A very small boy carrying a huge piece of driftwood creeps by in the darkness, the end of his load barely missing the tripod on which thrones Abe. She must shiver at the thought of all the wet sand surrounding us and that would gladly sneak into every open space of her delicate anatomy. I make a mental note to keep the kid in my peripheral vision.
This has been a strange day, one of those "lost before they even started" battles. For many reasons not worth mentioning, I just felt like going straight to bed after leaving work early. But Silvia had been kind enough to come in and work a few hours for me so that I could go shoot the fireworks and I owed her to try.
The kid has now been tamed by an impatient mom and is sitting a few feet away on the beach, building sand castles in front of him and immediately destroying them with intense concentration and a kiai. I focus on the new threat posed by a group of latecomers who seem to be planning a squat down right in my line of sight to the barge anchored offshore a stone’s throw away. I might have to throw the stone at them instead.
Deciding on a location to settle in has taken me quite a while. I considered the slopes above us between the road and the beach and walked back and forth trying to find an empty 2 square feet of grass to squeeze into. But the crowd was already overwhelming and the angle not so great. So I opted for a front row seat and sat down right next to the water, with 150,000 people right behind me and another 100,000 across the bay in Kits.
Of course I could also have gone to Trout Lake for the Illuminares lantern procession, but this was so much closer to home. There’s something to be said about stepping out the door, walking across the street and sitting down on a beach to watch fireworks. And I’ll say it: it’s spoiling.
Canada is shooting tonight’s display. The radio station broadcasting the musical part of the show is already playing loud behind us, reminding everybody to carry out their garbage. I don’t like crowds. They get out of control. They are exponentially more obnoxious then their individual components.
My right leg is cramping slightly, wrapped around that side of the tripod. But this is the position that allows me to be in close contact with Abe; the camera sits right in front of my face, like a night vision goggle on some soldiers’ helmet. I recheck my settings, refocus manually on the barge at full zoom then back off to wide angle, grateful for my parfocal lens and recompose my shot for a tenth time.
Only a few minutes to go. The view is clear, my human obstructions having walked somewhere else. The karate kid is bored and quiet. I’m almost getting exited despite the rough day. This will all have been worth it after all. Thank you Silvia.
As our Canadian anthem starts playing, the crowd stands up and I do so too, bumping the camera a bit. My right leg is numb. I’ll have to reframe.
Then we all sit back down. It feels like a game. I recompose my shot.
Expectative silence. A few whistles. The barge’s lights go off. I lean over and look through the viewfinder, grabbing the remote in my left hand, making sure I’m on bulb. I think I’m holding my breath a little.
A first flash at the barge, then a second, followed by the strange hissing sound of nearly invisible projectiles rising through the sky to their apogees. My grip on the remote tightens. People shout with anticipation.
Then the sky finally explodes in bright surprises and dripping colours. I press the shutter.
It’s odd how I’d never noticed before that on the Canon XTi, this message is actually written in red and green on the LCD screen: "Please replace the battery."