Inside Scoop on Tonight’s Fireworks

Ready for Combate Naval!

Yes, the huge Carnaval fireworks show, Combate Naval (click through to see photos from 2017), has been moved north this year. It will take place between Casa del Marino on the north and the Monumento a la Vida/dolphin monument on the south. And it won’t happen till 11 pm, in hopes that people (normal, un-police escorted people) can make the show after the coronation.

But stop worrying about the view. You won’t have to crane your neck to see any of the gorgeous fireworks that are normally launched from the beach, nor those incredible aquatics; all fireworks this year will be aerial. Meaning, they will launch high up, from one of five barges in the bay, so that all can see. We will all, regardless of where we are standing or, if you’re lucky, sitting, be able to enjoy the show!

I got a behind-the-scenes look while Lux Pirotecnia set up the barges today, with help from Big Bang Fireworks out of Calgary. You may remember my full behind-the-scenes explanation last year. In 2018 I got up and personal with the barges and the crew putting it all in place. While I was there, the first two barges were complete and undergoing final testing; three barges remained to be finalized. Yet the fishermen were waiting anxiously, saying that the barges needed to be pulled out now while the surf was calm, because the later in the afternoon it gets the surf will get higher and the fireworks equipment loaded on the barges in more danger of getting wet. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

Crew member Mike Toth gave me a brief tour of what they were assembling on the barges:

It can take from two hours to a full day to program just one minute of a fireworks show, depending on how complex it is. Every single firework is labelled with “Mazatlán Carnaval,” the event and date, and then it has a number. That number indicates where the charge goes, and in what order; the “choreography” or design is listed out in a black waterproof folder and constantly consulted by the crew as they assemble.

Everyone has their role and they know what it is; the coordination among them is pretty incredible. They are all assembled in order, then wired and connected to black boxes. If something is not connected properly, a light shows up on the control panel, and an error shows in the computer. I found myself very welcome on the barges this afternoon, until, barge by barge, the fireworks were connected and ready. Once everything is set, I was not allowed to board the barge with the finished and ready to go fireworks, nor was anyone besides Jorge and his “number one.” Thank goodness, as at that point they basically could fire off anytime.

Big Bang owner Dan Roy spoke to me about how our Carnaval fireworks are world class, one of the biggest and best shows you’ll find anywhere on the planet. This same crew did Mexico’s bicentennial in Mexico City, so he knows big shows!

I also interviewed crowd favorite, German Klaus Ulrich, the flame expert. You’ve seen and felt his flame throwers during the coronations and during the fireworks shows:

We will be attending our god son’s wedding this evening, and I will have to miss my favorite night of the entire year. Please, please take photos and videos and share them with us! I will be forever grateful. Enjoy!

Blessings in the New Year!

We had a hard time deciding what to do for New Year’s this year. We’ve done the Machado a few times; it’s great, but the music is too loud for Greg’s ears and there are not great fireworks there. We’ve done the dinner and dancing at a hotel or restaurant; also a lot of fun, but we were feeling more casual this year. Friends kindly and generously invited us to their homes, but we needed something more simple yet memorable and special. We wanted time to reflect, as well as to hope, to celebrate what we loved about 2017 and to let go of and learn from what we didn’t. We all agreed the total solar eclipse was the highlight of the year.

Greg and I planned a romantic picnic, with a citrus salad, jamón ibérico, smoked salmon and champagne, on the beach in the Golden Zone so we could watch the myriad fireworks displays. The best New Year’s gift EVER was that Danny decided to forego his invitations as well, and spend NYE with his parents! We were psyched! God bless the 22 year old! It was the perfect night for us: live music from the Hotel Playa, good food and drink, and incredible fireworks—with views from the Golden Zone to Olas Altas. There were at least ten different sets of professional fireworks we watched, and loads of those launched by families and groups of friends. The beach rocked. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

We trust your celebrations have been wonderful, and that 2018 will bring Mazatlán, and you and yours, peace, joy and prosperity. Thank you, Lord, for a year of health and joy, much travel and new adventures. Please help Danny in his upcoming, hopefully last semester of university, and in his job quest. May Greg run fast and far, and may my health, and my photography, get stronger and stronger.

Bless you all!

Fireworks Extraordinaire!

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FIREWORKS
By now if you read these pages you know I love fireworks. In Mazatlán we are blessed with displays most every weekend, sometimes almost every night. People launch fireworks at weddings, quinceaños, birthday and anniversary parties, restaurant grand openings… you name it. During Christmas and New Year’s we’ll see even more. I’m living in the right place! On Thanksgiving last week we enjoyed two wonderful, unexpected shows, and last Friday I counted five different fireworks shows that I could see just from our house. Since many of them take place over the ocean, it’s a site to behold.

Annually our two best city-wide shows are, of course, the Combate Naval and the Festival de la Luz ; click on either link in the highlighted text to see photos of previous editions of those events. If you love fireworks or photography like I do, you might also want to look at some pics I took over the summer while visiting relatives in southern Wisconsin: fireworks on Lake Michigan and another set on Lake Tichigan.

