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Independence Day in Tempe
Lens: A 50 f/1.2, Takumar 135 f/2.5, Sigma Super Wide II Camera: A7r Photo Location: Tempe Beach Park 
Posted By: scratchpaddy, 07-06-2014, 04:09 PM

It's been a while since I've posted a thread here, so I figured I'd share some of the Fourth of July celebration here in Tempe. Forgive me, as my chosen camera is no longer a Pentax, but at least most of the lenses are.

The festival on the south bank of the Salt River, just north of ASU, is the largest in Arizona. Every year, about 50,000 people brave the heat and headache-inducing parking situation to watch the fireworks over the river.

It took me two hours just to get out of the parking lot after the show last year, so I took the bus this time. Much easier, and much cheaper. I got there right as the gates were opening. People were already setting up camp in their chosen spots.

I'd rather not sit in the July sun for four hours just to get a good spot. I wandered around instead. Lots of things to see in the meantime. I wasn't worried about finding a spot; I had a secret one for when the time came.

In the hours before the fireworks, a series of bands played on a pretty impressive stage setup at the front of the park. The first band to play was called "Don't Tell Mom."

They were four kids ranging from 9 to 12 years old. I was playing violin at that age. Maybe I should have picked up Fender instead. Still, that's not to say I would have been anywhere near as good as these kids were.

There's a small waterpark at the north end, which is great, since the water in the river at the deceptively named "Tempe Beach Park" is not really for swimming.

It was only 99 that day, almost 10 below normal, but it was unusually humid, and the Arizona sun is always strong.

There were plenty of things for the kids to do. Rock climbing was one of them.

There was another where two kids had to compete to grab a beanbag, while big elastic bands held them back.

He may have outgrown the sippy cup, but you're never too old for a stroller.

At this point, I heard somebody shout, "HEY!" behind me. I turned around in case they were yelling at me. He was, and he had a badge. Without explanation, he came up and grabbed one of my arms. Another plainclothes cop appeared at my other side and grabbed my other arm. They dragged me over behind a row of porta-potties and took my license. One of the guys started radioing it in. The other demanded to know who I was, and what I was doing here.

I'd paid my admission, and my bag had the little green tag showing it had been inspected at the gate. I couldn't fathom what they were mad about. "I'm walking around, taking pictures," I said. Duh?

"We've been following you," the first cop said. "We saw you take a picture of those two little girls in the wagon."

I was incredulous. I've been taking pictures all day, just like thousands of other people, and suddenly, it's a crime. He demanded to see my pictures. I should have refused, since he had no right, but I had nothing to hide, so I went through my pictures with him. Of course, there was nothing on there even remotely inappropriate. I'm not even sure what would be inappropriate. They were acting like they'd caught me in the women's room, taking pictures under the stall walls.

I had to wait there about ten more minutes with the two cops while they waited to hear back from HQ, just to make sure I wasn't a registered pedophile or something. I should at least give them credit for not stereotyping, since I'm hardly anyone's image of a sex offender. People still call me a kid. Some people ask me what high school I go to, even though I'm in my mid-twenties.

Finally, they let me go. "Don't be weird like that," the first cop said. They've been following me around for no reason, and I'm the weird one. Okay.

It was almost dark by this time. I had been looking for something to eat when the police grabbed me, but I kind of lost my appetite after that. Instead, I went over and set up in the same spot I had last year. It's crazy. Nobody thinks to take it, but it's the best spot in the park, in my opinion.

I was on a broad barrier beside the steps leading up to some office towers, sitting beside some fake cacti planters. I had a perfect elevated view of the bridge where they launch the fireworks from. There was some delay, but the fireworks finally started around 9:30.

A few more people had joined me on the barrier. I was like the guy on the left, with my camera where the guy on the right was. It was on a little plastic pocket tripod, none too sturdy, but I had a remote to keep from touching and shaking the camera at all.

If you click to look at the full-size version of this picture, you can see that a few people had an even better spot than me: up on top of the KPMG tower. There was a guy on the roof, and few more on the balcony two floors down. Lucky!

I still had a good spot.

After the finale, 50,000 people poured out into the streets of downtown Tempe, which were mostly closed to cars around to the park.

At the barrier between the temporary pedestrian zone and traffic, a line of mounted police stood guard. It's not like there was any danger of wandering pedestrians getting hit by cars past the line, though. Traffic wasn't moving. At all.

People kept stopping to take selfies with the horses.

It only took me an hour to get home on the bus. Much improved over last year. And I wasn't in jail, somehow.
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07-06-2014, 07:37 PM   #2
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Dude! I admire you for keeping your cool, then staying and still getting some great fireworks photos. Had that scene with law enforcement happened to me, it would have trashed my whole night, and probably the rest of the week for me! I get soooo wound up when I read about things like this happeniing. I could go on a five page rant right here, but, I won't. I'm glad you were able to go forward with your night. Good job. So, you adapt the Pentax lenses to the a7? How does focusing work for you?
07-07-2014, 04:17 PM   #3
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Yeah, I was pretty upset about it, but I've been looking forward to this event for a while, and I wasn't going to let the police stop me. I always like big events like this, since everyone has a camera, and many of them are much bigger and more intimidating than my own. For once, walking around with a serious camera taking pictures isn't unusual at all. That's what I thought, anyway. It's never been a problem before.

Focusing with the a7 is easy enough with the focus peaking. I haven't gotten any slower or less accurate (or better, for that matter) than with the K-5 and KatzEye split-prism focusing screen. It's a fun little camera, but I do miss the Pentax build quality and ergonomics, and open-aperture metering with A lenses.

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