A view of my world in Central Illinois and places we go.

July 4 Fireworks Display

After 7 years of stadium renovations, our fireworks display in Champaign moved back to near its original location near the University of Illinois football stadium. Actually, the launch area is now located in the parking lot west of the newly named State Farm Center (what for 40 years, or was it 50?, was known as the Assembly Hall). It’s still the Assembly Hall to me and thousands of others. Kind of like the Sears Tower in Chicago is now called the Willis Tower.

As a result, we needed to scout a new location to watch (and photograph) the display. Seven years ago, we pitched camp on the “grassy knoll” of the UI Carpool lawn. But that location is no longer accessible. So, look for an open field, no blocking trees or street lamps, buildings, etc., reasonably close parking, and, if at all possible, some room to spread out a blanket and open a cooler of champagne, plus space from screeching kids, drunk college kids, and firecrackers. Hard to come by but we found a place that gave us a fairly decent vantage point, as long as the fireworks were launched high enough to get above a distant tree line and the Atkins Tennis Center.

Now, Champaign’s fireworks are not Chicago’s, or St. Louis’, or Washington DC’s. We don’t have a skyline of famous buildings (actually, I don’t think we have a skyline). And, we don’t have a lakefront, or river, or giant mall over which the fireworks can be launched (some day I want to be in Paris for Bastille Day!). Essentially, our fireworks are all launched from a single spot. And, generally one at a time. Kind of boring, but a colorful display nevertheless.

Night photography is not easy. Fireworks are a challenge. It is dark and then very bright. Shutter speed and aperture are a bit of guess-work. Too long an exposure can blow out the image with too much light, and the fireworks are not distinct. Too short an exposure and the image comes out dark. So, experiment and find a happy medium…in this case f/8 and 1 second worked for most of these. I’ll let you be the judge from the gallery below, selected from perhaps 100+ images. Hope you like ’em. The gallery below starts out with a few shots of some “natural” fireworks in the form of a lovely sunset…wish I had been out west of town to include the setting sun itself.

We are lucky and should be thankful to be Americans. Thanks to all those guys and gals walking the line for us. Keep safe.

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