I was visiting San Diego over the 4th of July and decided to shoot fireworks in the Mission Bay area. After I called the City Parks and Recreation Department to get a general location of the fireworks I headed to the Bay to scout the area. It was early afternoon so I had plenty of time to walk up and down the Bay side boardwalk until I found a location with a great foreground for the fireworks.
When shooting fireworks I always use a Tripod and Remote Release to avoid any chance of camera shake. Setting my Canon 1DX camera on Manual Mode with an Aperture of f/16, a Shutter Speed of 1 second, and my ISO at 1600 I was ready to get a general framing of my shots. I used my Canon 70-300mm L Series lens because of the distance from the fireworks. Now that I was all set up I pre-focused (turn off AF) and pre-framed what I thought would make a good shot and waited for the fireworks to start. After the first couple of shots went off I was able to get the framing I wanted.
As it turned out my location was wonderful. I actually was in a position to shoot three different fireworks displays. During the shoot I made changes in my ISO between 1250 and 1600, shutter speeds from 1 to 4 seconds. Just to make a clean breast of the shoot I have to admit to totally screwing up the finale of the main fireworks. The finale was three or four sets of fireworks going off at the same time creating twice or so the light I had been shooting so the entire finally is blown out. Oh well, there is always next year.
I use Photoshop to correct exposures and sharpening. I also made a composite photo using four separate shots to and using auto stacking in PS. When I do a composite or photo representation I always disclose that information so people know.
TIPS: Use a tripod and remote release. Shoot manual mode. Starting setting: Aperture f/16, shutter speed 1 to 4 seconds (many just put shutter on bulb), ISO 1600 Pre focus and frame if possible. Shooting vertical or horizontal is just personal preference, try both. Watch your horizon. Focal length really depends on how far you are away Review your shots and experiment with Aperture, shutter speed and ISO Make sure your flash is turned off