How’s this for a graduation ceremony photo?

Here’s the deal.  In addition to the two photos I am allowed to enter in the Big E’s photography competition this year (assuming, of course, that the Big E WILL operate this year), the Big E has also held an online monthly contest, with each category being based around a theme.  The theme for June is “Graduations.”

Now luckily for me, there were plenty of graduations, especially those hosted at the local drive-ins.  But here’s the problem.  Half of those scheduled graduations would happen AFTER the 20th, which would mean I couldn’t enter the photo.

A quick word with the people at the Jericho Drive-In – who are hosting nearly a dozen different high school graduations this year, as they are one of the viable alternatives for graduation ceremonies in the time of COVID-19.  “We will host Albany Academy on Monday,” they told me, “and if you come to the Rensselaer High School graduation, there will be a fireworks show.”

Wait … did you say fireworks?

Clear my calendar.

Here’s the deal.  Every year, I trek down to the Empire State Plaza, I fight for a good parking spot, I sit in the hot sun for six hours, I get my photos, I try to get out of downtown (which is never easy).  I’ve done this for years.  And I’ve enjoyed it.  But last year, I decided to go into the North Country and photograph the Milky Way instead.  And this year, the Empire State Plaza’s fireworks show would not happen on July 4th, and it’s very unlikely it would happen at all this year.

But if the Jericho Drive-In is hosting fireworks as part of a graduation ceremony … I can make this work.

I arrived in plenty of time and set up my gear.  Nikon Df on the tripod, with the glass of choice a vintage 28mm f/2.8 lens from the 1960’s on the chassis.  Meanwhile, graduates and their families and their teachers were arriving.  Hey, is that Rob Hoffman from the Hoffman Files in one of the car caravans?  Yep, he’s a teacher in the Rensselaer City School District. Yeah, he was surprised to see me.  But a good surprised.

Meanwhile, people who drove by and WEREN’T going to the graduation were trying to figure out who RJSHS was.

It was like watching people try to decipher a customized license plate.  Some people figured it out.  Others were stumped.  I said that it’s the graduations for the town of Rjshs.  You know, it’s near Niskayuna.  Or Canajoharie.  Or Schenectady.  Yeah, try to explain to someone from out of town how to pronounce Schenectady.  After that, they’ll believe there actually IS a town called Rjshs.

The tricky part, though, was trying to find a balance between shutter speed, aperture and ISO.  If the exposure’s too long, the sign will be too bright.  If the exposure’s not long enough, there won’t be glowing trails of fireworks.  Factor that in, then factor what level of exposure I need.  It’s like trying to sleep in a bed that’s too hard and too soft at the same time.

Then came the booms.

And I went into rapid fire mode.

That’s one of the first-ever fireworks blooms on the Jericho Drive-In property.

And now for some more magic.

Got ’em.  The bed was too hard and too soft?  For me, it was just right.

Much thanks again to Mike and Lisa at the Jericho Drive-In for all their help and support.  And now, I have several “graduation and fireworks” shots to pick from, in time to submit something for the Big E’s contest by this coming Saturday.

And I got my fireworks jones activated.  A couple of weeks early, but who’s counting? 😀