This year I wasn't in England and I had some time off from rugby so I decided to go along.
It's worth remembering that the Summer here is particularly warm, with the humidity also being a factor.
The result is that it gets unbearably hot during midday.
In order to secure a good spot to see the show it was necessary to go relatively early. It began at 7.15, so we decided to head down around two o' clock, throw down a tarpaulin and sit under an umbrella.
Firstly, the place wasn't nearly as crowded as I was lead to believe it would be at this time. With two people you could probably arrive around four thirty or five and still find space to sit down. Whether it's always this easy is up for debate, but on the Chiba half of the river (the show is half paid for by the tokyo side of the river, and half by the chiba side) seating is a fairly simple affair.
The umbrella wasn't see-through, it was entirely opaque. I still got burnt. I have no idea how, but it happened. It also wasn't big enough for my whole body (I need to get a fishing umbrella!) so I draped towels over my legs, making a kind of lean-to against the umbrella.
Long story short, it was hot. It was too hot. I do not recommend going before four P.M. for the simple fact that you will melt. It was the hottest I have ever been while not playing sports, and it felt like I was going to die. It was horrible. Really, soul crushingly horrible.
As a caveat I'm the kind of person that would rather be too cold than too hot, so maybe it was just me. There were a few intrepid locals sitting out in the sun, covered with only T-shirts, drinking beer. Insane. They weren't even sunburnt by the end of the day. They must be made of radiators and zinc oxide.
Anyway, aside from nearly dying, I also fashioned a makeshift tripod. Basically, there's no way to shoot long exposures without something to balance the camera on, that's why we have tripods.
None of my photographs are very good when you stop and look at them, but they hold up to a cursory glance for reasons that I'll explain later - but even getting these results took a bit of crafting.
When you're on the water, look out for buoys, people.
Anyway, onto the pictures.
It was a pretty day. After my near death exposure experience there was a nice sunset.
There are only two pictures in landscape today, I learned something pretty quickly about which orientation suits fireworks the best. Especially individual fireworks.
This is an odd one in that it's the only 100mm+ picture that wasn't a total mess. Obviously the more zoomed in you are the more stable the platform needs to be, but I didn't realise quite how stable. Cardboard doesn't cut it most of the time.
This is the other landscape. It's also the only picture with more than one firework going off in the same frame. If I had a tripod I could have taken a dozen pictures and overlayed them which can give a cool look with lots of simultaneous colours.
This is one of my favourites because it looks like a UFO.
This is another one of my favourites because it looks like a flower.
There was a lot of smoke in the air after only a few volleys which meant pictures often came out with the smoke effects you see here. The top left of the flower at around 11 o' clock is hazy, residue from a past explosion. There are also artifacts from reflected light lower down. I could erase them but it's not really a true image then.
Not that 'true,' means anything in this digital age.
This is a bit earlier or later than the others, it shows the orange afterglow or initial explosion rather than the colours.
This is probably my favourite, just because of the mix of colours and the layers, central bright with a petal texture looking outwards. Just like a flower.
The same with this one, the colours are bad but at least there is a wonky horizon, so the firework has a little more context.
This is another of my favourites, it's super blurred (artistic effect, if anyone asks) but it's a nice colour. If only all the pieces would come together every time!
This isn't a sharp picture, nor does it have interesting colours, but it's probably my favourite. Have I already said that? Either way, I'll probably make it my phone background at some point.
This last one I've chopped up to make it look like some strange sea creature. Or a bizarre cell. Or an artists rendition of a crazy quantum experiment. Or one of those plasma balls.
I would also mention that the wind was in our faces, meaning we were absolutely pelted with the detritus from the explosions. We were covered in soot, charred paper and big lumps of cardboard by the end of it. It might be worth bringing something with a peak to cover your eyes, even if only a marginal improvement over your hands. It definitely added excitement to proceedings because it's pitch black directly in front of you and it's hard to see when you're about to be clocked upside the head.
Hopefully some of that will show through in the video.
That's it. I got quite a few shots I like, and one or two that will go into the 'keepers,' collection, which is a rare thing indeed for a single outing (for me at least)!
I also shot some video, it's taking a while to edit but I'll put it up here when it's done.
Oh, and some film too. That'll be done in a month or so. Exciting.