Don’t Forget The Punks

Fireworks explode in the sky over Monroe Harbor and Lake Michigan near Navy Pier in Chicago, Ill., Wednesday, July 4, 2012.

Ask anyone who’s known me beyond my recently-accepted adulthood, and they’ll confirm the early existence of my strong entrepreneurial spirit. A fine example of this comes from the summers I spent mowing lawns with my Auntie JoDee between my sixth and eighth grade years. Starting in the spring time, every Saturday morning, I’d pedal my Huffy to her house a block away and fuel up the silver Craftsman grass annihilator. My aunt and I would make quick work of not only her front and back yards, but those of two other homes on Olcott Ave. As compensation, I’d receive anywhere from 10 to 20 dollars, which was a decent chunk of weekly change at age 12.

By the time July 4th rolled around, I’d be sitting on well over 200 hot, hole-in-my-pocket-burning dollars, just waiting to be spent with reckless abandon. Of course, for the kid who loved things that lit up in different colors and gave off smoke, fireworks were the natural choice to satisfy my hankering for sensory overload! Bottle Rockets, Roman Candles, Dancing Flowers, Pop-Up-Pagodas, Smoke Bombs, the little parachute Army men deals, Saturn Missiles, I could go on and on with the lists I’d make. Buy one get one free? I’ll take four! Oh, and don’t forget the punks.

Ironically enough, Auntie JoDee’s house was typically the designated firing line to launch the cache of explosives, both mine and those brought by other family members, into the muggy summer night sky. Portions of the lawns we worked so hard to maintain, more often than not, were set ablaze. That didn’t matter, however. This was America! I’d worked hard for months to set this stuff on fire and watch it go up in smoke!

Only now, some 18 years after these adventures, does that last sentence make me cringe. Semi-wisdom for my finances gained through the years has given me an acute appreciation for what my dad used to grumble while driving me to the fireworks store: “You know, you’re just burning all your money away, up in smoke.” Whatever, dad!

Sigh – admitting your parent was right later on in life is a tough pill to swallow, but it’s a pill I’m glad I’ve taken. I’m more than content nowadays with watching the professionals put on fantastic pyrotechnic displays, like the one I photographed last night along Chicago’s Navy Pier, and keeping my money as far away from open flames as possible.

A sail boat flies a large American flag in Monroe Harbor on Lake Michigan near the Chicago Lighthouse (left) in Chicago, Ill., Wednesday, July 4, 2012.

A swimmer dives into in Lake Michigan at Monroe Harbor in Chicago, Ill., Wednesday, July 4, 2012. Near record-high temperatures made Independence Day muggy and uncomfortable this year in Chicago.

Spectators watch as fireworks are launched from a barge on Lake Michigan near Navy Pier in Chicago, Ill, Wednesday, July 4, 2012.

Aerial shells explode over boaters gathered in Monroe Harbor.

This year, as with last year, I experimented by manually pulling focus during long exposures to create abstract images of the fireworks.


Another focus-pull burst, shot at 400mm.


This image is the result of a light-up toy vendor walking through my frame during a four-second exposure.

Yes, I know shots of bursts in the air without foreground elements are incredibly boring and passé, but I enjoyed the colors here.

The grand finale wows the crowd!

A comet tearing across the sky, or the night sun on the Chicago Police Department’s Bell 206? I’ll let you decide.

If you guessed Bell 206, you were right.

Finally, this fireworks store signage near the Indiana / Illinois border is brilliant in that, 1. It made me laugh, and 2. It got me to pull in the parking lot to photograph it. I’m not sure how I feel about the proximity of fireworks and liquor sales, but I’ll save that for another blog.

Posted in Photography, Thoughts On Life by Guy Rhodes on July 5th, 2012.

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