Following our article on how to photograph fireworks, we though the best theme for July’s photo contest would be, of course, fireworks. This was possibly the most difficult contest yet to judge, because every photo submitted was good. But Jeffrey Dowell’s image (see full size below) stood out. The gradient from sunlight to pitch black is almost other-wordly, and balances perfectly with the golden-orange explosions in the sky. We were even more impressed to learn that the effect was created entirely in camera. Read on to find out how this image was made and to learn more about the photographer.

Please tell us a little about yourself. What kind of photographer are you? Who or what inspired you to pursue photography?

I’ve been into photography since I got my first film camera about 16 years ago. Being able to capture something, whether it’s people or landscapes, and being able to control the light (speedlights, softboxes, etc.) is fun for me. I challenge myself and strive to improve my photography everytime I shoot. I have always enjoyed landscape photography; however, as of last year, I have become a portrait photographer in the Portland/Vancouver area. I primarily do headshots, families, seniors, and I’ll be shooting my fourth wedding at the end of this month.

From concept to pressing the shutter button, how did you create this image?

This photo was taken by my old camera and lens before I upgraded to a full-frame set-up:

Nikon D90 with Tamron 17-50 F/2.8 (set to 17mm), a shutter speed of 39 Seconds and aperture of F/32.

This was shot at a friend’s property in Long Beach, Washington two years ago. My technique was opening the exposure when I heard the fireworks being set off, and then covering my lens with a hat (something quick to move away). As soon as the fireworks exploded in the air, I removed the hat as quickly as possible to capture what you see in this photo. I then covered the lens again, and did the same for the small burst on the right. That was over a period of approximately 9 seconds. I then left the shutter open for about 30 seconds more to expose the sunset background.

What was the post-production process for this image? What software did you use or what adjustments did you make (if any)?

I use Lightroom primarily, I didn’t do much to this image other than a slight crop, a contrast  bump and a some sharpening.

Where can people go to see more of your work?

My work can be viewed on my website at or hit me up on my Facebook page at

© Jeffrey Dowell

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