The Washington fireworks show photographed at the Netherlands Carillon. (Kevin Ambrose)

I have photographed Washington’s Fourth of July fireworks for 15 years, and this show was different from past shows. It was much larger and covered more sky. The ground bursts that usually span the width of the Reflecting Pool spanned the width of the Mall. It was impressive!

Shell bursts that exploded showing the American flag and the letters U-S-A drew cheers from the crowds. I shot video of the bursts which are shown below.

Timed exposure photos don’t capture the detail of flag and letter fireworks because they tend to move and expand in the sky.

This year’s show also created more smoke, particularly at ground level, which made photography challenging, but it was fun to watch even as the capital’s monuments and landmarks disappeared from view behind the smokescreen.

Before the fireworks, flyovers by the Blue Angels, the B-2 stealth bomber and other aircraft provided an impressive show in the sky. I have included a few photos of the flyovers here.


The Blue Angels fly over Washington. (Kevin Ambrose)

Regarding the photography, I have learned that D.C. fireworks are too fast and frequent to time the shell bursts well using bulb mode on the camera. Instead, I run two cameras on six second timed exposures, shooting repetitively with the shutter release cable locked down.

I set each camera with a different F-stops because shell bursts have quite a range of brightness, and I set the ISO to 200 on each camera. I use F-stops between F-11 to F-18 depending on the camera and lens. I start the cameras shooting a few minutes before the show so I won’t miss the first shell and I let the cameras shoot automatically while I sit back and watch the show.

After smoke fills the sky, I stop one camera and start recording video. The other camera continues to shoot photos. It’s a routine that seems to work for me and it’s easy to do.


(Kevin Ambrose)

Forecasts of rain and thunderstorms seem like a broken record each Fourth of July, creating worry for the fireworks show, and it happened again this year with flash flood watches and warnings posted for much of the area. Luckily, the D.C. area dodged the worst of the weather and the fireworks show went on without rain, and the temperature was quite pleasant for early July.

Some more of my photos


(Kevin Ambrose)

(Kevin Ambrose)

(Kevin Ambrose)

(Kevin Ambrose)

(Kevin Ambrose)

(Kevin Ambrose)

The Blue Angels make a second pass over D.C., flying west-to-east. (Kevin Ambrose)

A flyover by a B-2 stealth bomber with an escort by F-22 fighter jets at each wingtip. (Kevin Ambrose)

Some photos from Capital Weather Gang readers via social media


Fireworks in Washington, D.C., on Thursday. (George Jiang via Flickr)