Weekly Photo Challenge: “Summer”

In Celebration

Watching fireworks displays is one of my favourite occasions of summer. Even though it’s been done a million times before, I’d love to shoot 4th of July fireworks from the Jersey shore. I’ve never done that.

Fireworks photography and evening city landscape shots are considered by some to be quaint. They’re nice but not as impressive as seeing the real things with one’s own eyes, and if you’ve seen them once you don’t need to see any others ever again. Personally, I never get tired of seeing well made fireworks and skyline images, and it’s always a pleasure to be able to meld them into one assignment.

The picture above is about Canada Day fireworks over Hamilton’s evening skyline back in 2010. I entered it into the Hamilton Mundialization Committee’s Internet photography contest of the same year to commemorate the city’s 20th Anniversary of its twinning with Sarasota, FL and 35th Anniversary of pairing with Fukuyama, Japan.

I usually photograph these fireworks from atop the city’s High Level Bridge but I know that some other photographers shoot from practically the same place, so all pictures from there are likely to be quite similar. For competition purposes, and for the sake of artistic uniqueness, it was necessary to take advantage of a different vantage point that was right close to water level.

Easily visible from the bridge, there’s a narrow, heavily forested peninsula that extends into Hamilton Harbour from the north shore. It is occasionally used by local fishermen and outdoor revelers. I cut through Woodland Cemetery to set up for the pyrotechnic display at the very tip of that piece of land.

Part of my setup included a strobe to illuminate any foliage that I predicted would be in the foreground of my shots. Unfortunately, immediately after my test-fires my batteries were drained and I realized that I forgot to pack reserve power for that unit. I typically carry at least one flashlight, however, so I used one to illuminate the leaves of a tree that extends down into the top left of the frame, and allowed the camera sensor to absorb the reflected light and colour over the long exposures.

This improvisation worked out better than I expected. With a strobe set at its lowest output, set far back and heavily diffused I think the leaves would have come out too bright and take too much attention away from the fireworks and the skyline. With just the flashlight, the presence of the leaves is appropriately subtle; adding just enough detail, texture, colour and even a tonal change to an image that would have otherwise shown too plain an evening sky around the bursts.

This photo was voted the grand prize winner.


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