Seeing The Unseeable
Irrespective of the technical means needed to “freeze” this event, I am fascinated by the aesthetic of a frozen moment when thousands of shards from the casings of many firecrackers flew into surrounding space, a space suffused with smoke and flame. Its look and clours remind me of a supernova event, where an end-of-life sun collapses on itself and blasts out its matter into the void of space.
The image preserves innumerable scraps and particles of the red paper which had contained the explosives, now in shattered shapes creating an abstract, tan-coloured, mass flying away from the central glow. The spokes of the tree grille at the base of the image give them direction and a sense of three-dimensional volume,which I find satisfying.
The whole effect is, for me, one of power, excitement, discovery and curiosity.
Ready For Anything
I had been enjoying the noise, colour and bustle of the 2014 Paris Chinese New Year parade and my camera was set to my default camera settings for general photography in Winter, which is: Aperture Priority; ISO 800; single shot image capture and – if light is low, such that the shutter speed is below 1/500s – with Vibration Reduction activated on my zoom lens. I choose these, since I want to prioritise aperture adjustment as a means to adjust depth of field, particularly in order to blur out unwanted background detail. If I need to use a faster shutter speed, I tend to achieve this, more or less instinctively, by using one finger to spin a dial whih increases aperture, making the camera shoot at a faster speed to maintain correct exposure by compensating for the increased light.
When confronted by a Dragon Guardian about to set off a long band of firecrackers at the foot of a tree, I needed to adapt immediately to the need for speed.
Faster than a Speeding Bullet
Well, not exactly. Capturing something moving at 100 feet per second is achieved via synchronised flash photography, using cameras whose technology can “fire” at hundreds of frames per second and is being operated by a technically experienced, and hopefully lucky, operator. This was not my situation.
I therefore changed from aperture to shutter priority mode, set a speed of one thousandth of a second and the shooting rate from single to highest speed. Then I mentally crossed my fingers and started to shoot, because the long, multi-element firecracker was already starting to explode.
Luckily for me and surprisingly too, an exploding firecracker moves much slower than a bullet, so that I was able to capture several rapid-fire shots of the event, in one of which the outward-flying fragments were mainly in focus. This one.
Camera: Nikon D800
Lens: VR 70-200mm zoom f/2.8G
Focal Length: 70 mm
Vibration reduction: Off
Focus Mode: AF-C
Autofocus Area Mode: Single
Shutter Speed: 1/1000s
Exposure Mode: Shutter Priority
Continuous High (maximum frames per second shooting)
Exposure Compensation : 0
ISO Sensitivity: 800
Chinese New Year is on Thursday February 19 in 2015. Chinese communities worldwide will be putting on a traditional “son et lumiere” to celebrate it, on or around that date. Why not make plans to try to capture your own impression of one of these celebrations?
Copyright Paul Grayson 2015
Keywords: Chinese New Year, Fine Art, Nikon 70-200mm VR zoom, Nikon Capture NX2, Nikon D800, Paris, Paul Grayson, Photeinos, φωτεινος
Amazing Paul! Impeccable timing.
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