For a number of years I’ve been working with Sonic Fireworks & Events, so much so in fact that they’ve become good friends. On this, their twentieth year in business, it seemed like a good idea to do a little feature on them and, as part of that, we decided to some portraits of the crew – the people that do all the hard work and long hours behind the scenes.
Sonic has been working in the South West of England producing shows and events for everyone from the University of Exeter to the NHS, Crealy, St Lloyes, tourist organisations and more. Over the last 20 years they estimate to have fired over 130 tons of pyrotechnics – that’s an awful lot of fireworks!
Mike Glover (above) is the boss and the artistic powerhouse behind the design of the displays. For anyone thinking displays just happen or are put together randomly, think again. An intimate knowledge of each firework – their effect, spread, height, colour and how they blend with other fireworks is essential. These days it’s often done with 3D computer programs but, when there’s not time for that, it is still done with paper and a creative mind.
For the portraits we decided to use a cinematic colouring technique that helped to compliment the orange of the Sonic logo by reducing the colour palette of the background while making it teal/blue in colour. The images were shot with a portable strobe set-up and reflector while using a neutral density filter to reduce the depth of field (this was taken around the longest day so the ambient light level was high).
Photographing fireworks is a difficult art made slightly easier by digital cameras. The decision often has to be made whether to shoot the firework itself alone or in the context of its environment and the event itself (often a better choice). Colour balance, exposure time, focal length and pre-focusing in what can be complete blackout conditions all need to be considered along with the height, spread and duration of the fireworks.
On this page are a few pictures from events Sonic has created displays for. The final one, below, was in Paignton, Devon, as the finale to Childrens’ Week 2014 (which has been running for nearly 70 years). This picture was chosen because of the uniqueness of the fireworks within the landscape.