Friday, July 6, 2012

Sparkler Writing

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I hope everyone had a wild and wonderful
Fourth of July!

I photographed fireworks last year,
so this year I wanted to try the long-exposure
sparkler writing photos.

We were visiting a friend's cottage on Long Lake
for the holiday weekend.
 I gathered all the teens and they were extremely
creative and FUN!

Those were the GOOD ones.  We had plenty of
BAD before we hit the GOOD.

It took us awhile to figure it out.

Here are the basics for shooting this type of photo:

You will need a DSLR camera with the BULB setting and a tripod.

Shutter speed:  BULB (meaning the shutter stays open as long as you hold
down the shutter button. Pull out your manual to learn how to set it to bulb
on your particular camera.)

Aperature: f8

ISO: 100

Have someone shine a bright flashlight on the middle
person so you can get a focus.  On your LENS, flip your focus
switch to MANUAL to lock the focus.
With an f8 you will have
a decent depth of field so everything should be in focus.

Think out each person's role before shooting.
Have the kids light their sparklers at the same time.
My kids lit the sparkler in the middle with a lighter,
 and the others lit theirs off of that one.
They quickly returned to their positions
and placed the sparklers in starting position to
write their letter or design.

When everyone is ready, press down on the shutter button
to open the shutter and HOLD IT DOWN until
the design is completed.  This took practice, especially with
several people doing the writing and designs.

I thought we would need to write backwards for
it to show up frontwards in the photo.
We started with this hilarious attempt to write
(Oops!  Backwards is backwards!)

You may have to reposition your camera to get everyone in the shot.

Where ever the sparkler is will show up as light in the photo.

My clever kids used two sparklers for the exclamation point:

Here was our first crude attempt to write July 4th.  Ha ha!

Soon the kids were able to coordinate letter size. 

 OOPS again...the 4 is backwards,
but I love how each kid did their own special letter design.
The bright L was done with two sparklers.

My son's friend Jeff thought up the car idea.
It took five people to create it.

This was our first attempt. 
Two kids drew the tires and connected the bottom line of the car.
Two more created the windows and
one person outlined the entire thing.

This was our first try at outlining people.

This was a tad dangerous.
We had three people strike a pose and
three people stood behind them to create the sparkler outline.

The posers said they could feel the heat!
Not very safe when I think about it!

As the photographer, I had to watch the writing and hold
open the shutter until I saw that the entire design was complete.

Below you can see that I let go of the shutter before the middle
person was fully outlined.

These are so much fun to do especially with several people.

Buy lots of sparklers next year and try this for yourself.


  1. This is awesome!! Great pictures!! I can not wait to try this myself sometime!

  2. these shots are so clever! I love the ones that outline the people! We tried some sparkler writing, but I had each kid go one at a time and write their name or a shape. I LOVE the ones of each one doing a different letter. I definitely need to try that next year!

  3. Your pictures are so much fun!!! Thank you for all the incredible helpful tips. I'd love to try this for myself.

  4. Super cool. I love that you gave pointers and didn't just show the pics. The oopsies were neat too.

  5. That is too cool! I would be afraid someone might get burned. :ools like it turned out ok for you :)

  6. LOVE these! This is so much fun to do too.