We talk about how fireworks get their colors everyday in our combustion demonstration at the science center. Something we don’t talk about is what the actual firework shell looks like and how it gets into the air. PBS’s NOVA website has some great information about fireworks, how they are made, the elements used to make the colors and an interview with a Chemistry Professor about fireworks in general.
If your looking to grab some photographs of the firework displays Wired has a nice description of how to get some good results. The basics are:
Use a slow shutter speed. This allows your camera to capture the bright “trails” in the fireworks.
Get a tripod. Slow shutter speeds mean that you will have to keep the camera stable for sharp images. Bring a tripod or brace the camera on a flat, stable surface.
Set the ISO to its lowest setting. This will reduce graininess and noise that can be introduced by higher ISO settings. If you still have a film camera use print film – it has a wider dynamic range then slide film and is more forgiving of under/over exposures.
Dial in a low f/stop. Somewhere between f/8 and f/16 is ideal.
Set Focus to infinity. Be sure you turn off the auto-focus as well.
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