The Fourth of July

The Fourth of July was a pretty normal day for me, even though I live in our Nation’s Capital.  After you have lived here a few years it starts becoming a bit mundane and you start to get tired of fighting the tourists out on the National Mall.   This year my husband and I went over to a friend of ours for a backyard barbecue in the early afternoon.  It was nice, and we left around 5 o’clock to make it back into the city, so I could watch the fireworks.  Surprisingly, there was hardly any traffic.  The one thing that I do like about living here is watching the fireworks on the Fourth.

Viewing Angel from Air Force Memorial
I originally planned to go into DC proper to watch fireworks from the National Mall or over to Rosslyn to watch them from the Marine Corps Monument, but metro put a crimp in my plans.  The DC metro system was only going to run till its normal weekday time of midnight. While they would be running rush hour service from 6:00 to 10:30 for the festivities on the Mall, the trains would be utterly packed. I was hoping they would run there weekend schedule, run till 3:00 AM, thus providing more options. They can clear the Mall in usually less than 2 hours after the fireworks have ended.  However, I just did not feel up to jostling for a space on a very crowded metro strain, especially since all the trains I would be taking from either location would already have picked up people leaving the Mall.  So I went to my usual viewing location, by the Air Force Memorial.  This location does have a nice view and I got to hear the Air Force Band play before the fireworks. Also this location is in easy walking distance so I don’t have to deal with the herds of people trying to get on the metro. From this vantage point you are looking at the National Mall from an angle (see map) so you really can’t get any monuments in the picture if you are photographing the firework. (Note: The fireworks are shot from a platform that is spread across the reflecting pool between Lincoln and WWII Memorials.) Due to sequestration the fireworks show was not as long and was not as extravagant as it usually is, but it was still nice.

View of Fireworks from Air Force Memorial
I shot about 125 frames, but only kept 18 frames. The reason for culling so many was two-fold. First I accidentally turned off image stabilization, which added blur to the shots, when I switched to manual focus.  Second, I was just not happy with the overall composition and exposure of many of the shots.  If you are wondering why I switched to manual focus, it was to lock the focus.  In Auto Focus mode in low light the camera sometimes has a hard time focusing quick enough, so it won’t take the shot or will focus on the wrong thing. Usually I get around this by having the Washington Monument in the background, for the camera to focus on, but in this instance I could not get the monument in the shot due to the viewing angle.  It is also hard determine the proper exposure for fireworks, especially if you want some of the background to show up without blowing out the night sky.  I was shooting at on a tripod with a trigger at F/11, for .3 – 2.0 seconds at ISO 200 to reduce noise and get a long depth of field.   This worked well for most of the shots dependent upon how many fireworks had just gone off.   Fireworks for me are work in progress, and each year is a little better. Though I do believe next year I will have to either brave the National Mall or go to Rosslyn to get the traditional shots of DC fireworks that everyone always sees. 


  1. Another really great place to go for cultural traditions and contributions is the Pennsylvania U in Pittsburg. the building is built like a medieval Cathedral and all the european cultures are represented with 1 room each. The colors, items, displays all represent the back ground of this culture. I haven't been there in such an long time. It's on my to-do list. You can get good Hungarian food item at West side Market - paprika bacon! Don't forget the pepper is a new world crop. Without the new world pepper. There would be no paprikash.


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