Brisbane Festival went out with a bang in the form of the Sunsuper Riverfire spectacle on Saturday 28th September. It’s an extravagant symphony of aerial and ground effects, culminating with the Australian Defence Force (ADF) aerial flyovers and a choreographed firework display.
Normally I venture into Southbank or Kangaroo point for my vantage spot. The last time I went, back in 2010, I was late, and my viewing spot was less than desirable. This time, I tried my luck at Wilson’s Outlook, a vantage spot overlooking the Story Bridge with the city skyline for a background. I visited the night before to check out the view. Views of the rails, and no one else in sight. How that was to soon change!
View from Wilson’s Outlook the night before Rivefire.
With the reconnaissance night being successful, I assumed claiming a vantage spot at 2:30pm, so early in the day for a 7pm firework display was ample time. It would also have given me a chance to capture the aerial flyovers earlier in the day prior to the final event. Turned out I wasn’t the only one with that location idea. You know what they say when you assume, it makes an… Yeah no need to continue. I arrived with excitement to Wilson’s Outlook with camera and tripod in tow, only to find people with tents pitched, cheese platters, and alcoholic refreshments to keep them going. I wanted to join them, I wanted to be them, but alas, I was too late for that particular direct angle of the Story Bridge and I had to find a new spot! I begrudgingly made my way half way up the hill toward the Story Bridge. I found a spot and set up. Wonderful! I was pleased. I really wanted to shoot the Story Bridge this year because it recently underwent a $1.3 million lighting upgrade allowing it to change colour essentially at the flick of the switch. I had to make the most of this; I was certain they would incorporate it into the spectacle, and I was glad for my vantage spot!
Story Bridge secondary vantage spot near Wilson’s Outlook. The boat down the bottom left of this shot would actually have been annoying in my original shot, as it moved constantly and made for a nuisance motion blur. I even had enough time to attempt a quick star trail photo; the beginnings of which can be seen in this photo.
First up were the ADF aerial displays which were staggered throughout the day, synchronously altering between the Super Hornets, and the Eurocopter Tiger and MRH90 Helicopters. My first attempt at capturing the Super Hornets fly by at 3:30pm was abysmal. They were faster (and noisier) than I expected and I couldn’t focus in time. I had to learn fast, and for their 5:40pm show, I think I did. I’d seen the helicopters practice throughout the week, but they were still as enjoyable to watch come game day.
MRH90 Helicopter flying toward the Wheel of Brisbane at Southbank – This is from earlier in the week during a practice run.
Super Hornet passing the Story Bridge at 3:30pm.
Super Hornet passing the Story Bridge at dusk.
They were just the by product of the day though as I along with the other 500,000 odd people waited for the main event at 7:04pm; the final Super Hornet fly over and the detonation of the first firework.
Light trail of the Super Hornet flight path, and the first firework ignition of Riverfire 2013.
Sunsuper Riverfire lit up the city at 7:05pm in a pyrotechnic explosion of colour and noise. For 20 minutes, 6,000 fireworks, from 19 locations around Brisbane, were meticulously ignited.
Before I knew it, Riverfire was over for another year. As the smoky aftermath of the fireworks consuming the night sky slowly started to fade, the crowd began to disperse making their way home. With my memory card filled, I packed up my gear and made my own way home, stopping off for a well earned drink to reflect on the day and eagerly view what I captured.
It was a typically great event, one that I always appreciate – the co-ordination of such a big event is something I truly value and there need to be more events like this each year. There’s something about fireworks that I will always enjoy; I’ll be the old man in 50 years time still marvelling and ‘oohing’ and ‘ahhing’. If I’m in the country, I’ll be there again next year, this time, earlier than anyone else, and equipped with a sleeping bag and stash of food!
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