An insane perspective of fireworks from 10 kilometers away, shot with the Nikon 500mm f/8 Reflex-NIKKOR lens

An insane perspective of fireworks from 10 kilometers away, shot with the Nikon 500mm f/8 Reflex-NIKKOR lens ($200-$500) by Klaus Tan (Facebook | Flickr | Instagram):

I took a trip to the eastern regions of Singapore to scout for a unique location to shoot National Day fireworks as Singapore celebrated it’s 52nd birthday.

Typically, one would head down to the Central Business District area to get as close to the fireworks as possible, but this time I headed the furthest away I could. My idea / rationale was simple: Use a Nikon 500mm f/8 Reflex-NIKKOR to capture a never captured before perspective of the fireworks, and avoid the crowds. The photograph was to include the Central Business District and fireworks in the most aesthetic way possible.

I spent two hours cycling with my trusted friend through the East, through trial and error by ascending each individual HDB block to check on the views. We combed every single building block taller than 20 storeys and finally ended up a great 10 kilometres away from the centre of action, to fit the frame. It was a success! This photograph is officially the furthest distance away from the fireworks in Singapore that night.

Some in the east may have seen what seemed like two lunatics pedalling furiously as far away from the CBD, or even peered out of their doors to see us trying to shoot fireworks. Understandably, to the human eye the fireworks were almost molecular in size. For us, the lack of a crowd and the insanity of this brilliant idea was bliss. For reference to how far we went, the CBD can be seen as the white row of lights behind yellow block number two, in the top – centre of CHU_4580.

Here, the immensely light weight and compact body of the 500mm reflex Nikkor presented an interesting challenge: Even after securely mounted to a tripod, minor vibrations due to the camera shutter would’ve made the picture blurry, the lens was simply too light! I would’ve preferred the 500mm f4 in such a scenario though it’s way more bulky.

I must admit it was incredibly hard to plan for the shot – I set the intervalometer at a 1 shot / second, and the buffer of the camera was struggling at times to keep up with the writing speed. That lead to the camera shutter slowing down to a painful 1 frame / 5 seconds at times, which meant that lots of moments were missed. The tiny aperture of f/8 meant that a extremely high ISO of 51200 equivalent had to be used, at a shutter speed of 1/20 for all the shots.

It was surreally peaceful, far from the revelry of the crowds gathered in the downtown region. Utter bliss, just the two of us on the 28th floor of a residential neighbourhood peacefully enjoying the sights without much disturbance. In total I emerged with 200 RAW files, of which I was really satisfied with these three. At the end of this experience, all I can say is, it’s worth it.

The photographs can be viewed also at flickr:

National Day Fireworks 2017

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Update from Klaus on the Nikon 500mm f/8 Reflex-NIKKOR lens:

It started with an impulse purchase of the Nikon 500mm f/8 N Reflex-NIKKOR  lens to shoot some fireworks back in August. Back then I felt overjoyed, having acquired the only known copy of this lens available for sale on the Singapore market. Hard pressed for time with the fireworks two days away, I was very much at the mercy of the seller’s monopoly. Yet at the same moment, I was very certain it was an unbeatable bargain for this rarity in a pristine condition.

At around USD300, it sure was more affordable than the 500mm f4 alternatives which costed 10 times the price, but it started a month’s long worth of regret. I’ll explain why. The lens was of such a niche use that the mass market consumer wouldn’t acquire it: 500mm at manual focus and a low aperture of f8, it was brilliantly sharp, however nobody really saw excellent samples to convince themselves that it was really that great. Only lens collectors would have appreciate its novelty.

After the fireworks, I listed my lens on various local photography community pages, without much avail. The only offer that was made required me to cut loss of around USD100. No way. I spent the entirety of August and September wondering if I’d be able to recoup my investment in this lens.

Meanwhile, a guest post on Nikon Rumours I did on the unique lens (mid September) and how I shot the fireworks with it was causing a small stir amongst the community there. It was the first review of such, and many were genuinely impressed by the power of this modest lens.

Unexpectedly I get a call from this interested buyer in Singapore a week later, requesting to view the lens.

“Do you have any sample photographs taken with it?” he asked.
“I don’t have any on me right now, but you can check out this post I did with the lens that got featured on…”I hadn’t had time to complete my sentence before I was cut off.
“Nikon Rumours! Are you the guy who shot the fireworks with this lens?”
“Woah… uhhh” I couldn’t contain my excitement. I was indeed stunned.
“This is the ’N’ version right? The newer version?”

Little did I expect word of this lens’ quality would travel to the USA, by internet, and back to Singapore, read by a Singaporean who would eventually buy my lens because of my post. All this just for the sale of my humble lens.

And so we eventually met up and I sold the lens to this ecstatic buyer.

Just another exciting day in the life of a photographer!

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