Canada Day Fireworks

Another try at Canada Day fireworks here in Hamilton. This time I went for a more picture-postcard approach, from a location across the harbour from Bayfront Park I’ve been meaning to try for some time.

I think it worked out pretty well, but would have liked to have been a bit more to the east so I could better line up the downtown Hamilton buildings in the background. The problem with the north shore of the harbour is that it is mostly wooded and there are very few open vantage points.

As far as the fireworks were concerned, I think I like the look of last year’s show better (after reviewing my photos in last year’s post).

Anyway, a bit of technical background. I set up three cameras this time instead of one. The plan was that a telephoto lens would be on one camera, another with a moderately wide lens, and the third one with an even wider lens. The camera with the telephoto lens was mounted to the tripod head, like normal. The other two cameras were clamped to the tripod with Manfrotto super clamps and magic arms
One of the cameras was triggered with an electronic cable release, which was locked in the ‘on’ position and the camera was set to continuous advance, so it was just a matter of starting the shooting and it would continue until I released the cable release. The Ricoh GXR (the third camera) has a built-in intervalometer, which came in handy. But the drawback with the GXR was that for long exposures it does dark frame subtraction for noise reduction. This seems to be automatic and can’t be disabled, and meant that for each 30 second exposure, it would wait another 30 seconds for the dark frame calculations. At least the Canons allow continuous shooting with virtually no delay between images.

There was also a nearly full moon, which kept the sky from going completely black.

And the images, in chronological order:

Happy Canada Day!

Canada Day Fireworks – Hamilton

Hamilton’s Canada Day fireworks display, launched from Bayfront Park as seen from the T.B. McQuesten High Level Bridge on York Boulevard.

It was the first time I watched the fireworks from the bridge. It’s a good perspective and my goal was once again, as with the Victoria Day fireworks last year, to try to get some people in the photos. Instead of doing what might initially seem logical by positioning myself right up against the railing overlooking Hamilton Harbour, I instead went to the other side of the street and found a position about 4 feet up on the side of the bridge. This allowed me to get some of the water in the image and nice firework reflections to separate the spectators from the dark background. Otherwise it was technically very similar to the Victoria Day post, but because I was closer this time, I shot fairly wide with a 50mm lens.

My intention was to stay in one spot with one composition. The reason was to facilitate editing the images in Final Cut to allow smooth dissolves and zooms. And the display lasted only about 15 minutes, so there simply wasn’t much time to try multiple locations. This is one of those things where you get one shot each year, weather permitting, and it has me already considering other locations for next year.

Crops of some of the better images:

Hamilton's Canada Day fireworks at Bayfront Park

Hamilton's Canada Day fireworks at Bayfront Park

Hamilton's Canada Day fireworks at Bayfront Park

Hamilton's Canada Day fireworks at Bayfront Park

Hamilton's Canada Day fireworks at Bayfront Park

Hamilton's Canada Day fireworks at Bayfront Park

Hamilton's Canada Day fireworks at Bayfront Park

Hamilton's Canada Day fireworks at Bayfront Park

Hamilton's Canada Day fireworks at Bayfront Park

Hamilton's Canada Day fireworks at Bayfront Park

Happy Victoria Day

I think the last time I went to the Victoria Day fireworks display at the Dundas Driving Park was around 20 years ago… Fireworks at this time of year in Ontario can be hit or miss due to the often cold and/or wet weather, but this year was an exception with a relatively warm summer-like day (and very smoggy as well).

I guess I lost interest over the years – been there, done that. For whatever reason, I decided to make the effort this year, but I wanted to find a different vantage point than from within the park directly under the show.

My initial plan was to photograph it from Dundas Peak, but at the outlook point I consulted with a few ‘locals’ (guys who were 20-something in age, knocking back drinks before wandering over to the show). They confirmed my suspicion that the angle of the escarpment and trees would probably block some of the display, so went with my Plan B location at the top of the hill in Greensville.

I arrived at 8:30 pm and thought I was going to have the place to myself, but slowly a small crowd slowly gathered. The City of Hamilton’s event calendar indicated the show would be at dusk between 9-10 pm. 9 pm came and went and the sky was still fairly bright, and there were a lot of cars driving down the hill into Dundas, which meant those people were more familiar with how the fireworks show was timed than I was. The show started at about 9:35 and because it was my first time at this location, I was unsure how large or impressive the display would be. I’ll admit, I was somewhat underwhelmed. Unlike some of the big shows in Toronto or Montreal where one has a great impression even from far away, the Dundas show was more down to earth, literally. While the fireworks were quite a distance from this vantage point (~200mm & 1.4x teleconverter for a relatively tight shot of just the fireworks), it worked well enough because I was able to add a human element to the foreground from the 20-odd crowd watching with me, giving the photos some depth and additional interest. I was initially concerned that the streetlights would add overpower the foreground and cause too much flare shining into the lens, but it worked well. Without the streetlights the people in the foreground would have been nearly invisible and I probably would have had to pop a flash a couple times to add separation from the background.

A few technical points:

Not having photographed fireworks recently for the specific point of photographing them, I was unsure what the correct exposure would be. I started at ISO 200 10 seconds at f/8 because that was about what the correct exposure for the street lit foreground would be. Luckily it was also a pretty good match for the fireworks. The only change I made was a longer 15 second capture at f/14. In hindsight, I should have tried some at 30 seconds. Because this show wasn’t large and overly dramatic, the photos you see here, most at 15 seconds, still don’t show a large number of bursts. The advantage of 10-15 seconds was not having to wait as long to move the camera for another vantage point (to change the foreground composition). I used a cable release and locked it and set the camera to continuous shooting. Therefore, I was able to leave the camera alone and move around to scope out other positions while the camera made continuous exposures without me. Even then, with changes in position, composition and lenses, the roughly 20-25 minute long show went by before I was able to get to all of the vantage points I hoped to try. Lens was a 70-200, sometimes with the 1.4x teleconverter. The first image below was with a 50mm, trying to show more of the foreground environment with the road up the hill, traffic, etc., but of course with the fireworks much smaller in the distance.

Here are a few more: