An All American Town and Fireworks Display...

Tonight I yield the blog to a guest who's not a blogger yet, but an absolutely fantastic photographer and Father to my Grandsons, my "Son" J.  J had this to say today...Before I sign over to J, let me first say that all the different fireworks displays that Dave and I have seen over the years, the display in Jefferson, Texas is ever so special.  The pride of being an American shows in this East Texas town and once bitten by that pride, you'll feel it too. 
Paul and his trusty steed warning that the red coats are coming

Jefferson is a small East Texas Town that holds so much history and secrets, that makes one want to come back time after time to try to uncover those secrets. Because of those secrets it is heavily active with the paranormal. I have been on one of Jefferson's Ghost Walks and I did experience "something". This small town has some of the best preserved pre Civil War homes and if they could tell their stories, oh my what stories they would be.  My "son" J has many personal stories of the supernatural experienced there in the town. Truly, what does lurk there in the shadows?

I now turn it over to J...

We once again celebrated this great nation's birthday in Jefferson, TX and yet again, they didn't fail to amaze! This year we went earlier than usual to watch the children's parade and participate in the kids activities (and a homemade ice cream contest!).
Noah and Andy watching the children's parade
We had a blast, as usual! However, this year, I want to dedicate this album to the memory of the greatest patriots I've had the pleasure to know and love: Dave Smeal. He passionately loved this country he wasn't born in, but called home most of his life. His patriotism isn't something that was debatable to even questionable, it was felt and shared. If everyone born in this country had the national pride he did, this would be a different and happier place right now. I will work to instill the love of country and fellow citizens he had in his grand kids, so that his legacy may live on through them (and maybe their generation). The other thing he was passionate about was photography and we both loved fireworks and capturing them. Last year we talked about experimenting with how to photograph them, playing with how we could "push" the art form. I continued that this year with him on my mind the whole time. And I think they turned out pretty cool! These are for you Dave!

Noah loves his turtles!

The boys being extra good getting their
faces painted.

Our little Patriot!

The "Crew" waiting for the show to start.

 Having fun with glow sticks, J managed to capture lots of fun colors and designs.

1. This one looked like a colorful dandelion ready to fly!































As you can see, J loves to experiment with color and motion.

Tell me in the comment box below, which one is your favorite.

Mine is 18, as it looks like Dave's spirit in flight!

We hope you had a wonderful 4th of July, celebrating and remembering the hardships and sacrifices that our Founding Fathers so willingly fought and died for, to make this country a great nation that the world looks up to today.  We are exceptional! Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.  

Have your ever read all four stanzas of the Star Spangled Banner 
by Francis Scott Key?
 They are worth reading.  As Americans we only know the first stanza which is the one we sing.
Francis Scott Key wrote those words as the battle raged overnight September 13, 1812.  Key, accompanied by the British Prisoner Exchange Agent Colonel John Stuart Skinner were aboard the HMS Tonnant trying to negotiate the release of prisoners.  Unable to leave the ship when the battle began Key and Skinner had to watch helplessly as the British fired on Fort McHenry.  Salvo after salvo was aimed at the fort. Key penned the words to the poem during the battle. As the sun rose the next morning, there stood, proudly waving in the breeze "Old Glory"

The Star Spangled Banner

Oh, say can you see, by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines on the stream:
'Tis the star-spangled banner! O long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore 
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion
A home and a country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wiped out their foul footstep's pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heaven-rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Remember...When it comes to freedom, one must not become complacent, but vigilant. For a government that is big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have.
                                                                                  Thomas Jefferson


  1. I like #19 and #27 myself. Please tell you SIL that he did a marvelous job with those photographs. Some could definitely be enlarged and framed....very beautiful.

  2. Oh my word, I loved them all. If I owned a house I would hang all of them on my walls. Fabulous photography. Thank you for sharing. I would love to know how he captured those.

