September 13th, 2014 marked the 200th anniversary of our nations anthem, The Star Spangled Banner. According to History.com:
On this day in 1814, Francis Scott Key pens a poem which is later set to music and in 1931 becomes America’s national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The poem, originally titled “The Defence of Fort McHenry,” was written after Key witnessed the Maryland fort being bombarded by the British during the War of 1812. Key was inspired by the sight of a lone U.S. flag still flying over Fort McHenry at daybreak, as reflected in the now-famous words of the “Star-Spangled Banner”: “And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air, Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.”
Baltimore held a week long celebration dubbed the Star Spanglged Spectaular with all sorts of events including visiting tall ships and naval vessels, musical performances, an air show by the Blue Angels, and the largest firework demonstration throughout Inner Harbor. While researching locations that would be good for the fireworks I stumbled upon the website for The Top of the World, which is the Baltimore World Trade Center. This spot has a fabulous view of the city and the the night of the fireworks they were holding an event including free food, open bar, dj and a photobooth. I obviously stopped scouting locations after finding this gem. I took my son, Chase, along and we had a great time watching out the window taking in the astounding firework show while enjoying a refreshing soda. Chase has never been to a large fireworks celebration and this one was the best I have ever seen. We both were blown away from the show!
The before and after of this shot are quite dramatic, there were a lot of aspects of these photos that I had to take in to consideration. One of my concerns was that I had to shoot through glass at this location. I wasn’t sure how bright the lights would be in the interior of the room and was worried the reflections would make more work for me in Photoshop. I took an old black shirt and cut out the sleeve and then used masking tape to attach it to the glass and one of my wife’s hair ties to wrap it around the lens barrel. I tested this at home prior to our trip and it worked nicely. I tested this with my 24-70mm lens and neglected to try my wide angle and figured it would be fine. That was a mistake because the shirt blocked some of the frame. Luckily the light was only coming from behind me to the left so I just untapped the right half of the shirt from the glass and the left side remained attached to the glass…it worked great! After figuring out how to best deal with reflection rig I was ready for the show. I did a few test shots of the view without the fireworks thinking I may need them in Photoshop as a base layer. This turned out to be a huge benefit. The smoke from the fireworks was so intense that it was hard to see the city lights through it. I took my base layer without fireworks and masked it in where the smoke was showing making sure not to touch the fireworks. I still had some smoke joined with the fireworks so I used the burn tool in Photoshop. I chose to only affect the shadows with 10% exposure. This worked out so well that you can’t even tell there was a smoke issue. I left a little bit of smoke at the barge where the fireworks were lit to keep it realistic. I also masked in some of the city lights from the base image because when the fireworks were lit a lot of lights were turned off. I’m super stoked with this image and it is probably one of my best shots of all time. You can click below to see the before and after, or the purchase prints link will show this image larger
Bombs Bursting in Air – Purchase Prints
After capturing some wide angle shots I went for a tighter view of where the majority of the fireworks were being lit. I liked the Legg Mason building to the left and the Domino Sugar neon sign which really isn’t that visible in this shot. I really like the dominant red, white and blue colors. There were some fireworks that lit up like an american flag, and others that spelled out USA and 2014 but I was using the wide angle lens at that point so it isn’t easily viewable. For this shot I did not have a non-smoke base layer to help. I exclusively used the burn tool again on the shadows at 10% exposure until I felt the smoke was gone. I then used a slight dodge on the highlights again at 10% to make the fireworks a tad brighter. Enjoy:
Oh Say Can You See – Purchase Prints
I feel very fortunate to have witnessed this event. It was not anything like I have seen before at firework shows. I think I may try to visit other big cities during their firework shows in the future. Anyway, till next time… Take care!
Great blog. Did you have any idea while you were in the WTC that fireworks were going off on top of it?
Yes, I did know but only because a fellow photographer next to me explained about them being lit from the roof. Eventually we saw burning embers falling from the sky from those that were lit. It was an amazing show! Thanks for your comment Brandon.