Centennial Park Olympics - 2012

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The pending “empty nest syndrome” has led to me joining a local photography group.  Get out of the house, learn what those settings other than “auto” do on the camera, see some new places, meet some new people... 

Hello Fireworks at Centennial Olympic Park for July 4th.  Not a short commute, not an overly large space, an estimated crowd of 100,000, and smack in the middle of urbania.  But that’s okay – I’ve been there many times for adjacent concerts and sporting events.photo4

Therefore, arriving early to avoid the parking hassles, my wife and I dined at Stats, a local sports bar that rates an A for design, C+ for food, and F for restroom cleanliness.  Surprisingly, it was not crowded at all, and we enjoyed a leisurely dinner, leaving just in time to arrive at our group’s meetup in the Park.  Well, I suppose the other RSVPs were searching for places to park, gave up with the traffic, or decided HDTV was great for football so it would probably work for fireworks.  So, we hung out with the organizer and eventually the three of us wound our way along a sliver of grass between blankets and beach chairs until we basically just sat in it. 

Entertainment was provided as the sun lowered over the horizon.  Some awesome... (no, not really).  Some bad... (a rap version of “Georgia on My Mind”)... and some surprisingly good (local TV host Monica Kaufman’s rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner”).

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We couldn’t see the stage, but we could definitely see the overly bright video board to the right of the stage.  Hurry up, fireworks.

Learning the camera, as I am, I actually researched tips for better fireworks photography.  Peer pressure, you know.   Amongst other things (use a tripod (duh), recommended ISO setting, turn vibration reduction off, how to focus on fireworks, aperture settings...)  Hmm.  Length of exposure: “Use a remote to open the shutter, wait 2-4 seconds, then use it to close the shutter to capture the full flow of the fireworks.”  Righto.  So, I bought a nifty Nikon release remote, and tested it at home.  Push button... click.  Push button... click.  Awesome.  Watch out Louvre, here I come.

The fireworks begin.  Push button... silence.  Push button again... silence.  Hey, maybe it’s loud and I can’t hear the shutter.  So, I look at the rear screen.  Nada.  Burning time, here...  Wasting fireworks, here.  Our friend is taking perfect shots while I’m stuck with no product...  I could just press the shutter button with my manual settings and see what happens...  but, I didn’t really think about that, because I know what works in emergency situations:  use the freakin’ AUTO mode.  Hell yeah!  (Mostly.  I did tinker around a bit with similar results).

And thus, dear reader, is why I have rather “instantaneous” fireworks shots rather than the lovely umbrella shots that amateur or better photographers are supposed to capture.  The post-mortem indicates that, yes, I did well to bring a backup camera battery, but I should have a backup remote battery on hand, just in case the brand new one is D. E. D. dead. 

Definitely a case of stunted growth:

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Go, AUTO, Go!

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Alright, I know the below isn’t the poster child for great fireworks shots.  But hey, it sure looks like a demonic cookie monster to me!

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Observations about crowds at fireworks displays: 

1)  If you’re in the City of Atlanta and you happen to be African American, male, teenage, and hanging out with 10-15 of your buddies and cruising the park, there will 25 or more security people who politely follow herd you to the gate entrance. 

2) Everyone sits and waits until the fireworks start.  Then, people stand up so they can see them better.  Color me puzzled.

3) Infants and small children may not appreciate the “Booms” of giant firecrackers and start to cry immediately.  Hence, our narrow patch grew into a spacious lawn mere minutes into the show as families with small children took off.  I seriously doubt any of them made it out of earshot before the show was over, but each to their own.

4) 20% of people who were given small American flags on sticks will wave them throughout the show.

5) The same percentage pull out their cell phones for their own Louvre quality souvenirs.

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Take bright fireworks, add smoke, and suddenly light penetrates the darkness.  Yep, may as well stretch out my legs here.  And, I’m sure all the responsible citizens will pick up their litter when the show is over.  (not)

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Exhibit A (actually, exhibit S by this time in the show) of why a longer exposure time might have been handy:

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For some reason, the below reminds me of “War of the Worlds.”  Let’s just stand and watch and see if these things are for our entertainment or turn against us...

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Some came for the fireworks, some came for a smoke?

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Photo 103.   AUTO was busy.  But, hey, that’s a wrap.

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After the show, we hung out briefly and chatted with our new friend, then headed out of the park.  There was no reason to expect traffic to be kind, and even though we got there early, our car was on the 8th level of a 12 story parking deck.  There was even a line 25 deep to get on the elevator.  There’s a fun way to finish the evening.  Orrrr, hey, Stats has a rooftop bar... it’s a pleasant night... and we can watch the traffic from there.  Comfortably.

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It was worse than this looks.

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A couple of Cokes and the cool night air soothed the nerves.   It was an enjoyable night.

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