Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Fireworks in Aqaba

Hollywood Squares
Just the other night I was sitting on the balcony outside my hotel room in Aqaba Jordan doing exactly what I normally do…smoking a cigar, enjoying a glass of wine and listening to podcasts.  In addition to enjoying my favorite vices, I was doing a little photography. 
Facing my hotel is another hotel with similar balconies angling toward the Gulf of Aqaba and the Red Sea.  I found the view interesting because of the repeating patterns formed by the rooms in addition to the overlaid pattern formed by the guests turning on the balcony lights as they enjoyed the evening – like me.  So the first photograph represents the “why” of having my camera set up in the first place.  The next two photographs are a happy coincidence that resulted from having my tripod and camera in place.
Aqaba Fireworks
I am not a big fan of fireworks photography, but since the camera was already there, I figured “why not?”  This leads to two points I am obliged to address; 1) why I am not a fan of fireworks photography, and 2) fire works are all about color – why did I decide to process the photography in black and white?
I am not a fan of fireworks photography because of sentiments I hold that are similar to sunset photography (see my post titled “I Don’t Shoot Sunsets (Except in Aqaba Jordan)”)  On one level, I find fireworks photography cliché.  More importantly however is my recognition that getting fireworks photography “right” is a very difficult thing.  In addition to the obvious challenges with timing and exposure, fireworks are just big flashy bangs unless they are set within an interesting context that gives them a sense of purpose and scale.
Aqaba Fireworks-2
The two photographs shown here are essentially the same composition, but I think they clearly show the point I was making (I am not suggesting these are particularly noteworthy fireworks photographs, but they are illustrative).  If you accept my premise that a happy snap of an exploding rocket in the middle of a black sky is not particularly compelling, you can see how composition and other elements of interest make these two photographs much more interesting.  Adding interest to this composition, one could consider the following as contributors;
  • the fireworks are off-center on the third
  • there are the equivalent of two horizons at roughly the bottom 1/3 and top 1/3 formed by the upper limit of the Aqaba city lights and the top of the mountains in the background
  • the flag pole on the right flying the flag of Jordan draws your eye through the photograph to the right
  • the repeating patterns of the hotel rooms on the left with the single balcony light energized draw the eye through the left of the frame.
I hope you enjoyed my happy coincidence.  Oh, and by the way, regarding the second question of “why black and white fireworks photography?”  The answer is simple – I was more attracted to the black and white version that accented the silhouette of the mountains.  In the end, it really helps if you enjoy your final product.  So processing choices should be something that leads you to an appreciation of the photograph even if you cannot articulate a reason other than “I like it.”
Have fun and go make some great photography!

1 comment:

  1. OK, so you were able to be in the right place at the right time...good on ya! In DC, during the 4th of July, you would not have been able to see the fireworks because of all the smoke in the sky. This is a result of the high humidity. So, you had perfect conditions which illustrated your photos perfectly. I like the black and white version because it depicts the true meaning behind a manmade lit sky....that of illumination. Or maybe, I've had too many glasses of wine.