Returning Home

Trips to Columbus, Ohio are always confusing to me. I never know which direction should be referred to as “going home.” I once wrote that home is where your bed is. By that criteria, I guess Chattanooga is our home destination. However, having spent nearly 40 years living in Columbus, the paltry 3 we’ve lived in Chattanooga have not been enough to erase the feeling of returning home when we head North on 75.

This last trip North ended the longest stretch I’ve gone to date between trips to Columbus. It’s been long enough that I can’t actually remember when my last trip up was, but I know it wasn’t in this calendar year. With my remaining family all living elsewhere these days and many of my friends having moved away as well, it sometimes catches me off guard how much Columbus still feels like home. When I think about what makes it feel homey, here’s what I’ve come up with:

  1. I know how to get to every place I want to go without using GPS. If one route has traffic, I know another route, also without GPS.
  2. I can come up with restaurants I want to eat at based on style of food, quality of adult beverages, particular favorite dishes, or outdoor ambience. (I confess, I did have to check with several restaurants on whether they allow dogs on their patio or not–Tisen came along on this trip.)
  3. I know where the “bad” parts of town are.
  4. I know where the best camera shops in town are and which ones carry Canon gear.
  5. I have a doctor and a dentist there.
  6. I know where to go for a safe pedicure without an appointment.
  7. Graeter’s Ice Cream is available just about everywhere–even Costco.
  8. The biggest problem is trying to fit everyone we want to see into a few days and realizing we’re not going to be able to get to see many of the people we’d love to catch up with.
  9. We have a place to stay where there is a room just for us and our dog is welcome (and offers from several other friends to stay with them)–I guess we do have a bed in Columbus.

This trip was timed around the Columbus Guitar Show. It was my first time working a show (although I’ve attended a couple before). Manning the booth and giving away T-shirts to people who participated in my marketing campaign turned out to be both fun and exhausting.

One of the best things about our timing was that we were in Chattanooga for the beginning and end of the Riverbend Festival, but missed the middle of the 9-day event. This means we didn’t get tired of the extra people and traffic in the downtown area. And, we were home in time for the fireworks–out of all the fireworks in Chattanooga, the Riverbend fireworks are by far the best and longest display.


Dog Dependence Day

This is how I found Tisen, Twiggy and Pat once firecrackers started going off

This is how I found Tisen, Twiggy and Pat once firecrackers started going off

For about a week before the 4th of July this year, I saw admonishments to keep dogs indoors during fireworks from at least a half-dozen places.  The pet supply store where we buy Tisen’s food had signs up and posted regularly on Facebook.  McKamey Animal Shelter, the place from whence Tisen came also posted regularly on Facebook.  And beyond that, at least 3 or 4 friends were posting articles about the importance of keeping dogs inside and the increase of dogs who run away on the 4th because the fireworks are so terrifying to dogs.

I can only imagine what fireworks must be like for a dog.  Some estimate a dog’s hearing to be 4x that of a human’s plus dogs hear a much broader range of sound than human’s can.  According to one website, the reason dogs bark at vacuum cleaners is because of the very annoying high-pitched noises they make that humans cannot hear.

Tisen was pretty calm on the bottom of the puppy pile

Tisen was pretty calm on the bottom of the puppy pile

One of the many dogs we took in over the years came to us following the 4th of July fireworks.  We actually found her about a week after the fireworks were over.  She was wandering alone in the wooded ravine we lived in, an adorable Boxer lost and extremely happy to meet new friends.  Especially new friends with food.

She came home with us with an exuberance few breeds can duplicate–boxers have endless enthusiasm.  She had a tag that indicated she was microchipped, but when we called the number, they were closed for the weekend.  When my husband was able to reach them on Monday, they could only provide the name and number for the vet where the tag was issued.  It was a vet in Pennsylvania.  When my husband reached the vet’s office, it turned out it was one of the vet’s dogs who was living in Columbus with his son who was attending the Ohio State University.

We were able to reunite the energetic boxer (who we had taken to calling Roxy, although that didn’t turn out to be her name) with her family about a week and a half after she had escaped from a fenced yard during the fireworks.  Her owners were so happy they brought us a plate of cookies.

I’m pretty sure that kid never left a dog outside alone during fireworks again.

First attempt to capture fog rising from Lookout Mountain with iPhone

First attempt to capture fog rising from Lookout Mountain with iPhone

Since Twiggy’s parents were attending a BBQ early in the evening on the 4th and we were going to a party later that evening, we did a dog sitting trade.  Twiggy hung out with us for a couple of hours while her mom and dad were socializing and Tisen hung out with Twiggy’s family for quite a few more hours while we did the same.  The dogs piled on Pat when the first firecrackers went off.

As a general rule, I don’t share photos from private parties, but I did attempt to capture the fog rolling off Lookout Mountain in the background.  Unfortunately, it was a bit too dark for the iPhone.

Second attempt--the ridge in front of the fog kept getting clipped

Second attempt–the ridge in front of the fog kept getting clipped

More of the Same


Continuing yesterday’s list of tips on photographing fireworks . . .

Fourth, think carefully about depth of field.  If you’re shooting wide and trying to get the landscape into the photo at all, you’ll want to stop down the aperture as much as possible.

Fifth, as a contrary point to the above, be aware that because the fireworks are so bright, you aren’t going to be able to get a single exposure for both the fireworks and the landscape unless the landscape is brightly lit (like the city lights).  Some photographers solve this by combining two photos manually later.  Be aware the HDR settings will not be very helpful (although may be interesting) because of the motion of the fireworks.  To combine the two manual exposures, you would need to be able to layer them together in an application like Photoshop.


