Long exposure experiments for 4th of july

TechNinja's picture

Once again, the Fourth of July has come to town, and I've come packing my Canon Powershot in search of... something. Pictures of fireworks are always tricky and you're never gauranteed to get anything useful, or even something nice. This year turned out pretty well, and think I owe some of my good luck to the CHDK, the swiss army knife of powershot hacks...

A similar model to the camera I grew up with
Some background... I've been taking photos since I was 12, back when my dad handed me his Mamiya-Sekor 35mm SLR body from the 1960's, and I took to it. With that camera in hand I learned from scratch: aperature, depth of field and composition, learning to use slide film for my 7th grade science projects all the way to the first photos of my daughter as she was being born.... until I got a digital camera in 2003 (and was fed up with spending too much on film processing).

Canon Powershot S2 IS - Turbodrive by CHDK
The camera I shoot with today may not be a Canon 5D Mark II, but it definitely works for me. It's small, sharp, 5 megapixels of quick-shooting, family video/picture capturing fun. But, as soon as I want to get creative, it has some immediate limitations. It's meant as your standard point and shoot, not a loose shutter bulb mode capable double exposure film box.


But then a few years ago I discovered the CHDK, a temporary firmware that can selectively take over certain parts of the certain models of canon powershot, and even greatly enhance the usually restrictive nature of the point and shoot. Of the hundreds of amazing abilities it adds, the two find most useful (other than custom scripting and detailed battery display) are custom ISO (from 1 to 1600), and longest exposure time more than doubled from 30 seconds to 64 seconds!

Which leads me to the following experimental shots I took at the 2009 fourth of July fireworks.. (The rest can be found in my flickr set here)

64 sec, 15 ISO, f2.8

The first 64sec shot taken of the fireworks. I was worried with a nearly full moon and the extremely bright fireworks i'd have blowout like mad, so I set the ISO to the patently ridiculous (and probably inaccurate) 10 ISO. It's a far subtler picture, but with slightly more fireworks action than the others.


64 sec, 200 ISO, f5.0

The second, with a little less action, I decided to up the ISO to give a little more pep, and pulled the aperature closed a little more


35 sec, 200 ISO f2.8 (and standing very still!)

Me and my youngest daughter Talulah, stand and enjoy.


64 sec, 200 ISO, f2.8

A bit of an accident, I tripped over the tripod, and figuring any kind of steady shot was canned, decided to wiggle it the rest of the way try and make the best of it.