Sunday, November 21, 2010

Light Up Night Pittsburgh

Friday was Pittsburgh's 50th annual Light Up Night celebration so at the last minute we decided to travel in to join the fun.

After moving across a sea of bodies crushed in the bottle neck of Market Square, we moved to a more tranquil position next to the Fred Rogers statue for the annual Light Up Night fireworks display. It had been many years since I photographed fireworks on Light Up Night so I was quite surprised when I realized they moved the firing position! No wonder it was so sparse where we were! I'm sure it happened ages ago, but like I said, it had been ages since I did this event.

None the less, the shot worked and we were no longer getting stepped on by scores of people. All in all a fun and successful night. There is no place on earth like Pittsburgh when they turn on the lights!

Tech notes:

Camera: Nikon D90
Lens: Nikon 12-24 mm f/4 (16 mm used)
Exposure: 0.4 second @ f/4.5
ISO: 200
Tripod: none

As we were getting ready to go I decided I was going to shoot with just one Leica MP and a couple of lenses (35 Summicron & 50 Summilux). My film choice would be Fuji 800 Pro. Well, that didn't quite work out very well as fireworks approached. I knew we were going to be too close to get in the city and fireworks. Luckily, Toni brought her digital camera and, in her usual gracious manner, allowed me to use it.

Because I had assumed the crowds would be massive (they were) I decided not to lug around a tripod. Unfortunately that meant I didn't have solid three legged support from my camera. This is where you need to improvise, adapt and overcome the situation at hand. To do so, I simply used the railing around where we were shooting to brace the camera. I knew using this method I could shoot as low as 1/4 second with a reasonable expectation of getting a sharp image.

To reduce noise in the image I selected a low ISO (200). A faster ISO would allow me to hand hold the camera easier, but the price of a faster shutter speed would also have been shorter tracks from the fireworks. From past experience I knew I wanted as long of a trail as possible in my situation. Next time a tripod will go in my car regardless!

Setting the appropriate f stop for correct exposure on the buildings and it was all just a matter of timing the release to the bursts of fireworks. In such an uncontrolled environment you shoot a lot and hope you get one frame you like.

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