Capturing fireworks is all about freezing the beauty, color and vast arrays of the spontaneous bursts. Heading out to Casino del Sol for a July 3rd show, I knew I wanted the vibrancy of the firework trails, but also some contextual elements in the foreground.

Had I purely ventured out to shoot the fireworks themselves, I would have set up my camera on a tripod with a cable release and used a lengthy shutter speed (several seconds or more) to allow the trails to “paint” themselves in the frame as they burst and fizzle. But shooting on assignment requires a little more flexibility and, in this case, my hand-holding the camera.

With a long exposure out of the question, I aligned my camera settings up to allow me the longest exposure I was comfortable hand-holding. I set up for 1/20th of a second, a wide f/2.8 aperture and the ISO fell in at about 2500. Shooting in RAW to again allow me some editing room. As the show began, I knew I wouldn’t have a lot of time. I hopped around spectators looking for something, preferably someone, to be my foreground so I could crouch down, brace my camera and fire off a few frames as the fireworks went off. Fortunately, a few folks sitting on a ledge gave me a better vantage point to get lower and shoot up as they watched the grand finale.