Categories: Charleston, Destinations, South Carolina
Tags: fireworks, holiday, landscape, people, urban
This year I wanted to do something different for the Fourth of July holiday. For the last three years I have done something different, but all in the Myrtle Beach area: I shot the Salute From the Shore in Surfside Beach, then I shot the festivals around the Myrtle Beach downtown area, last year I only shot the fireworks from Garden City Beach, but this year I went to Charleston, South Carolina. This beautiful southern city is my favorite place to visit, so I spent two days in the area shooting the holiday decorations.
My plans didn’t exactly work out as I’d hoped. In fact, they could not have been more thoroughly destroyed if I’d used the Death Star itself. When I travel I always make sure to visit locals as soon as I arrive in-town because they always know what is happening. During the two weeks leading up to my trip I made numerous phone calls to find out where the Fourth of July fireworks show would be located and to find out if I could walk along Wonder Way, a jogging/bicycling/walking path on the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge. I was told the fireworks would be shot from a barge in Charleston Harbor halfway between the USS Yorktown and the South Carolina Aquarium. I was also told I would be able to walk up the bridge so I could get a really fantastic bird’s eye view above the harbor.
Both were wrong. Despite all the information I had been given ahead of time, once I actually arrived at Patriots Point in Mt. Pleasant I discovered the barge was located to the north of the USS Yorktown and only a couple of hundred feet from the shore. Then I discovered from the local police they would be shutting down pedestrian access to the bridge during the fireworks show because people seem to enjoy jumping from the bridge during special holidays (not for fun, I might add). So now my well-laid plans were ruined.
But not all was lost. I spent about two hours talking with the wonderful staff at Patriots Point and a parking lot attendant for a nearby resort. They helped me find a great location to shoot the show later in the evening and a place to park. I had accounted for a mass of people, but the local police told me to expect anywhere from 5,000 to 20,000 people to crowd the shore line along Charleston Harbor. I had not account for that many people!
Two hours later I had all the information I needed so I set off for Folly Beach. I was already running extremely late, so I didn’t expect the journey to one of the few beaches in the area to be easy. I wasn’t wrong. It took me nearly two hours to travel 15 miles and an extra hour to find a place to park on a small grassy hill at the public boat ramp. It was also sweltering hot, the air temp hovering around 102 with the heat index well above 110.
My first and only stop on this small island town was the Folly Beach Edwin S. Taylor Pier. From the photos above you can see they decorated the pier nicely for the holiday with dozens of flags. I spent some time out there with the fishermen (and fisherwomen) taking note of all the American flags, tents, chairs, and bikinis on the beach. Unfortunately for me it was just too hot to spend much time out there. I’m all for doing what I need to get a shot, but every stitch of clothing I wore was soaked through with sweat after just thirty minutes out there.
My second stop for the day was a drive through downtown Charleston, South Carolina. Charleston always has plenty of flags, both the American and Civil War flags, hanging from many buildings. I came upon Marion Square, which I knew from experience would have some sort of decoration. The city always does something nice in this park for special holidays. I found dozens of flags making a square in the middle of the square. I snapped a few photos before moving on to my final spot for the day.
One thing I was kinda surprised I didn’t find was a lot of people wearing flag t-shirts or shorts or carrying small flags with them. Sure, I saw plenty on the beach, but none the rest of the day. Then again, I actually looked for a flag t-shirt for myself but couldn’t find one anywhere. Does no one sell them anymore?
My final spot for the day was the entrance to a marina next to Patriots Point, home of the USS Yorktown and USS Laffey museum ships. This was the spot I had found earlier in the day, but from what I was told I would have to get there early to keep it. With thousands of people expected in the area, the Mt. Pleasant police intended to shut down the roads about two hours before the fireworks show. Just to be on the safe side, I arrived three hours early. It was still sweltering hot so I did what any good American would do: I hunkered down in my Explorer with the engine running so the AC would stay cool. I think I burned through three gallons of gas just keeping the engine running.
The location I found was adequate, though not spectacular. It was a boardwalk, but secured to pylons instead of floating. I secured my Nikon gear to the banister using my Magic Arm and set up my Pocket Wizard remotes to trigger the camera. Everything was fine until a strong wind started to blow across the area. It produced just enough camera shake that my photos were not as sharp as I would have liked. For the photos you see above I employed a mixture of HDR and LDR (“normal”) photos. The fireworks I shot as I always would using long exposures on a bulb setting. However, for the foreground and Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge in the distance I shot a series of bracketed photos after the fireworks that I merged into an HDR file using Photomatix Pro.
The result was a neat combination of techniques that led to some pretty unique Fourth of July fireworks photos. I was fairly pleased by the end of the day and utterly exhausted. My hotel was just two miles away which, unfortunately, took me 30 minutes to drive to with all the traffic leaving the fireworks. I crashed just before midnight and actually slept til noon the next day. Talk about being exhausted! The lady at the front counter of the hotel was extremely kind to me considering I checked out two hours later than the check out time. She took one look at my slightly sunburnt face, saw my limp from the blisters on my feet, and just gave me a great big Southern smile.
Everything felt better after that.
If you would like to view more photos from the galleries I mentioned here, use the links below:
About Jason Barnette
Jason Barnette is an internationally published travel photographer based in Myrtle Beach, SC. From here, Jason explores the Southeastern United States shooting photos of the travel industry, tourism, and beautiful landscapes. His photos focus on telling the story of a destination from beginning to end throughout all four seasons, highlighting landscapes, people, food, lodging, and entertainment. Through this blog, Jason publishes his best photos from specific assignments, travel destinations, parks, and projects.