Thrissur Puram 2012: Photography with nowhere to turn – Part III

This is part three of my coverage of Thrissur Puram 2012. To read part one, click here. To read part two, click here.

The Fireworks

I had a seat on top of a building at the edge of the main ground. Again, this was a ‘nowhere to turn’-type position. We waited for four hours so we could occupy the best seats, and thankfully the fireworks began at 3 a.m.

The Thrissur Puram fireworks show is again a competition between the two major temples. This isn’t a show for the faint-hearted, and I don’t mean that in jest. It is truly shocking, earth-shattering and mind-numbing – it is as close to witnessing a cluster bomb a 100 yards away from you. It is so bright it lights up the night sky for miles. It is so loud it can be heard at the ends of the Thrissur state.

I had already seen the fireworks show about ten years ago, from a similar vantage point. I knew it was going to get very bright. Think sun against the night sky. I quickly spot metered off a lit structure and a street light. I could barely make 1/30s shutter, so I decided to use shutter priority mode, with my shutter at 1/30s. I wasn’t going to capture fine detail. The ISO was on auto and the aperture was all over the place – no issues since I was manually focusing at infinity anyway. Since the light was going from zero to extremely bright in milliseconds, I was on continuous drive mode, blasting away like a soldier against enemy artillery shells.

This was one time I regretted not bringing my tripod, as I would have preferred to shoot this in video. But I didn’t need the tripod for stills, not at 1/30s.

What can turn this:

Into this:

Unbelievable! All that waiting had drained me. This woke me up big time! In the future I would probably shoot RAW instead of JPEGs to get as much dynamic range as possible. There was also a lot of magnetic interference that gave me weird but cool artifacts. That should tell you something. Here’s the fireworks in all its glory:

The fireworks are in two rounds, with each round lasting roughly 7-10 minutes. While reviewing the first batch on my LCD screen, I realized highlights were being blown out. If I would have exposed for the highlights I wouldn’t get the same impact of the experience. Those monster cloud formations were as tall as skyscrapers. To add scale I included people in the foreground. Remember, we are already on the rooftop of a three-storey building.

No amount of photos does justice to this spectacle. Here’s an edited video, shot by my wife, on a Nokia N8, of the end of the first round of fireworks. Please watch till the very end – it’s scary enough on video. Enjoy: