Catching beauty of fireworks in a photo isn't easy

Photographs of flags and fireworks adorn front pages across America each year as newspapers try to capture the country’s appreciation through celebration of the impetus of our freedom.


Firework aficionados and patriots alike will enjoy the slideshow on of images from around the country.

Many feature explosions of light cascading around landmarks – the Empire State Building, the Washington Monument, the U.S. Capitol. Others feature city skylines or reflections in bodies of water.

Others have recognizable items or at least interesting shapes silhouetted in the foreground with the fireworks in the distance. This works great for church steeples and moose heads.

And Thursday night’s storms around the country provided some photographers a strike of lightning for the same frame as the festivities.

One of my favorite pictures of fireworks in Augusta is an image Chris Thelen took in 2005. It shows fireworks exploding against the railroad trestle that crosses the Savannah River at the end of Sixth Street.

And although a great photograph of fireworks is not nearly as fun as seeing them live, asking a photographer to explain the secret to such a shot offers a new appreciation of how hard it is.

Augusta Chronicle photographer Jon-Michael Sullivan was assigned to the Fourth of July events this week – taking pictures at both the Fort Gordon and downtown displays.

The patriotism, the colors, the camaraderie. Jon-Michael’s photos reflected the day at Augusta Common and the night before at the fort.

He turned his attention to the sky both nights, delivering several quality images of the colorful explosions. And knowing it is not easy to take such a picture, I had to ask.

What is the secret to a great fireworks picture?

“I will let you know when I master it,” he said.

The technique is to keep the shutter open and block the lens with a dark object between explosions, Jon-Michael explained.

This prevents the ambient light from ruining the exposure and the pictures get made in the camera, he said.

Jon-Michael used his black hat to capture the colors of the explosions both nights.

But his favorite pictures were ones that were not used in the printed paper.

As it started pouring after the fireworks Thursday night, he turned his camera and attention to the people scrambling to get out of the rain.

His beautiful nighttime scenes of the Riverwalk are worth checking out online. Find his photo gallery at augustachronicle/photos.



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