Big Sky, No Fireworks

This is supposed to be a post about photographing fireworks.  The gallery of photos is supposed to contain shots of glorious fireworks going off over the Lookouts’ stadium in downtown Chattanooga.

Sometimes things just don’t work out how you plan.

As my regular readers may recall, I previously went to Gibbs Gardens on a field trip with the Photographic Society of Chattanooga.  This time around, the field trip was right across the street.  In fact, it was on the very balcony of the One North Shore clubhouse that I shot from while dog sitting a few weeks ago.  But, it was intentionally scheduled on a night there would be fireworks at the Lookouts’ stadium.

Picking this evening for a photography event in the clubhouse was perfect in more ways than one.  First, the Lookouts have fireworks frequently enough that they don’t draw a crowd, so no one was going to be upset that the clubhouse was reserved like they would have been on July 3rd or at the conclusion of Riverbend.  Second, the organizer (who happened to also be my shooting buddy on the Gibbs Garden trip) somehow managed to pick a night when the clouds did really interesting things but didn’t rain out the fireworks.  And finally, it was a double header, which meant the fireworks were bigger and longer than usual.

I made arrangements with Twiggy’s parents to watch Tisen for the evening since Pat was on a road trip to Nashville.  Tisen could have a date night in one corner of the condo complex while I was busy shooting in the clubhouse in the opposite corner. Pat would pick Tisen up when he got home around 9PM.  All was set.

I wrapped up my day at the office as early as possible, slung my 5000 pounds of gear on my shoulders, got Tisen on a leash without knocking either one of us unconscious, and then we headed over to the park for a quick lap with Twiggy and her mom before I turned him over.

As a side note, carrying a backpack with 4 lenses and a full frame camera in it plus a tripod while doing a 2/3 mile walk with a dog in 95 degree weather does not leave one feeling fresh right before an evening event.

I made it to the clubhouse balcony and met a fellow photographer with the same camera.  He showed me how to use the in-camera HDR feature while I was there.  I have one image that was done using in-camera HDR, one that is not HDR, and the rest I used 5 exposures post-processed using Photomatix.  See if you can tell the difference.

Shortly after 9PM, I called Pat to find out if he had gotten Tisen yet.  It’s a good thing I did because he had completely forgotten and had just left Nashville.

I packed up my 5000 pounds of gear and, like any overly anxious parent, went down to retrieve my dog.

Relapse with a Bounce

I had to quit cold turkey.  It was tough, but after I got through the initial withdrawal, I discovered there were endless subjects to shoot besides the Chattanooga riverfront as seen from the North Shore.

The toughest step of my recovery was having to go through my photos and delete about 7000 images to free up drive space.  I think 5000 of those images were of the Chattanooga riverfront.

But then yesterday, I was walking in the park with Tisen.  I was going to go for a bike ride afterwards, but the clouds started rolling in and, well, I skipped my ride in order to shoot.  I guess we could call it a relapse.

When I started gathering up my gear, I peeked out the windows to discover a double rainbow forming in the East as the sun cruised toward the Western horizon.  I rushed to find a good view and get setup, worrying that I would miss the rainbow.

As it turned out, the brightest rainbow remained visible for the entire 45 minutes I was shooting.

The second rainbow never did get very bright–it just sort of hovered on the edge of visible.  It’s visible in the second image if you look closely.  As much as I love seeing rainbows, I find I enjoy shooting clouds more.  Perhaps because it’s difficult to get more than one perspective on a rainbow, but the clouds continually shift and create new images for you.

I’m not sure where my fascination with clouds started.  When I was a child and my family went on long road trips, if there were clouds, we would amuse ourselves by finding complex and, often, outrageous shapes in them and trying to get everyone else to see what we saw.

Every time I fly, I hope for cloud cover.  I love looking down on clouds–especially when there are thunderheads or other masses of clouds that look like some sort of special effect created by hollywood.  Of course, when I’m in a plane, I wish they were just a special effect!

As part of studying for our hang gliding rating, we learned a little bit about clouds and how they can help predict the weather–a life and death issue if you’re a good enough hang glider pilot to stay aloft for hours (my longest flight so far was about 4 minutes–makes weather changes sort of a non-issue).  We learned hang glider pilots look for big puffy cumulous clouds as a sign of thermals. From the look of things, the thermals were in full force.

I vaguely remember a dream I once had of falling through a cloud.  In my dream, the cloud was soft and warm–as if it were somehow slowing my fall.  It wasn’t the kind of fall that makes you wake up before you land; it was the kind of fall where you know you will bounce.  Perhaps I already knew that thermals were pushing back underneath?