Capture fun light displays using a sparkler and some fairy lights
In this project, we wanted to capture (and make a feature of) the colourful points of light behind a subject. To stay seasonable as winter festivities continue, we were going to be lighting a sparkler, and holding it in front of a set of fairy lights taped up in the background. Although we tried to use modern LED lights, we found that traditional Christmas tree lights work better, as their bulbs are much bigger.
Once we’d hung up the lights, we mounted our DSLR onto a tripod and used manual settings to focus on the sparkler. Manual mode was the best method for accurate exposure, so that we could underexpose the image for when the sparkler was lit. A wide aperture of f/2.8 was set to create a shorter depth of field, and the ISO was set to 1,600. The sparkler was a subject that was easily captured by a short focal distance, provided we held our hand fairly close to the camera.
The key to getting a successful bokeh effect is to use a fast prime lens, with the aperture wide open. If you find that you’re not getting a strong bokeh effect, increase the distance between your subject and the background (by decreasing the distance between the subject and the camera).
Lighting a sparkler indoors isn’t too dangerous, but you might want a bucket of water nearby to extinguish them at the end of your shot. Make sure you’ve got plenty of space to work in, and that children and pets are kept well away. Getting shots in focus can take some patience, and we used a fast continuous shooting mode to fire off a burst of shots once the sparkler was lit, moving it closer and further away from the lens.