Photographing Fourth of July Fireworks

I plan to photograph the Adirondacks for as long as I have breath. It gives me life. I feel I could never run out of moments, wildlife or scenery to capture in the vast six million acres of The Adirondacks. Every season there is a new perspective. My current plans are to shoot in the High Peaks region near Whiteface Mountain – and to capture my newfound love of Keene Valley.

Jessica Deitz

Tips From A Pro, Jessica Deitz

When photographing fireworks, it's essential to include the surrounding environment. It helps bring the viewer into your experience and lends a better perspective. One way of capturing this is to shoot right as the display starts at sunset so there is still light to reflect your surroundings. It also adds interest to the sky and you won't have to shoot at such long exposures which can lead to image degradation. I also suggest vertical orientation so you capture the trail of light from where the fireworks are being launched. This helps express the grandiosity of the display in comparison to the viewer. Of course a sturdy tripod and remote trigger is required to eliminate any camera shake.

Since I have a predetermined image in my mind before I make the picture, I like to have total control over my image. You can't trust the auto settings of your camera to capture what your vision is.

Fireworks over Lake Pleasant, Adirondacks, NY
Fireworks over Lake Pleasant, Adirondacks, NY

For this shot I used a Canon 60D, I am primarily a Wildlife Photographer so the 1.6x crop sensor of this camera is very useful to me with a telephoto lens. Although it did very well in this situation, some may prefer a camera with a full size sensor. This will allow less image noise when shooting in low light and you would have a wider perspective to shoot from that utilizes the full capacity of your wide angle lens. I shoot strictly in Manual mode.

Fireworks over lakes throughout the Adirondacks are a 4th of July staple.
Fireworks over lakes throughout the Adirondacks are a 4th of July staple.

Pro Settings For Photographing Fireworks

Bulb mode using a remote trigger
7 sec at f/16
18mm (28.8mm with 1.6x crop sensor)
ISO 100


Nothing Beats Fourth of July In The Adirondacks

As you can probably imagine, observing fireworks from the water only enhances the experience. A year hasn't gone by without the town of Speculator in the Adirondacks going all out to create a spectacular display of 4th of July fireworks. As a child it was one of the biggest events of the summer for me. It starts with a parade through town, where as kid – and sometimes even now – I would try to collect as much candy as possible as it was tossed at the crowd from the shiniest vintage fire trucks I'd ever seen, their sirens proudly echoing through the crowd.

Even as a kid, with all that candy in my pockets, I knew that after the parade, the best was yet to come. To enjoy the Speculator fireworks, all you really need is a beach chair or a blanket to get comfortable. Most times, I just lie down and look up because the display is so close and there is nothing obstructing the view over the lake. As the horizon darkens across Lake Pleasant, tiny lights would appear in the distance from hundreds of boats making their way along the water to see the show – usually with horns blaring in anticipation of what's to come.

When the first dazzling rocket is launched, everything else becomes quiet and disappears. All that's between you is a sunset silhouetted by the mountains, the distant glint of campfires, and the biggest, sparkles of light soaring overhead. As a kid, I felt the anticipation like a knot in my chest, and then, the earth-shattering boom like thunder across the highest peaks. Sometimes I would forget to clap from sheer awe of the sights and sounds. The grand finale makes sure you return to your cabin with a vivid memory to last you a lifetime. But you always want to come back for more.

Over the years I've had the pleasure of enjoying the fireworks from land and water. There doesn't seem to be a bad spot to view them on Lake Pleasant, although the experience differs from land, both are equally rewarding. From a boater's perspective, at least in my opinion, you get even more of a thrill because the water stills like glass, and you get this feeling of being really small on a big earth, and eventually forget which way is up or down.

Everything you need to feel peace is in the Adirondacks. If you ever want to find peace within yourself or need to find an answer to a question that seems unobtainable, stare into the reflections of the Adirondack waters, or watch a Bald Eagle soar over the peaks. The fragrance of pine carried on the wind, and the strength of the mountains reminds me of what's important.

I would like to continue capturing moments like this with my images to help remind people that there is more to life than just paying bills and buying more "stuff." It can be difficult at times to not feel empty or lost but there are other perspectives to consider. The answers are within you – you just have to get to the mountains and you'll find what you're looking for. and


About the Author …
Jessica Deitz
I was just a few months old when my family bought a cabin in Speculator, and each summer my love for the Adirondacks is renewed with the magic of sinking into the cool, clear mountain water of Lake Pleasant.
About Area ADK …
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