As intoxicating as it is to chase the still image, to embark on creative pursuits, we photographers – film makers – creatives – multi-hyphenates must be, at our cores, problem solvers.
Even when we’re on vacation.
Case in point:
My wife Sandra and I took our four-year-old daughter to Charleston, South Carolina for July 4th. I read that the fireworks show at Patriots Point was up there with the nation’s best.
They would be fired from the deck of the U.S.S. Yorktown aircraft carrier docked there. They’d explode over the ship, illuminating the fighter jets and helicopters parked on deck. Pretty awesome.
Packed a camera. Planned to shoot the traditional way: Put the camera (a Canon 7D) on a tripod. 50mm lens. ISO 100. F-stop between 5.6 and 16. Shutter speed on Bulb. (It’s ideal to shoot fireworks remotely to avoid camera shake while pressing the shutter down, but I decided not to bring a remote).
First problem: We got to Charleston and realized I didn’t pack my tripod. Shit. Called a photographer friend who lives there to borrow one. Turns out her husband had hers and was out of town. All she had was a mini tripod, which stood about a foot tall. I took it.
We got to Patriots Point and staked out a spot on the lawn just a couple hundred yards from the ship. The perfect spot to shoot from. I planted that tiny tripod and set up.
Turns out organizers were trying something new this year. They fired from a barge farther away. The fireworks exploded over the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge, about a mile from the Yorktown.
When did I find this out? After dark, when the first fireworks erupted, of course. Worse: From where we sat, the top of a beer tent blocked our view. No way to get a decent image. It was enough to make me consider tossing my camera back in the bag.
But, figuring I had just a few minutes to capture the show, I hustled instead. I squeezed through the crowd over to the beer tent, assuming there had to be a table or two over there. There was. And one was completely clear. I stuck the tripod, with camera attached, on the table.
I pointed the lens toward the exploding colors. Leaned over the table awkwardly to peek through the viewfinder and focused by waiting for a firework to explode then sliding the focus point to the bright spot and locking it in. Thankfully that worked. I spun the dial to Bulb, stepped away from the table, waited for fireworks to shoot into the sky and pressed the shutter lightly as I could, holding it until I felt I had what I was looking for. Every so often I’d peek through the viewfinder to change the composition a little.
I managed to get the shots you see in this post.
This story isn’t going to rank on any scale of impressive photographic feats. But it illustrates what we creatives do daily. Even in seemingly simple situations we must think on our feet, adapt and improvise. Our mission is, at least in part, to snatch the shriveled lemons we’re handed (or give ourselves) and find a way to start a lemonade stand.
I planned an easy peezy July 4 shoot with family. Ha. As if.