Instagram, Fireworks, and You!

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.

It wasn’t until I applied Saturation that I discovered  this was a green “bloom.”

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!

Lux on Instagram created that red “aura.”

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.

Believe it or not, the whole Upper East Side of Manhattan is in the background.

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.

Sometimes I got lucky and caught a firework just as it was going off.

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!



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