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My infatuation with Fireworks began with the childhood joy of setting off firecrackers in the back yard. I'm still mesmerized by the thunder and colorful palate of a fireworks pageant, and I now possess a large collection of pyrotechnic images.
Remember when you were 10 years old and your grandpa gave you a pack of lady fingers on the 4th of July?
You could hardly wait to find a couple of buddies and go blow them off! And they were so precious that you rationed them one at a time. Well ... some of us just never grew up!
The one big difference is that now I can afford those little Chinese crackers and blow up as many as I want. I was always intrigued with fireworks, but photography gave my interest an even stronger push over the past few decades. But to get really good fireworks photos, it helps to have a comprehension of the chemistry and physics at work. The Pyrotechnics fraternity is the second great brotherhood that  I belong to. Fireworks technicians and pyro artists the world over share the same emotional bond. Who can make new colors and patterns, or a bigger bang? 
 2000 Robert Burch Communications Since 1985, Montreal has hosted the most prestigious Fireworks Competition in the world: "The Golden Jupiter Award". Each summer the skies over the Saint Lawrence River echo with the thunder of thousands of shells and aerial bombs when up to ten countries compete for the coveted trophy. To win is to be acknowledged the best in the world. The shows are set to music in what is known as a 'Pyromusicale'. Up to 500,000 people crowd the Old Port, the Jacques Cartier Bridge and the grounds of the La Ronde Amusement Park to witness the half hour spectacles. I have been the photographer for the event organizers since its inception. It has given me the chance to meet some of the world's best pyro technicians and has motivated me to travel to some of the best fireworks events in the United States.

Long live the "Orgasm of the Retina".

The preparations for a Jupiter show can take several days, entailing a crew of 50 or more technicians. As many as 10,000 shells can be involved. In this photo, Jim Shih of China's Sunny Fireworks supervises the installation of 8 inch shells in a bank of mortars for China's entry: "The Yellow River". Most shows are fired by computer.

The times required to lift the shell and the delays before they explode are precisely calculated to ensure proper synchronization with the music. Various effects are achieved using combinations of fireworks. Aerial shells, candles, strobes, rockets, pinwheels, fountains, gerbs and ground displays are blended with the rich vocabulary created by the industry over hundreds of years. A variety of audio effects are also used from crackles, whistles and pops to blockbuster explosions and salutes. Soundtracks often feature the classics along with popular music and themes from movies and Broadway shows.

 1996 Robert Burch Communications
 1994 Robert Burch Communications  
By day there are seminars on all there is to know about fireworks. Amateurs and novices are welcome and gain an opportunity to learn from veterans. Shown here is the "Class C" tent where members can purchase items to shoot off under supervision.
Over time I came to know several people who convinced me to join the Pyrotechnics Guild International, a global organization dedicated to safety and the advancement of fireworks. Each summer PGI holds a convention that features nightly spectaculars and competitions.
Enthusiasts can roughly be divided into two camps. There are those who like to create color and pattern, building aerial shells that break multiple times and produce interesting effects. And there are those who like to make noise. The Ground Bomb range can get very loud! And of course, the public is invited to attend the nightly displays offered by manufacturers and individual competitors. It's important to note that safety is always the first concern.
All events are conducted with an emphasis on security. One of the highlights of the Convention is the lighting of the "Superstring" - consisting of several million tiny lady finger firecrackers lit at once! You can not imagine the deafening roar produced by such miniscule fireworks. The art of pyrotechnics dates back nearly 1000 years; it's no wonder it continues to generate the same excitement today. And the future promises more advances - new colors, intricate designs and ...