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: