Gilmar Smith's Top Tips for Taking Fabulous Firework Photos with Platypod Ultra

By Gilmar Smith

On the first weekend of October for the past 11 years, thousands of photowalks have been led all over the world during the Scott Kelby Worldwide Photowalk, a global movement started by Scott Kelby with the intention of bringing photographers together to socialize, take pictures and make new friends.

This past weekend marked my 5th year leading one of the Photowalks. I have led them in different Disney Parks, like Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Epcot Theme Park. I led one in Universal Orlando’s CityWalk, and one in downtown Orlando. This year, I decided to lead one at the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival.

Epcot is one of the most photogenic locations in Walt Disney World. Its World Showcase has plenty of photo ops. It contains 11 world Pavilions with themed architecture, landscapes, and attractions inspired by different country's cultures. There's a replica of the Eiffel Tower at France pavilion; a replica of the Temple of Heaven at China Pavilion; a replica of St. Mark's Bell Tower at Italy Pavilion; and a replica of the Horyu-ji Temple at Japan Pavilion, to name a few.

Epcot is a photographer's playground. The Photowalk always coincides with the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, when the park adds additional country kiosks with different cuisines and live music from all around the world, making the experience a delightful one to all senses.

I had planned our Photowalk to start at 2 pm to give my group plenty of time to scout for locations and shoot their best picture to submit for the contest held by KelbyOne each year. You may think eight hours is way too long for a photowalk, but between stops to get drinks and snacks, photograph all the amazing locations and socialize, the day went by pretty fast.

  During one of our stops, a photographer from my group,    Mike Wewerka   , asked to borrow my Platypod Ultra so he could try it out on a low-angle picture of Morocca Pavilion.

During one of our stops, a photographer from my group, Mike Wewerka, asked to borrow my Platypod Ultra so he could try it out on a low-angle picture of Morocca Pavilion.

  I strapped my Platypod Ultra to the rail of the Japan Pavilion balcony, because my Platypod is always stable and secure.

I strapped my Platypod Ultra to the rail of the Japan Pavilion balcony, because my Platypod is always stable and secure.

The Morocco Pavilion was actually funded by the King of Morocco, King Hassan II. He wanted to be sure that every detail of his culture was portrayed correctly, so he sent a team over to make sure that everything was done properly.

Morocco has a replica of a Prayer Tower, and it's the only country that doesn't light up during the show Illuminations, because lighting the prayer tower would be against Muslim beliefs.

There's always a fireworks show at the end of the day in Epcot called "IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth,” and it can be seen from every Pavilion. After photographing this show from different locations through the years, I knew the best spot to get a killer image was at the Japan Pavilion from the second-floor balcony. By shooting from this location, you get the Torii Gate and the lake as foreground and a fantastic unobstructed view of the firework show.

These are the essential things you need to know when shooting fireworks.

  • Shoot fireworks on a long exposure: In order to avoid camera shake, you need to do two things: Set your camera on a stable surface, and use a remote or cable release.

  • Lower your ISO: After you secure your camera (mine with my Platypod Ultra), lower your ISO to the lowest setting.

  • Set your camera mode to bulb

  • Set your aperture anywhere from F9 and up

  • Hit the shutter on your remote when you see the fireworks going up

  • Hold it until the fireworks explode, which will allow you to get beautiful light trails like this one!

Here below one of my final shots from the Epcot fireworks show. It was shot with my Canon 5D Mark II, with a 16-35mm lens at 24mm. ISO 100, on Bulb mode, 4 seconds exposure, at F9. I hope you enjoyed coming along on my Photowalk adventures. The Scott Kelby Worldwide Photowalk happens every year, so consider joining us next year if you love photography and want to make new photography friends. I’ll definitely be there!

  Pictured: IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth; Gilmar Smith

Pictured: IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth; Gilmar Smith

Gilmar Smith is an Orlando-based photographer, content creator, Photoshop addict & social media junkie! Visit her at  gilmarphotography.com and be sure to follow her on Instagram

Ajna Adams