Canada Day means fireworks and fireworks means I have to get my butt out there and take some pictures because, well, that's what I do.
This year the City of Calgary decided to launch the show from the Centre Street bridge. The City also announced that this year's fireworks would be bigger and higher in the sky than previous years. I missed the fireworks in 2011 but I do remember 2010 being somewhat of a disappointment. So, with the City's announcement of a better show I was pumped to get some great pictures.
On the afternoon before the fireworks show I hopped on my bike and went out location scouting. I was excited that the show was to be bigger and better but I was conceded about getting a good spot amongst the throngs expected to turn out. Perhaps my biggest worry was the Centre Street bridge itself. The City has been working on a major project along the river pathway and the bridge got a big lighting upgrade this year. The bridge has now been outfitted with state-of-the-art LED lighting. I can honestly say the lighting looks great, especially compared to the crappy, yellow, dim lighting it replaced. However, from a night photography perspective it is a bit of a nightmare. The bridge is so bright now it absolutely blows away anything near it. So, if you expose for the bridge, everything else is dark and if you expose for the buildings, lights and traffic around the bridge then the bridge itself is a big blob of white light. I was worried that if I framed my shots with too much bridge in the picture I would end up with fireworks and a big blob of light, which would be terrible.
During my scouting, I looked for angles where the bridge was diminished but the fireworks would be clearly visible. I was also looking for angles where I could get the downtown office towers in the background. I biked to a number of different spots before settling on a location, down low, right by the river. I thought it would be perfect for catching the incredible colours reflected off the water. I was set.
Last Minute Decision...
About an hour and a half before the fireworks show, I was reading about the evening display. The City said that these fireworks would be much higher than in years past so that people wouldn't need to get close to the bridge to see them. Based on that I made a last minute decision to change spots. It was definitely a tactical error.
I got to my new spot about an hour before the fireworks were set to go. There were numerous other photographers on the ridge with pretty good set ups so I figured I had chosen wisely. About two minutes before the fireworks were to begin the Centre Street bridge lights were shut off. Dang, they never said anything about that! OK, well, I was still in a good spot for the newly improved fireworks show. A couple minutes later the first burst of light hit the sky. Hmmmm, it wasn't very high. It was followed by another, and another, still not very high. OK, now I was disappointed. I changed my location thinking the fireworks would be BIG and TOWERING above the bridge and the city and neither panned out. Oh well, it was a good show and I did manage to get a shot or two I liked. I'll get it next year, well, unless they pull another fast one on me.