As we usually do on July 4th when we’re in town, we had a friend over for food and conversation, and once it got dark, wandered over to a friends place to watch the Santa Clara City Fireworks show from their driveway (with root beer floats!).
I haven’t done it for a few years, but this year I decided to bring along the camera, because I was really curious how the Fuji X-T2 would handle the low light and the fireworks. As you can see in the video (or if you prefer, the images are on my SmugMug site) the results are pretty fantastic.
Technical details: the X-T2 was locked onto a tripod, ISO 100, F/16 and set to bulb exposure with an remote shutter release attached. I pre-focused and locked that down in manual. While shooting, I experimented with exposure length between 4 and about 15 seconds. Much of the shooting was done around 35mm give or take.
What really mattered was the activity in the sky, shorter exposures worked better when many shells were going up at once, and the finale simply blew out the exposure into a massive white blob no matter what I did.
Where we sit is often downwind of the show, so sometimes we get the smoke coming right at and over us, obscuring things; this year, it went to the south of us leaving us with really nice visibility and clarity. The firing location seems to have shifted a bit from previous years so where I chose to sit ended up a bit obscured by trees at the bottom, but not a significant problem.
I was really looking for a variety of colors and patterns, and I was really impressed with how well it handled some of the “fuzzy” explosion trails. The high megapixel sensor in the X-T2 brought in a lot of detail beyond what I’ve seen in previous years, and to my joy and amazement, I saw no noise in the images at all; there’s zero noise reduction in these images beyond some basic masking in the sharpening panel.
Processing is pretty straight forward: I used the Provia camera model because the Velvia one went way too Cowabunga for my tastes. I boosted clarity and vibrance, I added red and orange saturation, reduced shadows and blacks to encourage the look of the fireworks on a pure black background, and shifted the color balance warmer by setting it to “cloudy”, but overall they needed little work. Even with cropping, there are a lot of pixels coming out of that camera, most of these images are 3500 on the short side or more, with only a few dropping to 2500 at the smallest. Lots of nice detail in them to play with and enjoy at full size.