Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Cape Cod Canal - Celebrating 100 Years!

The Cape Cod Canal was officially opened on July 29, 1914.   The idea for the canal is commonly credited to Myles Standish nearly 400 years ago!!   The journey through the canal saves shipping traffic over 100 miles and at least a day's journey.   To say that the canal has been a major improvement to commerce for Massachusetts and New England is an understatement.

Local community members formed a committee to plan a variety of celebrations for the 100th anniversary of the canal.   Perhaps one of the highest attended events was a firework show over the Cape Cod Canal Railroad Bridge.   This fantastic event was sponsored by philanthropist David Mugar.  

In addition to lighting the railroad bridge, a firework barge was positioned near the Massachusetts Maritime Academy.   With two tall ships at the academy, the Kalmar Nyckel and the Mystic, there was a magical ambiance to the evening.   With the fireworks exploding over the academy docks, the scene looked like it was the set for a movie.

Making these images was a lot of fun and a little bit tricky.   The fireworks were being launched from two different locations.   Switching back and forth from one scene to the other was not ideal, but it did offer a little variety.   The firework show was so prodigious that it was hard to make an excellent exposure of the fireworks and the docks.   The docks and the tall ships were generally underexposed and the fireworks were overexposed.   Originally I tried for longer shots of 10 seconds or more in order to give plenty of light to the ships and the dock.  I had hoped to use a relatively low ISO to minimize noise.  There were so many fireworks, that long exposures were simply blowing out the highlights.   Using my Nikon D 7000 I switched to higher ISO's such as 1600 and 3200.  This allowed me to correctly expose the dock and the ships.   It also gave me the opportunity to isolate individual fireworks with shorter exposures of 1/5 of a second.  

One of the mantras of photography is to be persistent.   Perhaps my favorite image of the evening was made with the last firework of the night.    Near the end of the firework show, I knew that I had made excellent shots from my original vantage point.   I took a risk and moved approximately 100 yards and reset my focus.   This allowed me to show more of the docks and tall ships, which truly made the scene!

Many photographers might be surprised to learn that I used f stop 2.8 for my final image.   Using one of my favorite lenses, the Nikon 24-70 f/2.8, I had positioned myself far enough away from the scene that it didn't require a large depth of field to make this image work.  The additional light helped to correctly expose the docks and it allowed me to use a faster shutter speed.  Night photography is often a game of compromise.   In other words, using a shallow depth of field allowed me to use a faster shutter speed.   In addition, I set my white balance to tungsten which helped to make a cooler blue cast on the images.

Post processing was easy.  I used Lightroom, Nik Color Effects Pro and Nik Viveza to adjust levels, minimize noise and to maximize sharpness.   Photographing such a unique event was well worth the effort!   For more info on upcoming Cape Cod Canal 100th anniversary events, visit this website:

You can join me on a fall photo tour to Acadia National Park by visiting my blog here:

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