Arras is the capital of the Pas-De-Calais department (located 180 km north of Paris), and is well known for its beautiful belfry or bell tower, which has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since July 2005.
This great historical honor was celebrated by staging a huge firework show that surrounded the bell tower and bathed its buildings in colored lights. Designed by David Proteau from Lacroix Ruggieri, the display proved to be hugely popular with everyone, so popular, in fact, that now each year during the first week in September, “Arras’ bell tower fireworks” entertains roughly 100,000 spectators.
The belfry is located at approximately the center of Arras, just off a large cobblestone square ripe with small shop and restaurants. French architecture is at its best in this quaint little town of 43,000 people. Spectators stand on the cobblestones and quickly fill up every inch of available space (so it is not easy to setup a tripod to take pictures!), and the huge crowd also makes it difficult to relocate yourself to get the best perspective for your pictures. I was lucky enough to be offered access to several balconies located on surrounding houses (bless these kind people) to take my photographs, or I never would have gotten some of these shots.
Most amazing to me, however, was when I managed to get up on the church roof facing the belfry. It was an amazing point of view, but difficult because it wasn’t flat and it wasn’t easy to reach. Any of you that have tried to climb on a roof with a tripod and camera bag will know what I mean.
After taking time to explore several different possible angles for my shots, I settled for a perspective very near to where the fireworks were being setup at the foot of the belfry itself. I think photographing from several different locations always make photographs more interesting. You can tell that from my shots of this show—especially the pictures taken up high on the church roof. Can you tell which one? Here is a clue: it is the photo with the highest point of view.
Until 2009, I was using negative film (a Nikon F100 and Mamiya 7 II), but since 2011, like so many of you, I have switched entirely to digital cameras. My current favorite: my Nikon D800.
Arras is the kind of firework event I truly love the most: a combination of a beautiful location, a monument in the background and a professional pyrotechnic display that thoroughly lights up the buildings and sky.
Unfortunately, since I photographed the show you see here, French regulations have tightened up a great deal, so fewer fireworks sequences are allowed. Now it is more of a multimedia show than purely pyrotechnic. That’s a real shame. The event was perfect as it was. Regardless, I can’t wait for September 2015! Look for me on a rooftop somewhere.