Gunpowder Morning Noon and Night

Oy vey! I'm so behind on my blogging! I was so busy having fun at the pyro convention and visiting with the boys that I seriously neglected my writing. But now I've landed in Cody, Wyoming at one of the gateways to Yellowstone Park and I'm about to ameliorate the situation before I go off and play at one of our nation's most beloved national parks for a couple of days.

Let's see, then....Wednesday! Pyro from beginning to end, with Mark tucked in the middle! Wednesday morning I attended a class where I got to assemble a 6" shell. Most of the shells you see in a typical professional fireworks display are between 5 and 12 inches, so 6" is fairly large, really. The title of the class included the phrase "for ladies" when I registered and I was very curious to see why that was. When I heard the reasoning, I absolutely loved it: very often in the pyro community, when men and women are working together, the man will comandeer a thing when the woman encounters a difficulty. "Here, let me do it for you, little lady!" Well this class was for girls only so they could do it themselves and not have a man try and do it for them! We filled our shells with an assortment of effects (crackles, whistles, pops, colored bees), sealed them up good and then carefuly wrapped them in layers of filament and aluminum tape. Last but not least, we added a half dixie cup of gunpowder and some fuse to the bottom to get it into the air and then we were done. Don't I have a wonderful look on my face (above), displaying my finished shell? I absolutely LOVE doing this stuff!
When we took a quick lunch break between seminars, Kurt intrepidly engaged with the immense confection that the baker had dubbed a “Texas doughnut” for his dessert. I love how this picture makes him look like Alex in Wonderland - there should almost be a tag hanging from the doughnut that says “This one makes you bigger”.

After our lunch break, I headed out to the firing range to make a mini girandola with stuff you can find around the house (well, except most houses don’t have rockets laying around, I guess). We started with the bottom of a five gallon ice cream bucket and then used a template to cut out holes to make it a tad more aerodynamic and prepare it for zip ties. Consumer-grade-fireworks-stand rockets that have had their sticks removed are then zip tied to the exterior and finally, all the fuses are linked together with quickmatch. Voila! Mini-girandola! A little tiny baby version of the ten footer that almost landed in the bleachers Tuesday night. After I completed the Pink Hair Mother Ship, I took it over to the firing range, placed it on a metal rod that had been put there for just that purpose and put a torch to it. It lifted off the pole just fine, but then adopted a distinctly vertical trajectory that carried it parallel to the ground for about 100 feet. At least mine didn’t hop the fence and start a fire like another gal’s did! It was all very thrilling, nonetheless.

We took a quick break from the convention to run out to the airport and pick up Mark who had just flown in from Austin. I was so happy to see him! It'd been a little over three weeks since I'd seen him last. We hustled him into the minivan and drove right back to the Cam-Plex, however, because we didn't want to miss the anvil shooting! Wahooooo!

I was so excited to see anvil shooting. I had read about it and seen videos on youtube, but I'd never seen it in person. The concept is pretty simple: take two anvils (yes, those things blacksmiths use), stack one on top of the other, generally the heavier one on the bottom (called the shooting anvil) and the lighter one on top. Add 1/3 - 1/2 pound of gunpowder in the cavity between the two and light with a fuse. BAM! A detonation that you can feel hit your chest sounds as the top anvil is lofted high up in the air and then begins tumbling gracefully down, horn over heel, after reaching it's apogee. If you're lucky, it sticks in the ground horn first, like a dagger.

As soon as the four of us we got out to the field and plunked down, we were treated to a triple firing. The New York Times reporter and photographer who were covering the event sat right in front of us and were subject to my Bob Wills flavored cry of "Awwwww-HAWWWWWWW!!!" every time the anvils went up. Just as the demonstration ended, big heavy drops of rain started to come down, so we high-tailed it back to the hotel and the hot tub to remedy the situation. After all, we needed to rest up for the big public display fireworks show that night!
The show was incredible - well over an hour of amazing fireworks. Lots and lots of jaw dropping beauty.

Here are a dozen of my favorite fireworks photos from Wednesday night. Maybe you'll perceive a change that happened when I started trying to shoot beautiful abstracts instead of working to master photographing fireworks. I gained a whole new relationship with the images when I let go of the technological struggle. These excite all my color receptors and intrigue me with their shapes and forms in a way that straight on photographs wouldn't. I just love colored light, apparently!

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