Fireworks…and a Fire!


My wife and I set out for Tumamoc Hill to watch the annual fireworks show over Sentinel Peak, locally known as “A” Mountain, near our home in Tucson, Arizona. I had envisioned something like the picture below, plus fireworks:

Saguaro Silhouette against City Lights, Tucson, Arizona, 18 July 2015. Nikon D800, 300mm f/4E PF, 30 sec, f/11, ISO 100.

But Tumamoc Hill was closed for the show. I was somewhat despondent and without a backup plan, but we drove around the south side of “A” Mountain looking for another saguaro that could be used in the foreground. We parked along the side of Starr Pass Road and I set up my tripod on the shoulder, a bit nervous about all the cars going by. The spot wasn’t ideal, but the somewhat nasty brushy foreground disappeared into blackness anyway, so it worked.

It is, needless to say, invariably very hot and often very dry in Tucson for the Fourth of July; this is about when the summer monsoons come, bringing rain, but they haven’t started yet this year. So, it is pretty common for the fireworks to start brushfires, although I had never watched the fireworks from this direction where I could see the fires. I don’t know if this was a bigger fire than usual, but it seemed pretty impressive.

Fourth of July Fireworks (before the Brushfire), Sentinel Peak, Tucson, Arizona, 4 July 2017. Nikon D800, 28mm f/1.8G, 20 sec, f/6.7, ISO 100.

I just brought my Think Tank Citywalker 10 shoulder bag and my tripod. I didn’t bring too many lenses with me and biased them towards the wide-angle, which was fortunate: a Nikon 20mm f/1.8G, Nikon 28mm f/1.8G, the tiny Voigtlander 40mm f/2, and a Nikon 85mm f/2.8 PC-E. I used them all, in the end. I started with the 28mm, which was about perfect, but switched to the 20mm so I could include the fire on the right side of the frame. I used a small flashlight to eyeball the focus on the infinity mark for the wide-angles and checked the focus by chimping. I switched to the 85mm for the final shot of the fire once the fireworks were over; since I was below the saguaro, I shifted the lens up to (mostly) preserve the perspective.

Fourth of July Fireworks and Brushfire, Sentinel Peak, Tucson, Arizona, 4 July 2017. Nikon D800, 20mm f/1.8G, 20 sec, f/8, ISO 100.
Saguaro Silhouetted by Fourth of July Celebratory Brushfire, Sentinel Peak, Tucson, Arizona, 4 July 2017. Nikon D800, 85mm f/2.8 PC-E, 15 sec, f/8, ISO 100.

Part of me just wanted to give up and go home when Tumamoc Hill was inaccessible, but I’m glad I found a new spot to watch the fireworks high overhead. And I did get my saguaro silhouette in the foreground, which gives some context as far as location. Next year I might try the Marriott Starr Pass resort’s fireworks show. Not as big, but access is less restricted.