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https://alphauniverseglobal.media.zestyio.com/Alpha-Universe-BTS-Juraj-Pagac-Final.jpg?width=500&height=500&fit=bounds

Behind The Shot: 5 Attempts Led To This 1 Lucky Capture

We connect with photographer Juraj Pagac (@jurajpagac) to learn how he painted the sky with fireworks to pull off this capture.

Before the edit. Photo by Juraj Pagac. Sony Alpha 7R II. Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 G Master. 20-sec., f/8, ISO 1250

After the edit. Photo by Juraj Pagac. Sony Alpha 7R II. Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 G Master. 20-sec., f/8, ISO 1250

Juraj Pagac (@jurajpagac) is Slovakia-based photographer that specializes mainly in landscape and travel photography. He is always trying to find new perspectives and uses of the natural or artificial light in the photos he captures. He recently posted this image on Instagram and we reached out to learn more about how he did it. Keep reading to see how he got the shot with his Sony Alpha 7R II and Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 G Master.

Alpha-Universe-BTS-Juraj-Pagac-Final.jpg

Photo by Juraj Pagac. Sony Alpha 7R II. Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 G Master. 20-sec., f/8, ISO 1250

You might think this shot is a composite or that the fireworks were added with Photoshop, but photographer Juraj Pagac says he was able to capture the moment with some luck and his Sony Alpha 7R II and Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 G Master.

The Scene

Last year I captured quite a similar photo to this one with similar fireworks. I really liked it and I thought to myself, I will try to get that shot again and I will try to improve on the whole concept. Fast forward to a few days before New Year's Eve of 2021 and there was this really foggy/rainy weather in my area. My original idea was to take the shot of me and my girlfriend with the fireworks under the stars. But then I thought to myself, it might actually be a good idea to try to use the fog to draw attention to us, so we ended up going out into the rain to try to get a few shots. As far as locations goes, it's just a small road going through the farmland in the countryside of Slovakia, not far from where I live.

The Gear

This shot was captured with the Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 G Master lens on my Sony Alpha 7R II. Even though my Alpha 7R II is a bit old at this point, it's still an incredibly capable camera with the sensor that I really love. I knew I wanted to shoot this shot really wide in order to capture all those fireworks above us. And for that is the Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 G Master best lens out there.

The Shot

As it was really wet out there, I ended up using a small shopping bag as a rain cover for my camera, just in case (I regret not taking any picture of this setup as it would look really funny). After I put the bag over my camera I left just a big enough hole for my lens and a tripod mount. Obviously, this was a tripod shot and as far as camera settings go, I set the self-timer for 10s and exposure time for 20-sec, ISO 1250 and f/8 with focus set to infinity to get “everything” in focus and also to not blow out the fireworks that much.

The really tricky bit with this shot was to run to my girlfriend just in time (right before I pressed the shutter button, she lit up the roman candle) to get the “live” roman candle into my hand and to stand steady together for 20 seconds, in order not to cause any motion blur, all the while the candle is firing its projectiles into the air and I'm making small movements with my wrist left and right to “paint” the fireworks into the sky. It took five tries to get this photo.

Alpha-Universe-BTS-Juraj-Pagac-Unedited.jpg

Unedited version. Photo by Juraj Pagac. Sony Alpha 7R II. Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 G Master. 20-sec., f/8, ISO 1250

The Edit

Maybe you would think this shot is an obvious composite or that I Photoshopped in the fireworks. Believe it or not, it’s the real shot as you can see the unedited RAW. I just got a bit lucky with that roman candle thing, I guess. Anyway, once I imported the shot into the Lightroom Classic I immediately saw that I wanted to get rid of all those ugly reds in the fog. I have to admit that it was a bigger challenge than I predicted, but in the end, I was successful. I ended up lowering the temperature quite a bit and using a radial filters/color grading tools to introduce the blue color into the shadows.

Final Thoughts

It was really fun shooting this, like really fun! That’s what matters the most in the end, and yeah, I love this picture, obviously!

See more of Jurag Pagac’s work on Instagram @jurajpagac.

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