To photograph fireworks, I typically use a tripod and remote shutter release to keep the camera steady for long exposures. That lets me get nice long explosion trails and multiple colorful bursts in each frame. Unfortunately, I forgot to bring the remote shutter release.

I looked for apps that would allow me to use my cell phone as a shutter release, but they required wifi capability on my camera. I found instructions on how to rig a remote trigger with a stereo mini-plug cable and a pop tab, but I couldn’t find a cable with a small enough plug to fit my remote jack. Except, of course, the two cables I keep with my remotes that I had left behind.

So I could either trigger the camera by hand, risking jiggling the camera with each touch, or use the self-timer. I opted for the latter, choosing the two-second delay. Instead of using the bulb setting, where I would time each exposure by hand, watching the fireworks, I set the camera to do three second exposures. Pretty soon, I could see that I was missing a lot of bursts with this technique, and I increased the exposure to eight seconds. I used a really small aperture because we were close enough to the fireworks that they were blowing out white with my usual f/11 to f/18 range. Because my aperture was set at f/32, I could set the longer exposures and not over-expose the sky and surroundings.

This by-chance approach actually worked better than I expected, and I felt I got almost as many good exposures as I had with my more controlled hand-timing each shot. I would still use a remote next time, if I remembered to bring it, but it was a good reminder that even with minimal equipment, you can still make it work.

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