Sixth, fireworks move.  To get long, bright streaks of light in the sky, you need a fairly long shutter speed.  This helps with the fourth tip–you get more depth of field as a bonus.  I’m pretty happy with the size, shape, length of the streaks I get at about .4 seconds.  However, there are some types of fireworks that look better with longer exposures.  The only downside of exposing longer is that you get more smoke showing up in the process.


Seventh, I once missed about ½ of a fireworks show trying this trick, but maybe it will work better for you.  Supposedly, you can put your camera on bulb and use a piece of paper or your hand to cover the lens in between the rockets being fired.  Then, you can get multiple fireworks into one shot.  This might have worked last night when I was in very close proximity to the launch point.  However, from a further distance, I just got very dull looking fireworks that were often barely visible.


Fire over Water

The last big performance of Riverbend winds down as the crowd grows in anticipation of the fireworks

The last big performance of Riverbend winds down as the crowd grows in anticipation of the fireworks

If every fireworks display were the likes of the Riverbend Fireworks, I think there wouldn’t be a shortage of explosives worldwide.  That could be a good thing–fireworks are probably among the more peaceful things we do with explosives.  Although I suppose there are a lot of people who would disagree that that’s the best use of explosives–a few of my friends are extremely grateful for the explosives used in their airbags, for example.


Regardless, fireworks always feel nostalgic to me.  I don’t know why–fireworks displays are so much more sophisticated and reliable than they ever were when I was a kid.  I think I couldn’t have been more than 7 or 8 years old when I started anticipating the success or failure of the 4th of July Fireworks based on the weather.  Rain the week before the big display was a disaster.  Perhaps “the fireworks got wet” was really just a euphemism adults used to explain away all the “duds” that would fail to go off with little more than a “ffftttzzz” and maybe a spark.  But the children in my neighborhood grew up terrifies of rain right before fireworks because we were sure there would be lots of duds.


I remember fireworks taking an hour or more from start to finish.  I remember being blown away by the finale when a dozen or more fireworks blossomed in the sky simultaneously.  I remember the show leading up to the finale consisting pretty much of one, maybe two, fireworks going off at the same time or in close sequence.  I remember lots of time between fireworks when the sky was simply empty.  I remember the first time I ever saw a fireworks display that had been timed and choreographed with music.  It was in the 1980’s.  They played Lee Greenwood’s “Proud to be an American” as part of the montage.  I can’t remember being to a fireworks display set to music without hearing Lee ever since.  In fact, I heard it again tonight.  That guy must make millions just on fireworks background music.


Things I don’t remember from the suburban fireworks display my family attended every 4th of July, sharing a blanket in the grass of a local park, include adult men without shirts on, extraordinary traffic jams, closed roads, cops with lights flashing everywhere, people packed like sardines into all available open spaces and fighting over the high spots.


Of course, the suburb that sponsored the fireworks from my childhood has all of 10,000 people living in it.  While Chattanooga may not be a big city, it’s nearly 20 times the size of that.  So I guess it’s unfair to compare the sweet innocence of the suburb I grew up in  to the issues that arise when you take a very large number of people and put them in a very small space.

The fireworks have been over for at least 45 minute now.  But sirens keep going by outside.  Hopefully it will settle down soon.


Out with a Bang

When Riverbend ends, it doesn’t fade quietly.  Rather, a pyrotechnics display to rival some of the best 4th of July fireworks I’ve ever seen announces the close of the festival.  This massive display causes virtually every person from miles away to descend upon Chattanooga.  After all, they may charge $25 to go inside Riverbend for one evening, but the fireworks are free for all within viewing distance.

As residents of the North Shore of Chattanooga who live in a building with a roof top deck in an apartment on the 4th floor with a view of the riverfront AND who happen to be house/dog sitting for some friends who have a condo in a high rise with a club house on the 7th floor right on the riverfront, we had the unique advantage of being able to choose from a variety of great viewing locations.

However, we ended up on our own balcony.  The crowds were overwhelming on the rooftops and shared balconies.  I wanted to shoot and there was no room for a tripod in a crowd.

Since our visiting friends were staying at our place and we were staying at our neighbor friends’ place, I brought over as little as possible to enjoy the fireworks.  For me, that means my camera, one lens, and my tripod.  I decided on my 70-200mm lens having seen fireworks from our living room on many occasions.  There are fireworks most Friday nights at the baseball stadium for the Lookouts, a minor league baseball game.  Assuming that was representative of the fireworks we were about to see, I figured I needed at least 200mm to get much of a shot.

Boy was I wrong!

First of all, these fireworks were fired from this side of the river, MUCH closer than the baseball stadium.  Second, this was a massive display of fireworks!  I mean massive!  We’d heard that Riverbend was not profitable and we wondered how that could be with the entry fees they were charging.  Now we knew.  All the money that didn’t go to the bands was going to the fireworks!

What this meant for me was I couldn’t get the fireworks to fit into my frame, so I had to pick out part of the display to shoot.  I still had fun.  But, I couldn’t help remembering fireworks from my childhood.

We would take a blanket to the park for the 4th of July fireworks display.  One rocket would be fired and it would either explode into a glorious display or it would fizzle and die, a dud.  We would clap and say “Ooooh” and “Ahhh” and then, as the sparkles were fading, the next rocket would scream into the sky.  It seemed like it lasted an hour.  The whole show probably used as many rockets as we saw in 3 minutes this night.  It was incredible to watch, but sometimes I do long for simpler times.  Plus, it would be easier to figure out what to shoot.  🙂