Today is Independence Day in the United States, a.k.a. the Fourth of July. Traditionally, a day for parades and picnics and, after dark, of municipal fireworks displays. (This year, some places are holding off the fireworks until the weekend.)
I'm not big on fireworks, but I feel almost guilty saying that. As I cast back over the years of my life I can remember a lot of Fourths and a lot of fireworks-watching, in the company of various friends and at various places. My earliest such memory is of tormenting my "girlfriend" Elizabeth Choi, whose Korean-immigrant parents lived near our apartment block in Cambridge, Massachusetts. (I seem to recall that her mother couldn't or wouldn't speak English—Elizabeth's older brother translated for her.) That would have been about 1962 or '63, and Elizabeth (whose nickname was the Korean word for "beautiful," which I can pronounce but not spell) was an older woman...she was in second grade. I was only in first.
In D.C. I used to walk down to the Mall and worm my way up to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial from the Potomac side. The best place to watch the country's best fireworks display...nowhere else can match the spire of the Washington Monument and the glimpses of the Capitol building in the background.
My most vivid memory of Fourth of July fireworks was from the five years Zander and I lived in our loft in Chicago. We could climb up to the roof deck—our building towered over most of the two- and three-story buildings in the neighborhood. Looking out over the rooftops, you could see fireworks at every point of the compass. (Many of the larger suburbs in Chicago put on their own fireworks displays, apart from the city's main show down by the Lake.) The experience was somewhat tempered by all the small-arms fire we could also hear...I ended up not staying on the roof deck for very long, feeling that a stray bullet could have the unwanted effect of ruining our evening. But the visual effect of the 360° fireworks here and there on the horizon—some nearer, some farther off—was striking, and has stuck with me.
If you're in the U.S. and planning to enjoy parades, picnics, or fireworks, I wish you and your family an enjoyable and safe holiday today. I'm off to Lake Koshkonong for the afternoon, for the first Fourth at my brother and sister-in-law's new place there. Should be fun.
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Featured Comments from:
k4kafka: "Some photos just look better in black and white. This isn't one of them."
Mike replies: It really wasn't up to me. The photo was made with the TOPcam, a Sony NEX-6 which I have had specially modified at great personal expense so that it only shoots black-and-white. The RG(2)B filters were all stripped from the photosites and the demosaicing algorithm was rewritten from scratch. Only one laboratory in the country is capable of doing this intricate modification, which takes months and costs thousands. The TOPcam is not capable of recording color—even when confronted with sunsets, single geraniums floating in a sea of green, or colorful hot air balloons.