July 4th of this year commemorates the United States’ 243rd birthday — its Day of Independence from the United Kingdom. For the past nine years, I have challenged myself to literally conduct my own scavenger hunt around Seattle to find a new vantage from which to photograph the annual fireworks at Lake Union near Gas Works Park.
This current blog entry is a professional and personal retrospective of my own photography of the annual fireworks event in Seattle. What I have enjoyed most is witnessing the evolution of my skills as a professional photographer back in 2010 compared to the skills I possess today for the same subject matter. Please have a look for yourself — maybe you’ll agree that there’s been some significant improvement as well.
So many people believe — erroneously to no end — that photography is just clicking a button on a technological apparatus. That is a complete falsehood. On the morning of July 4th this year, I spent close to three hours exploring the city. I went to four different neighborhoods surrounding Lake Union to determine from where I would locate myself and claim my temporary territory with my camera gear later that evening before the fireworks began. I used my cellphone to take quick snapshots of each location to serve as reminders when I went back home to decide.
All the planning, deliberating, contemplating, and preparations didn’t stop there. The fireworks program on the lake began at 10pm. Because I knew the spot I had chosen would likely be occupied by hundreds of people that night, it meant that I needed to reach my vantage point well in advance and stay there until the show started. I got to my selected spot at 7:45pm. I brought snacks, drinks, two “Outdoor Photographer” magazines and my iPod to keep myself occupied before the show.
Funnily enough, the initial spot I chose was on the Lakeview Boulevard overpass above Interstate 5 in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. When I got there, a police officer informed me that the overpass would be cordoned off at 9pm. Essentially, at that very moment, my first choice spot — where I had determined several hours earlier that I would be that night — was instantly and unexpectedly confiscated. Fortunately, my contingency plan came into effect and I only had to walk for about five to ten minutes in order to reach my second choice location. If I had had no backup plan, I would have been frustrated, angry, or even panicking about the next steps to take. None of that occurred because I was prepared for setbacks or for scenarios not going according to plan.
There is so much more to photography than pressing a button. (If you take nothing else away from this entire blog entry, please let that previous line be the one that registers).
Looking back at my work, I am proud to say that between July 4, 2010 and July 4, 2019, I have only repeated the same location once (see slideshow immediately below of 2010 vs. 2016).
In 2018, I did not conduct my annual search for a new vantage as there was another image I wanted to share which I felt was more representative of America on its Day of Independence. The image below does not feature fireworks at all, but it is the image that I shared publicly on July 4, 2018. Personally, I believe it reflects what America looks like and represents on each of its anniversaries. This is one of the best photos I have ever created (even though it was photographed for a client!) and I am extremely proud of it.
I’ll also leave you with some videos too! The first video is a brief timelapse feature of the 2019 Fireworks in Seattle as seen from Lakeview Boulevard in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. It’s literally 10 seconds long.
The second video is my official TIA “Independence Day” Retrospective of images I have captured of Seattle’s celebration and observance of America’s birthday. This video is a one-minute feature.
If you’re wondering about the title of this blog entry, the words are borrowed from a very beautiful, very spiritual, thought-provoking song from the early 1980s, “State of Independence”. It was performed by the late, great, and phenomenal Donna Summer. The lyrics, to me, have a mild correlation with America’s Independence but, more so, the subcutaneous, unseen resilience of its people as a society, especially on its 243rd anniversary.