Happy 4th of July! This was the first year I watched the show from Netherlands Carillon in Arlington, VA, rented a lens for the event, and the weather conditions worked perfectly in our favor. I don’t think I could have asked for a better way to celebrate Independence Day.
The fireworks prep started a few weeks prior to the 4th. I wanted to do something special this year since I missed out on photographing the fireworks last year. So I decided that I would rent the 200-600mm lens again from lensrentals.com. I like renting from them because they are a small business and I’ve had nothing but good experiences with them. They have a selection of gear and prices that are comparable to other gear rental companies I’ve seen so why not.
I set the delivery date for July 2nd, figuring I could spend the weekend with the lens and then return it after the holiday. I should have thought about the fact that it was a holiday and shipping things may be delayed. I kept on checking my tracking and the final update said that it wasn’t going to be delivered until July 5th. I was really bummed out and sent an email to lensrentals.com and they were super accommodating with options that would work for both of us.
But that still left me wanting a lens for the 4th. Then I remembered my friend, Larry owns the lens. Fortunately, he had no plans of using it over the weekend and let me borrow it.
On the actual day of the fourth, I met up with my friends Michael and Virginia at Netherlands Carillon. Netherlands Carillon is just an iconic place to go in Arlington, Virginia that will give you amazing views of the top three landmarks of Washington DC, the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, and the US Capitol. The show was going to start at 9:09 but we had all planned to be there around 6 pm. Luckily we were early enough to find a great spot. At that time, there were a few spots available but if we got there any later, it probably would have been a lot more difficult. The good photo spots were filling up fast.
Not only did Larry let me borrow the 200-600mm lens, but he also lent me his 1.4 teleconverter. All I had to do was mount the teleconverter in between my camera and lens and I was able to zoom from 600mm to 840mm at F8. It was incredible how much more detail it allowed.
At first, the lens had image stabilization off, even using a remote and a tripod, it got a little shake in the images. I assumed it was the teleconverter so I took it off but I was still getting it. I think the 200-600mm lens is just so heavy that no matter what, there was going to be a little shake, especially considering it doesn’t mount directly onto the tripod. It has to be mounted with the lens foot. So I turned my image stabilization back on and all the images turned out super sharp. Luckily there were a few small neighborhood fireworks that were going off before the show that I could practice a little bit to make sure everything was how I needed it to be.
I did not use the teleconverter for the actual show because I thought that would have been too much zoom. The 200-600mm was perfect for some really compressed, tight shots of the monuments. It helped me create a variety of images that I would have not otherwise been able to capture.
Once the show started, I tried different focal lengths and tried moving the camera around to find different points of view. One of my favorites was just concentrating on the Washington Monument. The image on the left is actually a picture of the Washington Monument but there were too many fireworks going off to see it very clearly. Can you see the two red lights peaking through the fireworks?
Not only did I try different focal lengths, but I also tried to physically move my camera around. At one point, I found myself crawling on the grass trying to get shots of other photographers and attendees of the fireworks. It was a little difficult with such a heavy lens and tripod. But it’s something that I’d like to try more of in the future.
Overall I feel like this year’s firework show was a huge success. There was barely any wind or clouds that got in the way of the show and I loved experimenting with the 200-600mm lens. I kind of wish fireworks would happen more than once a year!