July 4th is the only day each year when Americans gather in mass to celebrate the simple pleasure of blowing things up (...and independence). The 200 entries in this week's Shooting Challenge do justice to this strange, wonderful tradition.

Lead Shot (before during the accident)

The details here are fuzzy due to all the booze. We needed a group shot at the end of the night so everyone piled into the street and we lit off two mortar shells on the ground behind us. The camera was on a tripod in the back of my truck. Here is what I used:
Camera: Olympus E-PL1
Lens: Lumix G 1.7/20 Prime Lens
ISO: 200
Fstop: 4.0
Exposure Time: 15"
- Andy Meehan

Red Rain

This photo was taken with an Olympus E-520 with a 14-42mm lens on a small travel tripod. ISO 100, lens at 42mm, Image Stabilization, Aperture It was taken on July 1st at the Windsor – Detroit International Freedom Festival that celebrates the 4th of July and Canada day together.
-Alex Bussiere

Disneyland From Car

Taken on a Canon EOS Rebel XS, 50mm f/1.8 II, f/7.1, 1 second exposure, ISO200
From inside the car on the drive out of Disneyland.
[Ed note: Simple and beautiful.]
-Taishi Matusmoto

Cracking a Cold One

I took these with my Nikon D40 using the kit lens and manual mode. I kept the shutter open 3 seconds to capture the sparks from the bottle rocket. Nothing better than shooting bottle rockets out of a freshly emptied beer bottle on the 4th of July.
-Peter Berg


Camera: Nikon D300s
Lens: Nikkor 18-200mm 1:3.5-5.6 G II ED
Exposure: 15 Seconds
ISO: 100
Aperture: 5.6
Focal Length: 18mm
Location: Woodlawn Lake Park, San Antonio, TX
-Nathan Thompson

Bloom Over Boston

This was shot while watching the Annual Boston Pops Firework Spectacular! Unfortunately the location was not a prime spot to see the whole display, but I was able to capture a portion of the display. The photo was taken with a Canon 7D w/ an EFS 17-85mm IS lens (200 iso, 2 sec shutter speed, and f/5.4).
-Luke Salyer

70s Roller Rink

I know this is late, but here's to hoping you are being extra lenient to those who partied just a little harder last night than others. Thanks.
Nikon D3000
ISO 200
18-55mm lens
10 sec. exposure
-Mike Maloney


Canon Rebel XT, EFS 18-55mm kit lens, ISO 100, F/4.5, AWB
Sharp images of fireworks are common. But many fireworks sizzle or sparkle, appearing fuzzy as they expand. To capture a fairytale quality, I briefly touched the tripod with my hand to shake it a tiny amount, unnoticeable to the naked eye but caught by the camera sensor. The resulting texture reminds me of delicate watercolor paintbrush strokes.
[Ed note: What a great, effective technique.]
-Leah Orden

Now That's America!

Canon EOS Rebel T1i, Canon EF-S55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS, Aperture: 4, Exposure Time: 1/80, ISO: 800
I took this at my hometown's (Bedford, IN) fireworks show. This picture screamed America to me, with its implied greasy burger smell, and colorful explosions.
[Ed note: Bonus points for capture of the human condition. The title was Clark's.]
-Ryan Clark

Wait, Wait, Wait...Who Let Canada In??

Equipment: Nikon D60 (18mm-55mm lens)
I took this photograph on July 1st (Canada Day) in front of the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa. Normally I watch the fireworks from balcony, but this year, I joined the throngs of people in front of the Parliament. I chose this one because of the composition of the Peace Tower and Canadian Flag firework explosions. I thought the lens flare added a bit of interest to the picture.
-Siobhán Thomas

