Family 4th of July

Returning to Seattle from a long weekend with family and fireworks, a quick summertime post seems a relevant detour from the travel narrative…

For years, I”ve loaded my tripod into the car next to coolers and shopping bags full of more chips, marshmallows, hot dogs and soda than anyone (or maybe just me) can possibly imagine eating. Alongside sleeping bags, dog beds, dogs and kids, I squeeze my camera and personal belongings into the remaining corners and head off to our family’s rustic shelter on an undeveloped piece of land bordering a pristine bay.

Falling asleep gazing at the myriad stars visible away from the light pollution of the city, and waking to the guttural sounds of ravens and the higher pitched squeak of eagles and their young, I feel replenished and nourished.¬†Ordinarily, I consider this place a bastion of quiet and peace, but once a year, as dictated by tradition, we stop at the reservation en route to buy an arsenal’s worth of explosives from Bennie… and then just hope that the fireworks aren’t faulty, and the kids all have enough sense to let go of them soon enough to avoid blowing off appendages. I can’t say that I love the fireworks, particularly as I get older, but, I remember well the thrill of lighting a fuse, running, and then standing back to marvel at the results. And so, almost in spite of myself, I find a certain pleasure in the annual ritual.

By now I’m the designated photographer. It gives me a reason to get excited about the incendiary festivities. In the years of making photographs of fireworks, I’ve never really hit my stride and found that I’ve got it dialed in, so its an ongoing creative challenge. The fourth of July rolls around and every year I find myself trying out new things; working out some kind of pleasing composition that somehow tells the story of this crazy tradition. The simple explosion in the dark sky, while pretty, has never gotten me jazzed…

This year, the cousins showed up with a new kind of “firework”. I think they called it a lantern. Its my new favorite, by far. Like a miniature hot-air balloon, you light the flame and the paper lantern floats away, illuminating the sky as it soars higher and higher until it disappears. Its completely silent and totally peaceful… nothing to scare the dogs or the wild animals living nearby.

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