When either Memorial Day or Independence Day rolls around, I fervently search out the best possible fireworks shows to go to see in my area. Fortunately, Richmond, Virginia and its surrounding counties offer an overabundance of excellent shows to choose from—especially if you love photographing great pyrotechnic festivals. I’m not sure exactly what it is about the 4th of July, whether it is just an American sense of patriotism toward our Founding Fathers and independence, or simply the love of the outdoors coupled with a good excuse to eat drink and shoot fireworks. Either way, the 4th of July holiday in the United States is almost universally loved. Other things you see almost everywhere that day are American flags and red, white and blue. They are the predominant colors used in almost every fireworks display that night, too—regardless of who is doing the shooting.
Another thing my husband Jimmy and I try to do on our 4th of July excursions is to include our grandchildren. Someday they might understand the truer underlying importance of these holiday festivities, but for now it’s all about traveling with the grandparents and watching great companies like Dominion Fireworks (http://www.dominionfireworks.com) put on a spectacular show.
One of our favorite Independence Day celebrations is actually held very close to where we live—in Louisa County, Virginia (about 30 miles northwest of Richmond). An adjoining county, Goochland (about a 30 minute drive south), puts on a wonderful fireworks display every year. We discovered this show in 2014 when Zambelli Fireworks (http://www.zambellifireworks.com) was the chosen to do the show. The Goochland Parks and Recreation Center officially sponsors the display, but it was all Zambelli that night, and Zambelli is one of the best in the business! Unfortunately, I didn’t have the best position to photograph the full show, but I was pleased with many of the shots I got anyway. Goochland Parks and Recreation published two of them to promote this year’s event: one on the cover and the other inside their summer programs edition.
Because of my 2014 photographs, Goochland Parks & Recreation offered me a seat in their press box for the 2015 event. That was nice of them, but I should have scouted the area beforehand because from that position stadium lights were in the foreground. Don’t get me wrong, I like to have a good foreground in some of my images, but my preference is to capture the essence of the fireworks themselves. The challenge is to grab multiple bursts and still have good color saturation. But the box seats were nice, and I made the best of my location and started snapping away.
One thing I love using when I take photos of a show like this is my remote. A remote makes it possible for me to look up and not just see the world through a viewfinder. This allows me to actually enjoy some of the show while I am taking the pictures. This year I added a variable Neutral Density (ND) filter, too, which allowed me to adjust the exposure without having to change the settings on my camera. By using a ND filter, it enabled the camera to capture better color so during post processing I could increase the intensity and give them better clarity. Overall, this makes a much more pleasing image.
As a photographer (and as a spectator), the 4th of July holiday is one of my favorite times of year. I’m always exceptionally grateful to the incredibly creative pyrotechnic companies who put on these wonderful shows. I remember back to the very first time I photographed fireworks. It was a competition held by a local pyro club. I had a new camera and really didn’t know what I was doing. By the end of the show, however, my pictures were good and I was hooked. Today, since photo editing is so time consuming, I am much more picky about where I go and what I photograph. But fireworks photography remains one of my personal passions and always will. It has been one of my greatest inspirations.