this then get one! You need it so you can mount your tripod on it)
  2. Shutter release cable or remote depending on your camera (to is so you can use the bulb mode on your camera which holds open the shutter on your camera as long as you hold down the button.) Although if you don’t have one you can still use the timer on your camera but that will limit the shutter release time you can use to how long the camera can open the shutter on its own.
  3. Black card, to be used in conjunction with the shutter release cable or remote. Though it can be used with the timer.
  4. a small flashlight so you can see where you’re going as well as find your gear.

How you use these gears is very simple, first find a good high vantage point so you can get a good view of the fireworks without anything in the way (on top of a hill is very good). It should be noted that its best to find a place which is very dark so no stray light will enter your camera which could potentially ruin your shots.

Like this spot we found

Once you have find a good spot, setup your tripod and mount your camera on the tripod securely.

Once this is done, frame the shot correctly on where might the fireworks show up. You don’t want to waste time adjusting the shot when the fireworks start.

Now, attach your shutter release cable or activate your camera’s remote shutter release mode. Be sure to do a few test shots to ensure it’s working, the worse thing here is to have it fail when you need it the most. Next do a few exposure test shots to determine the best settings ( for my shots I used aperture f/8 and shutter speed of about 10 seconds (or bulb if I have the shutter release cable in which case the shutter time can vary depending on the fireworks) which is achievable by most DSLR shutter times.

For ISO I actually set to ISO 200 which gives me a nice good balance of sensitivity versus noise. Also another important note you MUST do else you would wonder why the shutter always fails to open, try to move the focus point onto a building with some light so your camera can focus on it when it tries to take the shot. But don’t focus on something that is too far away, try and pick something close to the action like the PICC during that night in the picture.

Though if you’re confidant with your focusing skills, you can alternatively turn off auto-focus and then manually focus on a predetermine location on where might the fireworks will show up or just simply focus on infinity which is indicated on your lens by the infinity symbol.

Once you have determine what focusing method to use, the next thing to determine is how you want to go about shooting the fireworks. There are 2 methods I have used so far which I like to call

  1. Spring flower method
  2. Bursting bubble method.

For the first method, this is called spring flower because the firework shots taken with it look like flowers in spring.

This style is easily created by taking the shots as the fireworks are shot out and explode then closing the shutter just before the next volley of fireworks are fired (usually this is 5 to 8 seconds). It is best to try and visually how the shots will look and not just blindly open the shutter for an indefinite time.

The second method, I call the bursting bubble method is refer to how the shots look like soap bubbles bursting after floating around for a while. To try this method, simple release the shutter just as the firework shot is about to explode but don’t release it as it shoots upward. You’re going to have to judge when the shot is about to explode by “feel” I’m afraid

As you can see, this is a method that is very hard to perfect as the time between the fireworks shot reaching to their peak and the time to complete their full explosion is a very short time, it may be wise to increase the ISO if you plan to do such shots only. Though you may run the risk of having stray lights from the city infect your shots.

So I hope this will help you with your fireworks shooting. So until then, I will leave you with a slide-show of my fireworks shot I took, pleasant dreams~~

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