Canl Days Fireworks


This weekend has been a roller coaster of events. Canal Days is an annual four-day festival and this one was a round of concerts, plane rides, street meat, craft shows and fireworks. Sunday is the time for fireworks. This magnificent closing display is rightly considered the best in the region, period. People travel from the U.S. to see this display. It’s always that good.

After a very long weekend of 5am starts and midnight finishes I thought it would be nice to wind down gracefully and walk the mile or so from our home to the Clarence Street bridge to enjoy the spectacle along with the thousands of others attending. Of course, I was going to photograph it, for the first time in a few years.

We arrived about 20 minutes ahead and were able to secure the exact spot I wanted. One which gave a view along the canal so the multicoloured reflections would sparkle. The crowds would be shown at their best. And the fireworks would light the sky from horizon to horizon. I had my camera and two lenses picked out, chosen to give the images I wanted. As we were in a crowd of many thousands I had chosen to travel light. No big and bulky backpack, which contains all my gear and accessories. I lined up a warmup shot with five minutes to go. And cursed.

Change of Plan

I had been taking photos earlier in the day of a flight around Niagara Falls with pilot Jim Hutchinson and fellow local photographer Chris De Laat. When I got home I put the media card in my laptop to review the images from the trip. They were everything I hoped for. More on those elsewhere.

Unfortunately, being tired and relaxed at this stage of the weekend I was not paying attention. As soon as I tried to fire that test shot the camera told me there was no media card. I had left it at home, in my laptop. Rookie mistake. No worries, I carry extras in my… ah. No backpack. The entire reason for having a backpack is to carry things you might need. Like spare cards. I carry extras in the car for emergencies. But we walked here. OK, I knew people that would be there. I would call around and see if anyone can run a spare to me.

It was then I rememberd that I deliberately left my phone at home, not wanting to be disturbed. So here I was, in a location I had planned for all year. About to watch the event of the season… with no camera. Not even a cell phone camera.

After much cursing and failed attempts to kick my own butt I accepted the fact that I was just not going to get those amazing firework / crowd shots I had looked forward to all weekend. I still had options, but I rejected them. I would stand back, relax, and for a change enjoy the setting without the pressure of waving a camera at it. I would just be in the moment.

I smiled weakly and hugged my long-suffering Nikki. We kissed. Faced the canal as the fireworks began.

And that’s when the heavens opened.

Canal Days Fireworks
Taken with cell phone in 2017. Click to enlarge.

The Show Must Go On

The rain that had been forecast finally hit with a vengence. As people ran for cover there was much cursing and a virtual stampede broke out. I think about an inch fell in the first five minutes. We smartly avoided the crush trying to get across the bridge and went in the other direction. Finding a conveniently vacant spot beneath a tree, we watched as the fireworks went on in spite of the rain. It was truly a spectacle to behold. Only slightly marred by the hordes rushing past as they tried to leave. We just stood there. Dripping.

We’ve been through a lot in our time on this earth. A little rain won’t hurt us. Though it would hurt my expensive and non-waterproof camera. No backpack. I was beginning to regret that choice even more. I went to one of the street vendors and they kindly gave me a zip-loc big enough to hold my camera with lens attached. One less thing to worry about. We enjoyed the rest of the show and once the finale was over made our soggy way home.

Reflecting back on the event I still kick myself for leaving the card in the laptop. And for not bringing my phone. In an added twist my photographer friend Chris De Laat posted an image this morning of the firework show. Taken roughly a hundred feet from where we had been standing. I’m sure he was not silly enough to leave the house without a spare media card I could have borrowed. If I had been able to call him. He could probably have thrown it to me, we were that close. Ah well.


So, what is the takeaway here? That I’m an idiot? That the event was spoiled because of an avoidable sequence of events that were all my own fault? No. Absolutely not. I was for once off the clock. This was our fun time. And fate or whatever conspired to make me put away the camera for once.

The takeaway here is that my beloved got to spend time with me, rather than look at the back of my head as I busied myself with the camera. I got to see the whole night sky rather than watch it through a viewfinder worrying about shutter speed and ISO and composition. I got to be in the moment. Spend time with my love. Enjoy.

The takeaway here is a memory of dancing and laughing and hugging and kissing in the rain as fireworks burst above our heads and we laughed. This. This is life.

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