Cork Ireland Photography Photos

Spike Island Fireworks

Spike Island in Cork Harbour celebrated it’s 81st birthday yesterday with a fireworks display. 1300 fireworks were set off, one for each of the inmates who died on the island during it’s time as a prison over the centuries. I didn’t have a ticket for the event but it was visible from many parts of the Harbour, including Cobh where I gathered with members of Blarney Photography Club.

The evening was warm, and although the fireworks display was far away from Cobh it was enjoyed by everyone around.

It had been a while since I’d photographed fireworks so the tips in this video came in handy:

  1. Use a tripod.
  2. Use a cable release.
  3. Use a wide angle lens (not this time, probably)
  4. Focus just shy of infinity.
  5. Use manual mode.
  6. Shoot at f/8 to f/10.
  7. Use a slow shutter speed. (3-6 seconds). Use bulb mode and a shutter release to capture the light before it trails off.
  8. Shoot at ISO 100.

It turns out that shooting at f/8 or f/10 wasn’t the right aperture after all. It wasn’t letting in enough light in the time I wanted. The fireworks were so far away and the surrounding water and countryside so dark that images were very dark.
Before the event we tested settings trying to get an exposure of -2EV so the surrounding countryside was dark but it rapidly grew darker while the fireworks flew into the air so you had to keep an eye on the exposure every few shots!
My first shots of the night were much too dark. I was shooting in manual mode with a shutter release and I was only shooting short one to five second exposures. It wasn’t until I went over 7 seconds and up to 15 seconds that I got usable images.

In an urban environment and if the fireworks are closer you definitely should start at f/8, but you have to adjust your settings to your situation.

The first (out of focus) shot here is a 7 second exposure, f/7.1 at ISO 100, and that was good enough for a few minutes.


Only four minutes later I needed more light so I opened the aperture to f/5.6.


A few minutes later again I increased the ISO to 200 which has the effect of making the camera sensor more sensitive to light. That wasn’t enough and I increased the ISO to 400, with various exposure times for the last few images.


Shooting RAW and working in Lightroom or other RAW processor means you can push the photo more so exposure settings don’t have to be spot on every time. In Lightroom I found it useful to increase temperature of the photo to make it warm to counteract the blue hour light after the sun set. I increased the highlights a bit, took down whites and increased vibrance a small amount. Apart from cropping there wasn’t much else done to the images.

Aperture ƒ/5.6
Camera ILCE-7M3
Focal length 127mm
ISO 400
Shutter speed 8s

By Donncha

Donncha Ó Caoimh is a software developer at Automattic and WordPress plugin developer. He posts photos at In Photos and can also be found on Twitter.

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