Thunder on the Mountain [Fireworks over Vulcan], Birmingham, AL

As I have done most all of my life on the 4th of July, we went to watch the fireworks show “Thunder on the Mountain” over Vulcan Statue in my hometown of Birmingham, AL. We have watched it from different venues over the years, but this year we chose to go back to our old apartment in Southside where my husband and I lived when we first got married. The apartment building sits right below Vulcan on 21st Street, so you can easily walk up to Warwick Rd to get a great view. I’ve photographed fireworks before, but never with Vulcan in the shots; so I was determined to get the mythical god of fire and Birmingham icon, in my shots this year!

If you are curious how to photograph fireworks, there is definitely a technique in getting them right. You must use a tripod due to the very slow shutter required. Don’t try to cut a corner and shoot them handheld, because all you will get is blurry images and jagged light streams. It is also helpful to use a remote trigger, if you have one, so you don’t cause any camera shake by holding down and releasing the shutter with your finger. These shots were taken on Manual mode with my 24-70 mm lens. Metering was set to Matrix (Nikon’s method of reading light from the entire scene not just one spot), single servo focus and autofocus of the entire scene (solid rectangle on the autofocus dial). I adjusted the shutter based on how bright the colors were in the streams of fireworks and how they were casting light on the Vulcan statue. I chose the aperture of f/16 so that I had good depth of field to get everything in focus. My shutter was set to BULB so that I could completely control the mirror up and down motion. The shutter speed on my shots varied anywhere from 1.0 sec to 8 sec, depending on how long I held down the shutter button before releasing it. The longer you hold the shutter open the more bursts of fireworks you get in one shot/frame. Press the shutter once and hold it open for several bursts then release it to close the shutter. Try to get the bursts at the beginning, otherwise you get more smoke than streams of color. You can find a helpful article on shooting fireworks here. Give it a try! It’s fun!

Hope you enjoy the images I took from this year’s Thunder on the Mountain.

5 responses to “Thunder on the Mountain [Fireworks over Vulcan], Birmingham, AL”

  1. SoliHull Avatar

    For a great night out at the best and safest For Weddings, Birthdays, Celebrations and for all special occasions Wedding Fireworks Birmingham

  2. lizzyisdizzy Avatar

    Hi Heather, I’d love to use one of your photographs for a website about an upcoming NYE event in Birmingham… May I get your permission to use it with credit, of course?

  3. Heather Durham Photography Avatar

    Hi. Feel free to email me at for pricing and usage requests. Thanks! 🙂

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