  3. Thank you so much for making me the center of your latest blog feature! I am deeply honored by your thoughts and kind words. And to all else that complimented my work, thank you! It's hard to call this work, however, it's so much fun. It's kind of funny how I got into this type of photography specifically. I was a fine arts student, dabbling in paints, pastels, inks, sculpture, and design all the while feeling the pressure from both David and Heather to take a photo class. I finally did and started to see what they loved about it. But it wasn't until my first assignment to do delayed exposure night photography that I really felt that "click". It was like seeing another world (and I'm a bit of a fantasy/sci-fi nut so....). And that was in black and white! Two semesters later I started working with color. I struggled! I couldn't find my niche. Everything was just uninteresting and bland (and my teacher agreed!). Until I finally turned off the lights, waiting until mid-night, broke out the tripod and shutter release, and had some fun! I found out that color night photos are even more surreal and "other-worldly" than black and white was! I was hooked! Anyway, years went by, I switched to digital, and it occurred to me that it might be fun to shoot some fireworks, just to see what happens. And why not? I wouldn't be wasting film anymore anyway! And I couldn't believe it! With the right settings and timing, the entire firework could be captured from its launch to its full fallout! No way the human eye can see it like that. It was more than a moment in time captured like a regular photo: it was a span of time captured in one photos! So Dave and I talked about it and he constantly complimented me as well as pushed me to do more. Two years ago I played with moving the camera on the tripod as it exposed, creating zigzags and lines. It was interesting, but I was kinda disappointed, since anyone with a shaky hand and no tripod could do the same. :) Last year I happened to see a blog that talked about playing with the focal length while exposing. Now THAT was an interesting idea. Dave and I talked about it and I tried it out on a few. Results were pretty cool but I was a little too timid to really just go all out. Which is what I did this year! I started changing tempos and varying the way I moved the focal length (zooming the lens back and forth, fyi). I the really fun part is that I have no idea what I'm capturing until I get home because I just keep exposing the camera as quickly as one finishes to start the next one. The show in Jefferson TX is quite spectacular and everyone should plan a trip to visit at least once. It’s the oldest city in TX (originally the farthest inland port due to a river that connected it to New Orleans) and its mostly preserved (although it used to be a huge port city, it’s now just a small town. They redirected the river and port dried up.). It feels like a town out of time. That atmosphere combined with the amazing Independence Day celebration, it really feels like you've taken a trip back in time. Anyway, this year I dedicated my 4th photos to David, since he was my inspiration, motivator, and coach. As I was taking these, I was having a nice conversation with him in my head: "Ok, Dave, if I do "this", what do you think will happen? Yeah, let’s do it!" LOL. And I could hear that contagious laugh as we went along. Ok, as for my favorites: hmmmm.... I love 7 because it looks like an Angel with a halo, 11 makes me think of Star Trek/Wars and going warp speed, 13 makes me think of a Laser Celestial Spider! 16 because it looks like those little loops could be reached out and picked up, 18 also, but I saw a dragonfly, and 32 because I LOVE the RED WHITE AND BLUE! Again, thank you for all the kind words. It’s nice to know that people appreciate my little hobby.

  4. By the way, I do have a web site and I haven't yet added my photo art to it for purchase just yet, I will be doing so in the coming months (hopefully). I'll have a section just for the fireworks, but I'll also have floral, architectural, still life, nature, and animals. I've done a number of weddings and portraits, but I rarely show off my Artwork, so I think it might be time to. I also have started doing logos, print designs, and photoshop work. Trying to stay busy! If you want to see my other works: is the site. And it’s not just my work, but also my lovely and wonderful wife (Susie's oldest daughter), Heather!

  5. I love #5 the best! But all of them are great! I would like to know how you get these to turn out so good!!
    Susie - I hope you are doing better with your loss.

  6. If anyone would like to see the rest of my fireworks photos collection (or, perhaps even purchase a few...?), I have them all online at my site: Its my full collection from over maybe 7-8 years. Its so much fun to look through them now and see the little differences in not just how I shot them but also how the enviroment/weather can effect them. One year it was very humid and you can see how the smoke just hung around, making cool color changing backgrounds. Anyway, I glad you guys enjoy them and thanks for all the kind words!


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