The thing about fireworks is that for all their beauty, they don’t last very long. I know there is some profound allegory in that, but this story is about how to turn your smartphone into an A-class tool to capture a fire-flower at just the right time, and how Instagram can make that pic even better.
New Years in New York usually means Times Square, but I opt for the fireworks show over Central Park. And like every other gawker, I had my iPhone (6) primed and ready for the show; that it, I was looking at the pyrotechnics on the screen of my phone. And I found, as all the lights and booms shook the windows, that my timing was completely off. I could never get a bloom at the right time, but only a meh-photo of dying sparks. This was embarrassing, I usually have pretty good timing. So I put the phone done. Yes, I put the phone down. Well, I lowered it.
This is a true story of hand-eye coordination. Even looking at them on the screen, I was too busy enjoying the pyrotechnics to actually snap a picture on time, when the blooms were in full, fiery flower. Instead, I was getting pictures of residual sparks. So I did things the hard way: I held the phone at chest-level, angled it to the position in the sky where the fireworks were going off, and tapped the shutter-button non-stop — but kept my own two eyes locked to the sky. And I got all the shots I wanted!
I ended up with about 20 perfectly-timed fireworks photos. And then the real fun began!
Take a browse through my Instagram (perrytrails!) and you’ll notice that I have a bit of a fixation on hyper-colorization. I am the avowed arch-enemy of greyscale: I like my reds really red, my blues really blue. Oh, sure, I’ll have the odd black-and-white or tintype photo, but only because those are the best color schemes for that image. Every other time, you’d think I was tripping on ecstasy 25/8. So when I nab a shot of something already mega-hued, I’m in 7th Heaven.
Funnily enough, all the tricks I used on this series were the same tricks: Lux, Shadow, Vignette, Contrast, and Saturation are maxed, and Radial Tilt Shift and Lo-Fi Filter applied. I took all these photos overlooking Central Park, and and a cityscape of lights and towers taking away from the subject. I had to darken the former and intensify the latter, so all the settings and filters were pushed the other extreme.
But when you have 20 shots of more or less the same thing, you don’t want to bore your Instagram audience, so I did indeed apply a few black-and-white filters. Just to jazz things up a little. Here is what I got:
In both shots, I was trying to go for two different types of “vintage,” a pure black-and-white and sepia-toned. This was actually pretty easy; all my other settings were the same, but I knocked Saturation all the way down. This gave the first photo a stark monochrome, but for the second, I maxed Warmth and Radial Tilt Shift for a golden-hued artistic blur.
Please with the sepia, I wondered what would happen if I pushed Warmth all the way down. I got something almost jewel-like:
So who says you can’t play with fireworks? As you can see, I had a ball!