At the 35-Yard Line

I’ve photographed fireworks displays in the past. Big booming fireworks events that can be seen in the next county; small fireworks shows in private lots, and almost everything in between.

Last June, during my Hamilton College reunion, I discovered that the College would produce a fireworks show on Saturday night. Of course, now I’m looking all over campus for (A) where they’re launching, and (B) where I can set up to get the best fireworks blooms.

For this, I’m lining up my trusted medium format film camera – my Kodak Medalist II (“Kodak Red”). The camera is packed with respooled Kodak Ektachrome 100. Trust me, you pre-load your film camera for a fireworks shoot; there’s no way I’m wasting time putting new film in the camera during boomtime.

I figured out (A) quickly enough. The launch would take place on the campus golf green, and would be visible from the college’s Kennedy Art Gallery. I can match up with that, I guess … but …

I would have absolutely loved to photograph the fireworks if they were adjacent to a Hamilton College landmark; i.e., the Chapel. But after scouting several different angles, I couldn’t find one where the fireworks would fly high enough into the sky where they would fit into the picture with the Chapel steeple – and, since the steeple itself is lit up at night, a 3-second exposure against the steeple would make the steeple too bright in the picture. Ugh. Won’t work.

Gotta find another location where I’m positive I’ll get a great shot WITHOUT anything ruining it – light pollution, errant generic buildings, all of that.

It’s getting dark. Saturday sundown. Boomtime is at 10:00 p.m. And it’s about 9:30 p.m. now.

Come on, Miller. Think. Think.

And then I realized … hey, wait a second. What’s between the golf course and the Kennedy Art Gallery?

Steuben Field. Hamilton College’s football gridiron.

A few things to note here. At one point in time, Hamilton College had a powerhouse football squad. Heck, in 1958 the Continentals ran off an undefeated season. Okay, that was in 1958. By the time I went to Hamilton College, the team couldn’t win a game to save their lives. The running joke was that a mile marker on the New York State Thruway said ALBANY 93. And someone wrote underneath, “Hamilton 0.”

And here I am … standing on the 35-yard line, aiming directly at the boom site. Inbetween the boom site and me is a grove of trees and the Steuben Field scoreboard, which from what I understand was custom-built by a Hamilton College student way back in the day. I’m sure it’s been modernized over time, but still … that’s kind of a cool artifact, if you ask me.

Boomtime begins. I take a few shots with my cell phone, capturing the fireworks booms in real time …

And, just for the heck of it, in slow motion. This slow motion feature looks really swank. Trust me on this.

Okay. Here we go. Kodak Red, you’re up. Show me what you got.

Out of eight shots the camera can achieve … these were the two best from the roll.

You know what … Those are pretty decent photographs for what I could achieve with Kodak Red.

I mean, they’re just good enough to …

Yeah, I said “just good enough.” And you know me. I can NEVER settle for “just good enough.”

Because, yeah, they’re nice fireworks blooms, but that’s all that they really are. There’s no distinctive item in the foreground or in the background. I couldn’t even get the Steuben Field scoreboard in view, even with a ton of post-processing.

But as far as I’m concerned, at least next time when my 40 college reunion comes in 2025 …

I’ll have a prime photo shooting location …

And maybe I’ll bring some lanterns for the scoreboard. Or at least arrange for the college to light it up for me. That would be nice.

Although I presume that doing so would require some sort of college fund donation … 😀