FESTIVAL DE LA LUZ
This year was the tenth anniversary of the Festival de la Luz, an annual show put on by the Tres Islas Hotel Association on the Saturday night between events of the Gran Maratón del Pacífico. To me it’s my favorite fireworks display of the year, because the whole bay of Mazatlán lights up, with around 50,000 people along the four kilometers of the malecón all getting a clear and joy-filled view. Combate Naval, held in conjunction with Carnavál, is a wonderful show, but the Olas Altas area gets so very crowded that viewing it takes lots of planning and effort. It’s not an event for the elderly, the differently abled, or the faint of heart, while Festival de la Luz is accessible to everyone. Click on any photo below to enlarge it or view a slideshow. Yes, I think Torre M’s marketing department needs to give me a call. 😉

The hotel association built up our anticipation that the tenth anniversary show would be the best ever in Mazatlán, that there would be new sorts of fireworks that we’ve never seen, and that what might seem like an error would really be a surprise. There were 15 launch points set up around our bay, 10,000 fireworks to shoot, and the show was supposed to last 30 minutes. Needless to say, I was PSYCHED!

PHOTOGRAPHING FIREWORKS
To take good fireworks photos, I’ve learned that a key is to scout a location ahead of time. Having a good foreground (e.g., beach, boats, people, scenery or reflections in water) gives perspective. I feel you need to choose whether to shoot the fireworks close-up or far away, as doing both requires too many changes in settings, and the shows don’t allow you the luxury of time. I suppose there are those who use two cameras, with two different settings, but I’m not that multi-dexterous. I’ve also learned that you can not guarantee good shots as there are so many variables out of the photographer’s control: the wind (never know which way the smoke will blow), the clarity of the air (Mazatlán’s salty air clouds photos taken at a distance), the quality of the fireworks show itself, and, of course, luck—if you happen to catch that one incredible launch or not.

The location from which I took photos last year wouldn’t work this year: it was now right under one of the launch sites, and I decided that the light from the fireworks would be too bright, and at unpredictable distances, for my shots. There was also much more ambient light there as well this year. Greg helped me find a new location where we could get the panoramic views we wanted. It took some negotiation, but we got permission to shoot from there, and a friend and I set out early that evening to set up.

cohetes ready

Photo from 2015 set up

2016 FESTIVAL
Well, instead of the advertised 30 minutes, the show this year lasted about 18 minutes. We didn’t have the flyboarders, not that I missed them, and I sure didn’t see anything so new and different that we haven’t seen here before, so I’m not sure what the surprise was. There was quite a wind blowing out the shapes of the fireworks very quickly. Thus, the show didn’t quite meet the 10th anniversary hype; that happens. My disappointment, however, was the apparent lack of coordination between the launch locations. What’s so great about Festival de la Luz is that you’ve got so many launches around the bay choreographed into a mesmerizing overall “WOW!” factor.

While I went out to take photos, Greg stayed home to watch the fireworks from a closer venue. He said there was only one man working the display in front of our house (one of the 15 launch locations), and it seemed the wind kept blowing out his torch. You may have seen the fireworks on the beach; they are hand-positioned and hand-lit. Nothing much seems computerized. The pyrotechnicians at different spots seem to have radios to coordinate their actions.

In 2015, you might recall, we had perfect fireworks conditions: a hurricane on the weekend of the marathon had cleared the air and the night was perfectly still, making it ideal for photography.  That same hurricane took out at least one of our fireworks launch locations, but fortunately the rest were saved. This year we had very salty air, lots of humidity, and combined with the wind far from ideal conditions. Below I’ll post some photos from 2015 and from 2016, to give you a feel of the difference. Click to view them larger and see which year is which. Let me know what you think.

I contacted José Manguart at Tres Islas to ask him about my perceptions, but so far I haven’t heard back from him. If I do, I will update this post with his comments. I’m not sure, therefore, if all went as planned, or if there were snafus. Either way, it was still a spectacular show, easily accessible, and free for so many thousands of people! Any disappointment is only because we are incredibly spoiled!

We are so blessed! I thank the Tres Islas Hotel Association for doing this for us every year. The Noroeste said there was 100% hotel occupancy over marathon weekend, and I know lots of friends were able to rent out rooms as well. It’s so encouraging to see Mazatlán hosting events that promote health and fitness, and also bring economic boom. Do let me know what you thought of the show, and the photos. Thank you!

Festival de la Luz 2014

DSC_0120 - Version 2©Last night’s Gran Maratón del Pacífico fireworks, called the Festival de la Luz, were spectacular! As usual we watched them from our pool deck with a few friends who happened by.

I love being in the middle of the 15 launch locations here, but I’m always pulled and torn which way to look: left, right or forward. There is no way to capture the magnitude of the event all in one glance or photo from the middle of things. On the other hand, being in the center of things does rock… One year I do want to go to one end or the other to watch them, as the perspective would be so different. It’s just so comfy sitting at home with a glass of vino!

I got out the tripod and did my best to capture some of the glory of the evening’s main event. It’s fun to finally be learning and practicing how to use all the manual settings on my camera. I’ll eventually get there. Thank you for your encouragement during my learning journey! Click on any photo to enlarge or view a slideshow.

This year this terrific annual event included four flyboard performances. The flyboarders performed at different locations around the bay. One was very close to us; it started with one performer and ended with two. I spliced footage from the fireworks and the flyboard together in the movie below. Enjoy!