Fire Flowers

Canon T1i, 18-55mm EF-S lens, Manual mode, 47mm, f/8.0, 10 second exposure (bulb mode), tripod, RS-60 E3 remote switch
I took this shot at the Yorba Linda, CA 4th of July celebration. Had the shutter in bulb mode. My sister held the camera steady on the tripod while I adjusted the focus back and forth to get the floral effect. Did some basic contrast/curve adjustments in Adobe Lightroom.
-Giani Waghelstein

The Razzle and the Dazzle

Model: Canon EOS 50D
Lens: Sigma 18-250mm
Exposure: 13 second at f/9
ISO: 100
-Khanh Ha


Nikon D5000 w/ Nikkor 55-200mm telephoto lens
ISO 400
Exposure 1/50s
At my local fireworks display for the 4th, the high-in-the-air bursts weren't giving me what I wanted, but when the low shells started being set off I loved the way the plumes of smoke curled behind the rockets.
[Ed note: I love the photo so hard, but I can't help but wish it was perfectly sharp.]
-Beth Knutson

Bokeh Works

Canon EOS 50D, f/1.8, 50 mm, 200 ISO
For the Fourth I went to the fireworks display in Downtown Lansing Michigan. I took a total of 451, picked 24 of those to upload to my Flickr, and off all of those shots This was my favorite shot from the entire evening. In order to get the shot I just manually focused my lens as close to me as possible, set the aperture way down, and started shooting.
-Matthew Katzenberger

Blue and Gold

Nikon D90
18-200mm zoom lense
Extended exposure by hand. Image was taken overlooking Lake Union fireworks in Seattle.
- Nick Sprankle

Fireworks On a Budget

Camera : Canon Digital Rebel XSi
Lens : 18 - 55mm kit lens
ISO: 100
F/ : 6.3
Shutter : 1.3 seconds
All I had really wanted to do this independence day was get a decent picture to submit for the challenge, so my family & I went to where i thought would be a perfect spot. As it turns out, all the fireworks were too far away to get anything good. Luckily, my sister had gotten a text that people were setting them off at the local elementary school. We had gotten there in time to see not the most professional display of fireworks, (a few of them fell over & exploded on the ground) but certainly more photographical. This picture was taken zooming in during the exposure.
[Ed note: Fascinating how the zoom exposure coupled with a black backdrop destroys our sense of scale.]
-Robert Kelley

Big Blue

ISO 100, f/7.1, 3.2s shutter
This is the first "real" event/action item I've had the opportunity to shoot with this camera. I set the camera up on the tripod in time for the 9:30p start time. 9:30p came, followed by the first firework shell, then a second, and a third, and then the sprinklers came on! We had to scurry off the lawn to avoid getting drenched
-Brett Woollum

Mortar Wars

Nikon D90, 18-55mm VR @ 22mm, ISO 200, f/5.6, 4 Sec Exposure
For the last 3 years our 4th of July party has been a contest of Mortar Wars. We split into teams on opposite side of the field and plan out strategies. The artillery consists of mainly Mortars and large Roman candles. This year I managed to carry my camera for the first 15 minutes of the festivities. This image shows the blast trail from mortar and then blasting right above apposing team.
-Cody Overton


Shot on a Canon 7D with a Tokina 11-16 f/2.8. 3 sec, f/4.0, 16mm, ISO 100, BULB mode.
For the first 15 minutes of the show, I just wasn't quite satisfied with the shots I was getting but about halfway through, these four boys came and sat down right in front of me. Turns out all I needed was some some spectators to anchor the bottom of my frame and add a human element to the chaos in the sky.
-Ansel Santosa

Really fun entries this week. The full galleries are below (I promise, there are lots of worthy pics in the cheap seats), and as always, you can find wallpaper-sized images over on flickr.

Gallery 1

Gallery 2

Gallery 3

Gallery 4

ALSO, we haven't forgotten about the cellphone Shooting Challenge. My apologies, we are working on it and hope to post results ASAP (right now, I'm hoping that means tomorrow). Yes...I said this a week ago.

Click to view

Galleries compiled by Ryan Salerno.