Fourth of July celebration


July 4th fireworks over Baton Rouge skyline

The annual Fourth of July fireworks display complements the colorful nighttime skyline of Baton Rouge, La.

Baton Rouge July 4th fireworks show offers great photography opportunity

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I have been saying for years that I wanted to photograph the July 4th fireworks display at Baton Rouge. But although it’s only about 30 minutes from my home, I had never taken the time.

I changed that this year, and was set up on the banks of the Mississippi River across from the capitol city more than three hours before the 9 p.m. kickoff of the display. This gave me time to get my tripod leveled, my camera set up properly and take a few test shots.

July 4th fireworks over Baton Rouge

The Mississippi River flowing by Baton Rouge, La., is lighted up with fireworks from the annual Fourth of July celebration.

My goal was to get a complete skyline of Baton Rouge with exploding fireworks, along with the obligatory isolation shots of explosions.

After setting up (I actually moved twice to reposition) and chatting with a couple of West Baton Rouge Sheriff’s deputies, I settled into the shade of the trees lining the river bank, enjoyed music from the nearby Port Allen celebration (there was just a great Zydeco band kicking out some tunes) and read a book.

As the last light of the day faded, I put away my book, checked the level of my camera and was about to sit down when a city police officer rode up on an ATV and ordered me to move up and away from the river. My protestations that the sheriff’s deputies implicitly OK’d my setup didn’t budge him, so I grabbed my gear and scurried across the riprap in the deepening gloom of the evening to get set up again.

Fireworks blossom

Fireworks explosions create a beautiful tableau of light against the canvas of the night sky.

I didn’t have time to fully level my equipment: I had just gotten my tripod in place, locked my camera into place and attached my remote trigger cord when an explosion boomed across the river. I looked up to see the growing blossom of the first artillery shell, which evoked cheers from both sides of the Mississippi River.

It took some time, but I hurriedly captured a series of skyline images to create the panorama, and then ensured I had several images of fireworks above one section of the city to add into the end product.

From that point on, I was busy trying to keep my lens pointed at the proper place to capture isolation images of the display.

It was, frankly, a little stressful. I felt like I was always missing something. But I hurried home afterward to see what I had captured.

Fourth of July abstract

Closeup photography of exploding aerial fireworks creates an abstract piece of artwork.

Out of the almost 300 times I tripped the trigger, only a handful were of the quality I wanted. One problem I discovered was a focus setting on my lens, which rendered many images unusably out of focus. But, fortunately, I checked focus enough during the event to capture some really nice abstracts to go along with the skyline image.

All in all, I was happy with my first fireworks shoot, and I am ready for the next one. I’ll make sure I know where I can set up next time so I can be properly prepared when the colors begin to light up the sky.

Click here to see the full gallery from the shoot.


About Andy Crawford

Andy Crawford has been a photographer and writer for more than 20 years, with thousands of images and articles published in magazines and newspapers around the country. He now focuses on Louisiana photography, landscapes, HDR photography, urban prints and other fine art photography. He also is a portrait photographer.