Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Cauliflower in the Sky

From Fireworks 2009

I meant to post my images of Independence Day 2009 within a day or so of the holiday itself, but a cursory inspection of my photos on Sunday turned up nothing but vague blurs, nothing worth posting at all. That's it, then, I thought. I'd failed to find a usable setting for fireworks shots on this particular camera.

Then on Tuesday night I was editing my photos for the EMPS entry that is to follow this one, and discovered that my bad fireworks shots were just the beginning of a much larger selection. On Saturday I had tried at least four different camera settings, not counting several failed attempts to set a one or two second delay to reduce camera shake and try to catch the fireworks after they burst instead of as they went up. It turned out that eventually I hit on something workable, especially if I braced myself against a handy tree. So here, several days late, is my 4th of July entry after all.

It was kind of an interesting evening for me. The dogs hadn't been out of the neighborhood in four or five days, so we headed over to Reid Park. The dog park there, Miko's Corner Playground, is about half a mile from Hi Corbett Field, where the Tucson Toros play. The ball club had fireworks scheduled for after the game that night, and by 8 PM Reid Park was beginning to fill up with people waiting to see the fireworks for free, just outside the ballpark proper. Some of these people had dogs, and Cayenne, Pepper and I did a fair amount of visiting during the gallivanting phase of our trip to the park. Other people - teens and young adults, one presumes - had brought fireworks of their own, firecrackers and perhaps cherry bombs, and at least two largish "fountain" type ground fireworks. I can't really tell you, based in the minimal research I just did, what everything I heard or saw is properly called. But all around me were little snap, crackle and pop-pop-pop reports from small groups of chattering young people, and all of it was illegal in Arizona, as are all consumer fireworks down to the most innocent sparkler. Nevertheless, fireworks aren't all that hard for Arizonans to get. They just need to drive east to Lordsburg, New Mexico or beyond, where fireworks stands are legal and easy to find.

Dogs, as I know very well, aren't fond of fireworks or other loud noises. Cayenne has a tendency to spend thunderstorms under my desk, and Pepper runs away from any sudden sound. But that night in the park, with my hanging on to their leashes, they handled the small explosions around us with only minor reactions. This is almost certainly because we managed to stay well away from such revels, so the noises were distant and not very loud. Even so, I was surprised and a little annoyed that so many people were openly flouting the law in Tucson's largest and most popular city park. Where were the cops while all this was going on? It wasn't until we were leaving that I realized what the answer must be. On the Fourth of July, there probably isn't a single neighborhood in all of Tucson that doesn't have at least a few people setting off illegal fireworks. Police can't be everywhere at once, all night long. I imagine they concentrate on cases where the fireworks are major explosives or injuries result. And of course they have all the usual law enforcement stuff to do as well, probably with extra drunk drivers as a holiday bonus.

Anyway, I wasn't about to wait around in Reid Park for another hour and a half for the Toros to win or lose their game, not with the dogs in tow and no possibility of watching the game itself. So we headed home. As I turned onto Wilmot, I saw fireworks up ahead to the south, and realized something I'd failed to notice in the 15 years or so that we've lived on Calle Mumble. The closest fireworks to our house, which for years I've been trying to photograph from our front yard or out in the street, with disappointing results, are set off at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, just a few blocks away. This is also where the Blue Angels and other planes come from to emerge over our street during stunt shows. I should not have been surprised that the base also had professional fireworks shows.

That being the case, there was an obvious place to go to see and photograph the fireworks properly: the same Safeway/Subway parking lot from which I've photographed so many of my "Safeway Sunsets." I drove town there, and was startled to see a few dozen cars parked near the Subway, their passengers lined up in little groups along the wall next to Wilmot Road. Some had lawn chairs set up, and there were even a few tailgaters.

It didn't seem like a good idea to leave the dogs in the car during a fireworks show, even if the fireworks were half a mile away; so I brought them with me. Holding onto their leashes and adjusting camera settings in the dark while Cayenne tugged her desire to leave was a little tricky, but eventually I going something worth sharing, even if I didn't know it yet. They're not my best fireworks shots by any means. Several of them have shapes that remind me of cauliflowers, or maybe broccoli, but white or red or blow rather than green. Odd. But they'll do for this year.


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