For the past two years I’ve had the good fortune to live right next to the largest fireworks event in North America, the Macy’s July Fourth fireworks “Spectacular” on the East River between Manhattan and Queens.

Last year I walked out on to the FDR highway which was blocked off to traffic both North and South from 42nd street. It wasn’t too crowded (probably because of the pandemic) so I was able to find a spot over-looking the river a few blocks north of the UN. I only had my iPhone with me but was still able to get some good shots as well as video.

This year they only blocked the freeway South from 42nd so it was too crowded to stroll on to the highway so I decided to try my luck with an DSLR and take some photos instead. I have never been able to get decent photos of fireworks so I read up on it beforehand and found this helpful guide that was written specifically for Canon cameras (mine is a Rebel 5Ti) which was quite helpful.

I used an 18-55 mm lens at around a 10-second shutter speed with a 2-second delay after pressing the shutter button. A tripod is key and you’ll need to practice timing when to press the shutter in order to get the full “starburst” effect. I also set the lens aperture to between f/10 to f/16 so the brightness of multiple bursts didn’t wash out the exposure.

  • Tripod
  • 18 – 55 mm lens
  • Long shutter speed, at least 5 seconds
  • Set aperture to f/10 or above
  • Photos best early in the show, less smoke

Also, your best shots will be early in the show when the sky is still clear. Later on in the show it’ll be too smoky to get decent clarity on the burst trails.

It should go without saying to take as many photos as you can. These are just a subset of the 100+ that I took. As with all my photography experiments, it’s a numbers game. Out of many, you get a few that turn out decent enough to share.