Tri-Cites 4th of July Firework 2018 Edition

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With 4th of July just behind us, I want to share my experience of watching the 4th of July fireworks in the Tri-Cities area of Washington State. There were two fireworks to choose from for me. Pasco’s Grand Old 4th firework show at the GESA stadium and the 25th Annual River of Fire Festival at Columbia Park in Kennewick.

I decided to go to the River of Fire Festival as it was recommended to me by numerous locals. The firework will be different this year as it used to be in the past. This year the firework will be blast-off from the Neil F. Lampson Pit area instead of the barge in the middle of the Columbia River. The reason for the change in location is because of Tidewater barging company sold the aging barge which was used the years before and could be anchored without tugboats. No comparable barge was available and that’s why the blast-off zone got moved to the Neil F. Lampson Pit area in Columbia Park.

For me, it will be the first time watching the firework here so it was no “change” for me. I scouted the location early in the morning to see where I would set up my camera to get some good photos of the firework. After that, I headed out to enjoy my day off work and took the Pre-Manhattan Project Tour. After that, I did a short road trip to the McNary Dam on the Washington/Oregon border.

My plan was to head to the location and set up my camera around 9 p.m. as the firework would start at 10 p.m. in either location. Just before I headed over to Columbia Park, I checked Google Maps. The app showed me a lot of traffic around the Columbia Park and I decided to go to a different location instead. My last minute change was to view the firework from Wade Park, across the river from Columbia Park. The drive there was easy but as I approached the parking lot area the streets were already full of cars parked on either side. Luckily I was able to find some street parking in the neighborhood not too far from the river.

I arrived at Wade Park around 9.40 p.m. and walked up the dike to get a good place to view the river and fireworks. The top of the dike was packed with people as they set up their chairs along the walkway. It would be rude to set my camera up right in front of them, that’s why I stepped down a few steps at the front face of the dike pointing towards the river. The many rocks along the dike helped me to find a sturdy point to set up my tripod and a nearby rock even doubled as “chair” for me.

Pioneer Memorial Bridge just before the firework show.

Now it was time to wait for the fireworks to begin and see where it would actually end up in the sky. As the firework started a quickly adjusted the angle of my camera to get all of it in my shots. Because they started out the firework with just a few but bright explosions, it was perfect to use it to find the right field of view and even use it to focus. Once I used the autofocus on the firework, I set the focus selector switch to manual to avoid that the camera would refocus during any of the exposures.

My remote shutter release is an indispensable tool if it comes to take fireworks shoots. As I will be shooting in Bulb-Mode and can’t wait for the camera to calculate the exposure. As the firework started I took a couple of photos and checked it right away to see if I have to up my shutter release time or adjust it down.

My settings were ISO 400 and F20. This high aperture value will expand the focus area and I don’t have to worry if the firework doesn’t explode on the same pane in the sky. The photos will still be in focus. Everybody has its own way of shooting fire works. There is no real wrong or ultimate way. It depends what you try to get. Thanks to the high aperture value, I can shoot longer exposures without overexposing the image. This will allow me to capture multiple firework blasts in one photo and that looks really cool.

Here some of the photos of the River of Fire Festival Firework. More photos can be found in my Flickr-Album.

Unfortunately, the “background” of the photos is nothing spectacular. Shooting the firework from the Columbia Park would probably be better in regards to the background. It would probably put the Pioneer Memorial Bridge in the background but the bridge had a very bright light fixed atop of it, which would ruin the photos as it would be overexposed all the time.

However, my location paid off once it came to leave the area. I only had to walk about 10 minutes back to my car and got out of the neighborhood streets without any bigger traffic issues. The freeway entrance was close by and once on the freeway, it was an easy 15-minute ride back to the hotel at Columbia Point.

People were still setting off crackers and fireworks way past midnight at the nearby park and even the parking lots around the hotel. I had to work the next day, but the firework didn’t bother me much in regards to fall asleep.

The 4th of July Firework photos I took in 2015 of the Seattle firework are still the best once in my opinion.


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