greglessardphotography.com: Articles


Adventures in Photography: Providence Waterfires
by Greg Lessard

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The fires burned brightly in the heart of Providence at the latest Waterfire. Dozens of bonfires lit the night sky as thousands of spectators watched them burn. Enchanting music from around the globe helped to create an atmosphere ideal for meditation and reflection. This breathtaking event is a must see for anyone with a pulse.
The Waterfires were created by Barnaby Evans in 1994. Since then, there have been more than 200 fires and millions of visitors.
Perfect for a romantic night out, the Waterfires are held throughout the summer and into the fall. For a truly spectacular night, you can hire one of the many gondolas that travel past the half mile of fires in the center of Providence. As the boats glide along the river, passengers are transported on a mystical journey away from the modern world.
In addition to the bonfires, fantastic musicians perform as part of the events. Everything from swing and Latin bands to the Rhode Island Philharmonic can be heard throughout the Waterfire season. Before listening to the bands, take a dance lesson and join the fun late into the evening.
If dancing the night away is not your thing, make a reservation at one of the many restaurants that line the waterway. Dining al fresco is certainly the way to go.


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The Waterfires start at sunset, which creates a fantastic beginning to the evening. As the sun sets over Providence, its glow is reflected off of the skyscrapers, serving as the perfect prelude to the evening’s festivities.
Once the initial smoke clears, the photographic feast has begun. From the fires to the boats to the spectators themselves, there are numerous opportunities for great images to be made. Some of my favorite subjects are the bridges that traverse the rivers. I often use them as the foundation for my compositions. I will carefully compose the image with a bridge on the border of the frame, while waiting for a gondola to be guided into the perfect position. Including some of the surrounding cityscapes can make for a truly interesting juxtaposition of modern buildings versus old world boats.


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The last full Waterfire of the year will be held on Saturday, October 9th at 6:14 PM. To get a good viewing spot along the river you should try to arrive at least an hour before sunset. Parking can be found throughout downtown Providence. Perhaps the most convenient parking spot is at the Providence Place parking garage. For more information on the Waterfires, visit Waterfires.org.


This Month’s Tip: Photographing at a popular event like the Waterfires can present many challenges. One of the toughest challenges will be making a sharp image of the moving boats in the low light of night. Try to use a high ISO (400 or higher) and a very low f stop (f 1.4 or f 2.8 would be ideal). This will give you the best chance for freezing the action.


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