I haven't always loved the 4th of July. As a kid it was kind of fun to do sparklers. As a teenager I liked being able to light bigger fireworks. But really the dry desert heat in Utah during the 4th of July is bad enough for me that I never really looked forward to the holiday. I have always been "uncomfortable" in anything over about 80 degrees - no matter the humidity level. But that has all changed since I was infected with a deep photography bug in December 2011.
Now I can't wait for the opportunity to get my camera gear all setup and take shot at capturing some good images. My goal is to improve on them each year, which has steadily taken place so far.
The first picture in this post was an awesome sunset as seen from the foothills of Herriman, Utah just off the end of the cul-de-sac I live on. Yes, that's right, I stepped off of my front porch into a vacant lot and the end of the street, and this is what it looked like. Awesome. Someday that vacant lot is going to be destroyed as a house gets built on top of it, but until then I will continue to enjoy taking pictures that look like I am out in a desert in the middle of nowhere. The thing I like best about landscape photography is the way it has made me appreciate the beauty of the world around me so much more. This shot was taken with my Canon 60D, Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8, at 16mm, ISO 100, f/8, and 7 bracketed shots with a shutter speed between 1/30 and 1/4 second. The camera was on my Induro tripod and with this one I lowered the tripod as low as it could get so that I could have the composition I wanted. I used the Magic Lantern firmware on the SD card to do the bracketed shots. I always shoot RAW so that I can have a better chance at fixing my mistakes than JPEGs. I merged the 7 shots together into one with Photomatix Pro, had to do a little deghosting around the clouds because they were moving fast. Then I used Lightroom to sharpen, reduce noise, and adjust the luminance and saturation of a few colors. I think this is my favorite shot for July 2014.
The next shot in this post was again taken from the empty lot at the end of the cul-de-sac, but facing the east now instead of the west as in the first shot. Canon 60D, Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 lens at 16mm, f/11, ISO 100, and a shutter speed of 10 seconds (not 1/10th of a second). The camera was on my Induro tripod, setup as high as I could go with it, tring to get it to point downward on things just a bit. I think it would be better to get the camera even higher (something I should try next year). I used a remote shutter release cable to make sure I didn't vibrate the camera jamming down the shutter button. I imported all of the RAW shots into Lightroom, lowered the highlights, raised the shadows (a hair), increased the clarity and vibrance, reduced noise, added quite a bit of sharpening. Finally, this is actually 11 different pictures, the fireworks weren't all coordinated like this to be exploding at the same time. I exported them from Lightroom into Photoshop as layers. Then I chose which photo I wanted as the base layer and stacked all the others on top, changing the layer effect of all the rest from "Normal" to "Lighten". You should try this, it makes all the fireworks from the 11 photos come popping through like magic. Awesome effect I haven't ever used until this year.
Fireworks WarThe neighbors just down the foothill from us were having a fireworks war that made for a great time for me an my family Finally, this last fireworks shot was done with nearly an identical setup as the first one, except the lens was at a little bit wider focal length of 11mm. 11 different shots again (not anything magic to 11, just happened to be 11 good fireworks shots that worked).
Overall I am pretty happy with my shots from the 4th of July this year. In Utah we have another holiday where we try to burn down the state using fireworks on the 24th of July, so I'll get another chance to try some other things out then. Let me know if you like these shots and if you found any of the information in how I got the shots helpful.
If you are interested in licensing any of my landscape shots, click here.