Every year I look forward to the 4th of July fireworks show on Vashon Island. Compared to the display over Lake Union in Seattle, our presentation is quite humble. It is, however, a much more intimate affair.
We aren’t watching the show from a mile away with tens of thousands of other people. We aren’t high up on rooftops from across the city, hoping for unobstructed vantage points. We are right there with our friends and neighbors. Still, it wasn’t a perfect how (for taking pictures) this year. With almost no wind, the smoke built up fast and obscured the bursts. Instead of getting nice, crisp streaks of light, I often got smokey blurs. I did what I could though.
This year was a little different for me. I didn’t go to my usual favorite spot on the rocky beach of Quartermaster Harbor. Instead, I attended a fundraiser event for the Vashon Community Care Center at a private home that sits on the water.
The barge that shoots of the fireworks couldn’t have been more that 250 yards away from us. I mean, it was right there. In spite of this proximity, or perhaps because of it, I had some trouble finding a good viewing point where I could see the sky and the water at the same time. The property was beautiful, but it had several large trees and lots of surrounding foliage. As I scoped it out, I kept thinking that each spot I examined looked pretty good for just watching the show, but perhaps not so much for taking pictures and trying to get some of the water reflections.
They had a little staircase that wound down to the water, but at high tide the stairs went right into the Sound. There was no land down there on which to stand. I thought perhaps I could set up on the bottom steps, but there was a problem there too. Some of the trees were overhanging in the shot, and I didn’t want the branches and leaves obstructing my view of the fireworks.
After considering my options for a bit, I decided the only viable option was to go in. I took off my shoes and socks, hiked up my shorts, said a little prayer for the safety of my tripod and then waded into the Puget Sound. This is ocean water from the Pacific. We are closer to the North Pole than the equator here. It was cold. But there’s only one day of the year when I can shoot 4th of July fireworks, so that’s what I had to do.
It was surreal. With the launching barge so close, and standing in the water, I felt like I was inside the fireworks display – like I was physically part of it. The colors were all around me. I could clearly hear and see the spectators in the boats. Although I’ll probably be back on the beach at Quartermaster Harbor next year, this was a nice change in routine for me.