Re-Lighting the Night Sky

Almost exactly one year ago I wrote how I lauded the decision to cancel Chapel Hill’s annual fireworks display.  While the economy is only inching its way back and can not yet be called healthy and while town leaders are certainly still making tough choices, this year I write that it was wonderful to have fireworks burst again over Kenan Stadium.

Why the change of heart?  Because this year, in an acknowledgement that we’re all in this life and this town and this country together, lots of different people found a way to share the burden.  Donations at the stadium contributed about $8,000 toward the approximate $42,000.  That 8-thousand came from suggested donations of $-$5 so that means an awful lot of people dug into their pocket.
More help came from some local businesses at the prodding of a really wonderful guy (full disclosure: I married him!):  Barry Leffler, CEO of WCHL and worked with the town to raise money from the following businesses: 

Money isn’t the only way people helped bring back a terrific celebration: Police and fire departments for both Chapel Hill and Carrboro report no incidents that evening suggesting that whether people gave money and/or good behavior, they contributed to a wonderful birthday party for the nation. 
Could this idea of working together to find solutions seep out of our terrific town and creep, if not to Washington, then maybe to Raleigh?  I don’t really think so but maybe next year I’ll once again be writing to tell you that things have changed since last year!
Did you enjoy the fireworks?  Are there other opportunities for joint solutions you’d like to suggest?  Write to me at or leave a comment below.

Sunrise Sunset

Happy (almost) Fourth of July everyone! I hope that many of you will be out having fun with your friends and family, attending Fourth of July events this weekend. You can see a local listing of events on the calendar.

If you are lucky, you might get to see and photograph a beautiful sunset this holiday weekend. On July 4th, 2011 the sun is setting at 8:36 p.m. That means that from about 8:00 to 9:00 p.m. is the “golden hour,” as photographers call it. This is a time where everything looks good! Sunrise has a golden hour, too, but few of us are awake and coherent enough at that hour to manage a good photo. So let me talk about sunset.
kpo photo
This image was taken at the aptly named Sunset Beach, North Carolina. I photographed the sunset without a tripod at these settings:

Camera: Canon 30D
ISO: 1000
Shutter Speed: 1/640
Aperture: 7.1
Lens: 200 mm
You really have to set the camera exposure manually as most cameras set on automatic take an average of all the light in this scene resulting in an overexposed sky. I just happened to record a miraculous moment in which two birds made their way inland for the evening. Perfect!

There will only be a 13% waxing moon on the 4th, but let me show you the last full moon, also taken from the Sunset Beach/ Ocean Isle area. There was a total eclipse that lasted for more than 100 minutes in parts of Asia, Europe and Africa- making it the longest since 2000 and one of the longest on record, but North America was not able to see it at all, at least they say. But I think it looked pretty darn cool.
kpo photo
The camera was on a tripod at these settings:

Camera: Canon 7D
ISO: 320
Shutter Speed: 0.6 seconds
Aperture: 2.8
Lens: 17-55 mm, at a focal length of 55mm

And with that I sincerely wish you all a safe and peaceful Independence Day! Good luck getting images of fireworks. The trick is to manually set the camera to a slow shutter speed on a tripod and then just hope for the best. It is kind of hit and miss but can yield some great results.

Please do not hesitate to ask if you have photography questions. I am also very open to suggestions for photo stories. If you know of a person or event you think deserves to be documented, please write to me at