2021 Fireworks, Part 2

Back in 2018, I received special permission from the New York State Office of General Services to photograph the Empire State Plaza fireworks show from a special walled-off location at the side of the Empire State Plaza.

In fact, I even blogged about it.

I didn’t do the fireworks show in 2019, opting instead to take advantage of some astrophotography in the Adirondacks. And unfortunately, there were no fireworks at the Plaza in 2020, due to COVID-19.

But once there was confirmation that fireworks would take place in 2021 at the Empire State Plaza, I had to return and attempt to claim some amazing shots.

And this time … I caught a break.

In 2018, the New York State OGS set up a media photography location next to the New York State Museum. This year … the media photographers will capture all the boom and blast from a prime location; the New York State Museum Terrace.

This is prime real estate. This will work wonders.

And I’m preparing for this.

I packed my number-one photographic weapon of choice, my Nikon Df camera. The lens to earn the coveted honors – my Irix 15mm f/2.4 super-ultra-wide. The plan? Capture as many leading lines as possible, make sure the Corning Tower and the agency buildings are all in the frame, and get some super-spectacular blooms.

I made arrangements with the New York State OGS to set up my photo shoot. All is well.

Next up – planning my parking and escape route. In the past, for me to get from downtown Albany to I-787 and home, the Albany Police Department would herd cars up Washington Avenue, then to Central Avenue, then down Lexington Avenue to the spur to connect to I-90, and then to I-787. That usually adds an hour of escape time for me.

Not this time, baybee. I parked Dracourage on State Street, giving myself enough balance to make a U-turn after the event, which should allow me to escape all the bottleneck traffic and pick up Broadway, which should feed directly into I-787.

Listen, when you’ve taken fireworks photos at the Empire State Plaza for nearly a decade, you learn things.

Next step – get some food and drink and get it early. You don’t want to be hangry when the fireworks are going off. Surprisingly, though, there were maybe six food trucks available. Well, it looks like a cheesesteak (with whiz) for me. Chomp.

As I sat under a tree and noshed on my cheesesteak supper, I noticed someone who was in the food line, and he was checking out the food prices. He then motioned to one of his friends – who was far away – and said, “They take cash only. I’m a dollar short.”

I sized up the situation. The person in line wore a T-shirt that contained the website of the funk band that was performing that night. Obviously he was one of the performers. Without hesitation, I handed the guy a dollar out of my wallet. “Now you have enough.” Thanks and a fist bump, and all is good.

This is called cultivating karma. Try it sometime. It’s fun.

Okay. Time to enter the sky-high terrace. Normally this area would be filled with Price Chopper guests and diners. This time … it’s essentially Photography Row. I grabbed a prime location at the center of the terrace overhang. Quickly assembled my tripod, stuck the Df on it, attached the Irix lens, connected a cable shutter release, and checked my framing.

Yes. This will seriously work.

Now I wait. And at 9:15 p.m., after the funk band did an extended rendition of “Purple Rain” to close out the set…

Let the fireworks show commence.

Empire State Plaza Fireworks, July 4, 2021
Empire State Plaza 2021 Fireworks. (c) Chuck Miller, all rights reserved.

Oh yeah, you can scroll through each image and enjoy all the booms and blooms. I should note that out of over 1,000 (!!) photos taken, I pulled the best 250 and put them in this slideshow.

And just for the record, the event ended at 9:45, it took 20 minutes to get to my car, a quick U-turn down State Street, and I was on I-787 and on my way home. From the Empire State Plaza to the Town and Village – total time, 45 minutes. That may be a personal best.

My sincere thanks and appreciation to the New York State Office of General Services for their assistance and support, as well as their helping me set up in an extremely prime shooting spot.

Much appreciated, and all the best.