Shooting Fireworks by Hacking My Camera

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Leeland's picture

Well 2 days of preparation and a lot of reading really paid off. The last few years I have not been very happy with my photographic results from events like the 4th of July shows. So this year I decided instead of being a rank amateur I would try and figure it out.

I do not have an expensive digital camera, it is a Canon A630 Powershot. But, I have figured out how to take enough good pictures that I am actually happy with it. I went through about 12 digital cameras since 1985 and until I bought this one I ended up giving them away to friends because I was so upset with performance I couldn't stand to look at the things. I was very happy taking pictures with my 1985 Canon Sureshot 35mm and I took fabulous almost professional quality pictures with that little work horse. Nighttime photos are just terrible. So what was I doing wrong?

Then I ran across the LifeHacker ( article on CHDK a bios replacement OS for digital cameras. After reading the article I decided to try it.

Then I read almost every page I could Google on CHDK, motion capture with CHDK and lightning capture with CHDK.

Armed with a lot of ideas, no notes (why I do not know) and a vague idea of what the aperture setting was about I played around and finally settled on the CHDK script Motion/Lightning-Detect for Canon A640 by Johan Van Barel

So in a 30 minute show using threshold=10, interval=5ms, delay=5, and blocksize=6 I took about 180 pictures with a manual focus set to infinity, a shutter time of 1 second and the default aperture and using the custom driver speed of taking 2 pictures every time the shutter is called. End results, WOW I am very, very happy with the results.

Here are some samples:

Pretty cool since I set it up, pushed the button and sat down. The camera sat there for more then 30 minutes before the show started and it took the pictures all by itself the whole show. All I did was sit back and enjoy. This is the way I like it. Let the computers do the work of recording and let me enjoy my life.

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