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Rockets’ Red Glare

America’s night on the Charles

My first memory of experiencing fireworks is as an Army brat. Stationed across the Potomac at Fort Myer, my dad would take us each Fourth of July to the National Mall to watch the fireworks cascading over the Washington Monument. I forever associate fireworks with patriotism.

But despite being the seat of federal government, Washington, D.C., didn’t yet exist on the original Independence Day, so Boston is historically a truer embodiment of patriotism. I have shot photographic images of our own patriotic rockets’ red glare each year since 1975, when Boston Pops maestro Arthur Fiedler made the Fourth fireworks a Boston tradition.

The artistic fun of shooting time exposures of fireworks is capturing what our eyes don’t see in real time — the colorful streaks of light emerging from each explosion continuing to trace patterns for as long as you care to keep the lens open. The enjoyment of photographing Boston’s fireworks, I find, is selecting a different vantage point each year. Over three decades, I’ve managed to literally surround the spectacle from all sides — even from above.

Wherever the location — from the Esplanade looking up or the Hancock tower peering down, aiming from the Longfellow Bridge toward Boston University or the Mass. Ave. Bridge toward Charlestown, from Beacon Hill rooftops looking over at MIT or Cambridge office towers staring back at the Back Bay, or from BU perches at the School of Law, the School of Management, or a Student Village dorm room — for me it’s always a favorite night.

Happy birthday, America.