Photographing Fireworks with a Leica SL2

NYE Fireworks, Sydney 2021

I have a relatively new camera and lens and set out last night to photograph the NYE fireworks in Sydney, from a distance. I have changed from the Canon DSLR system to a Leica mirrorless camera, the SL2. The approach is quite different. So for those as inexperienced as I am with the SL2 and fireworks, I provide the following notes for future reference. Please feel free to jump in and correct anything I’ve done wrong!

I used a newly purchased Leica APO-Vario-Elmarit-SL 90-280 f/2.8-4 lens and prefer to give fireworks a 4-8 second exposure so it was all done on a tripod. The Peak Design carbon travel tripod was perfect for me as I lugged all this up the hill to the lawn in front of Sydney Uni. I set up the SL2 camera before leaving home, based mostly on the advice from more experienced Leica users in the Leica Forum.  

So here we go then:

  • switch to Manual Focus (my photos were all framed at about 170-200mm focal length and I believe I used the fine focus ring on the lens plus the little joystick on the back of the camera to lock my focal in before the fireworks started using a nearby building – I wasn’t too concerned because I was using f/8.0 aperture); 
  • set exposure mode to Manual and then roll the rear dial through the shutter time settings to ‘B’ (for Bulb); 
  • turn long exposure noise reduction off (or you cannot keep shooting);
  • use mechanical (not electronic) shutter type; and 
  • switch off image stabilisation (because tripod), however I forgot to do this on the night as usual (doh!). 

I also used a Leica cable release to control my exposure time manually without touching the camera. And below are a couple more examples from last night. More can be seen here: https://flic.kr/s/aHBqjzwTBM

NYE Fireworks, Sydney 2021 (1)
NYE Fireworks, Sydney 2021 (2)

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