Celebration of Light 2014, Day 2: France

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Wednesday evening was the second display from the Celebration of Light fireworks festival, and was by the team from France. Again wanting to capture the fireworks in the context of the beautiful Vancouver skyline, I headed to Lighthouse Park in West Vancouver, which has a line of sight view of downtown Vancouver, albeit from 10 kilometres away.

I shot the fireworks from Lighthouse Park last year, and while I’m usually reluctant to go back to the same location to take the same photograph, the conditions last year were a disappointment and frustration. A very warm and humid day led to a very high level of haze and atmospheric distortion that, combined with shooting across the water, led to quite a soft photograph. Additionally, this location has a special surprise in the right conditions, with Mount Baker in Washington state being visible behind the Vancouver skyline. Last year, the conditions certainly weren’t right, and there was no chance of seeing the mountain, which is roughly 120 kilometres away.

When the conditions for this Wednesday’s display started to look promising, I therefore decided that despite having shot from here before, I would have to try again!

Parking up outside the park, due to signs claiming the gates would be locked before I could hope to be out, a brief and thankfully much more relaxing hike than on Saturday took me to the Arbutus Knoll lookout shortly before sunset, giving me plenty of time to get set up. I was thrilled to see that Mount Baker was visible, although I still doubted whether I would be able to pick it out after the sun had set. While I waited I grabbed some sunset shots and perfected the position of my tripod, which had to look out through a fairly narrow gap in the trees.

My early arrival paid dividends when another photographer turned up shortly after sunset and had to settle for second-best location! As the light from the sun faded, I could see a layer of haze building up over the city, but just had to hope that it wouldn’t block out the mountain by the time the fireworks began.

Fortunately I was in luck, and was able to bring out the mountain in this shot, perfectly centred behind the Wall Centre building in downtown Vancouver. Because of the distance, I again used my 70–300mm lens at 300mm, with the addition of a 1.4x teleconverter to get a reach of 420mm, and again shot a panorama consisting of five photos, with the camera in portrait orientation.

The haze, which I worried would spoil the shot, actually caught and reflected the city lights, producing a wonderful rich orange glow over the city which makes this shot really rather colourful. Although a few tankers rather inconsiderately parked in the shot, I am infinitely more pleased with this shot compared to last year’s shot, with this shot matching much more closely the scene I imagined capturing.

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