Fireworks On a Disney Cruise (and fireworks photography tips)

The itinerary of our most recent Disney cruise on the Disney Dream was a little different than our past cruises, with this one having two stops at Castaway Cay instead of a day at sea. However, one thing that did not change with this cruise was Pirate Night. One of the best things about Pirate Night is the fireworks at the end of the night. With this cruise, that was still true.

Fireworks on the Disney Cruise

There is always something cool about fireworks to begin with, but fireworks at sea are even more cool than regular fireworks. It is always interesting to be out at sea where you can’t see any other ships or any land. It is just you and those on the ship with you. And there are fireworks just for you and your fellow passengers.

I had previously mentioned the rain that we got on our cruise, and from the beginning our cruise director Peter was saying that we would have fireworks, weather permitting. He was always careful to get the “weather permitting” phrase in there, just to be safe. That evening, one of the announcements over the ship’s intercom system mentioned that Captain Henry had found a good spot weather-wise for the fireworks and he was steering the ship that way. Needless to say, with all of that build-up everyone was pretty excited for the fireworks.

I do have to say that the show right before the fireworks is a little cheesy. Something about Captain Jack Sparrow trying to steal some special gauntlet, and some other pirates trying to steal it from him. In the end, Captain Jack prevails, and he uses the magical gauntlet to light the fireworks. It is definitely worth it to wait through the show for the fireworks. Or if you don’t get a great place to see the show, make sure you still get a great place to see the fireworks.

The fireworks are actually launched from the ship, from on top of the second funnel and over the starboard side (that is, to the right of the forward direction of the ship for all you landlubbers). We found what I thought would be a good spot, and we got there early enough that I could set up my tripod. That turned out to be the only time on the whole trip that I used the tripod, but it was definitely worth it to bring it along just for the fireworks.

Fireworks on the Disney Cruise

I took several photos of the fireworks, as you might guess, but these two are definitely my favorites. If you are wondering why the ship elements look different colors in the two photos, that is because of what was on the big screen on the other funnel in the opposite direction from the fireworks. However, I don’t think anyone was really watching what was on the screen. I know I wasn’t. The fireworks were drawing everyone’s attention.

Being Disney, there was also pirate-themed music to go along with the fireworks. The bursts weren’t quite perfectly timed with the music as they usually are in the Magic Kingdom, but that is okay. No one seemed to mind.

If you are concerned for the environment, they say that the fireworks shells are all made out of materials that fish can eat, so that whatever pieces fall into the water won’t cause any problems to the ocean life there. So the fish get dinner and a show!

After the fireworks ended, we hurried down to the Buena Vista Theatre to see the latest Pirates of the Caribbean movie, which we had not yet seen. Even more of a perfect Pirate Night! It made for a late night by the time we finally got to bed around 1:30 in the morning, but it was worth it.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! - Philippians 4:4

About the Photos

Fireworks are a bit different to photograph than most of the things that I usually take photos of. Yes, you can probably get some okay photos by just pointing your camera and pressing the button, but that does not really capture fireworks properly. Here are some tips that I use for fireworks photography:

  • Use a tripod - This will make your photos turn out much better than just point-and-shoot fireworks photos. Trust me.
  • Use manual mode - Set all of the camera settings yourself to make sure you have complete control. Even set your focus manually, setting it to infinity, because the camera can take a while to try to photograph in the dark, and you might miss something.
  • Use a long exposure - Five seconds, or maybe ten. Or just do what I do and set your shutter speed to bulb mode and experiment, based on the patterns that you want to capture.
  • Close down the aperture as small as it will go - Use a setting of f/22 or f/18 for best results. This will keep the fireworks from burning out the rest of the photo, especially in a long exposure setting. And it will keep the the other elements (in this case, the ship) from being too bright, too.
  • Don’t try to set the ISO too high - If your camera is still in automatic mode, it will want to use a really high ISO because of the darkness. But I had my camera set only to ISO 400, which was just fine.
  • Don’t be afraid to experiment - It isn’t like the old days when you were using up precious film or anything.
  • Don’t forget to actually watch the fireworks - Don’t get so caught up in your camera that you miss seeing what is actually happening right in front of you.
  • Use photo processing - Later on, use photo software to make the photo look even better. Turn down the blacks to make the sky nice and dark. Or turn down the highlights to bring out the colors of the fireworks. While these photos were good to begin with, they were even better after a little bit of work.

It is often tempting to try to compensate for the darkness in fireworks photography since you are shooting in the darkness of night. But the fireworks will take care of the light for you. Here are the camera settings that I used for these photos: ISO 400, f/22 aperture, bulb mode for shutter speed. For the record, the top photo was a 12-second exposure, and the bottom photo was an 8-second exposure. I would press the shutter button before a series of bursts started, and then release it after the bursts were done. And the fisheye lens I use is fully manual focus, so I did not have to worry about the camera trying to focus at all.

Photos: Each photo is a single Raw exposure, processed in Photoshop. Read more about photography tips, photo software, camera gear, and more at Steve’s Photography Tips.
Camera: Olympus OM-D E-M10
Lens: Rokinon 7.5mm f/3.5 Fisheye Lens
Date: June 9, 2017
Location: At sea on the Disney Dream

2017 Disney Cruise Banner-600

World Bible School

Burnsland Email

Burnsland avatar
Burnsland is Steve Burns, with generous help from his lovely wife Laura. Steve is a husband, father, photographer, webmaster, writer, podcaster, artist, Christian. Steve enjoys sharing his photography, art, and stories through, from the Burnsland World Headquarters in Tennessee.