During the summer, Minneapolis throws a 10-day festival called “Aquatennial” which culminates on the last night with a 30 minute long fireworks show. It is one of the largest fireworks display in the U.S. and was sponsored by Target corporate this year for the 70th anniversary. During the 10 days, there are parades, shows, concerts, contests, and a “milk carton boat” race on Lake Calhoun.
I had never been to the Aquatennial fireworks show before, and decided to make an event out of it with my photo buddies. Michael Hubbard ( *twitter ) and I went out a few days before the show to scout out some locations. We were unsure of the exact location the fireworks would be shot from, but had a general idea. After walking a few miles around the site we settled on Gold Medal Park next to the new Guthrie Theatre. It happened to be a nice tall grassy hill that overlooks the mississippi and the Stone arch Bridge (where we thought they were firing them off from. It was unclear how many of the roads would be blocked the day of the fireworks but we decided to show up 3 hours early to ensure any problems could be accounted for.
I packed a cooler full of food, blanket, and my camera gear and found a perfect spot right next to the park. Only 5 people beat me to the hill, and they were not in our chosen spot. Michael showed up soon after and we watched the sun set over the river. Eventually the park filled up with lots of people, but no one really bothered us or tried to obstruct our view. Jason Gallus, also arrived for the show and we fidgeted around with our cameras, tripods, lenses before the event began.
I set my ISO to 100, f-4.5 to 8.0, and set the controls to B(ulb). With my cable release I simply pushed the shutter between 2-8 seconds trying to capture the explosions in some sort of composition. My only complaint with the location was the line of trees blocking the view to the 3rd Ave. bridge where the fireworks were shot from. We already knew we would not have a nice skyline view as a backdrop for the fireworks since the east side of the river was unaccessible to higher views, or was shrouded in tall trees and massive powerlines. I alternated between a wide angle 17-40, and a 28-70 lens. I’m happy with the shots from an experimental sense, but still don’t feel like I’ve found a perfect way to shoot them. It’s possible that more planning and access to premium locations will solve this feeling, but I’m sure it will just take more practice to have fireworks photography as a skill to put under my belt.