The Seoul International Fireworks Festival would have taken place last month, had it not been cancelled due to swine flu. Amy and I therefore braved the tedious journey down to Busan (부산) for the fifth annual Busan Fireworks Festival, which is not “international” and therefore not a flu transmission risk. I was quite eager to have a go at photographing fireworks, and it was with no small sense of acquisitiveness that I raided my local Canon store for a tripod and remote control (Amy and her family had very kindly sponsored my shopping trip as a birthday present), essential equipment to take longer exposures and avoid blur.
We arrived in good time, a fresh breeze blowing off the land out into the bay at Gwangalli (광안리), and checked in to our hotel (the price of which reflected a 225 % markup on normal rates). When making reservations, we had tried to get the price reduced to something more reasonable and were rebuffed with a curt, “We’ve been waiting for this weekend all year” – we were also told that check-in was 7 pm, and had to fight to be allowed in at 3. As we went in and out over the course of the evening, we noted that the room prices were being increased by W10,000 every hour.
As the fireworks began, I was still frantically searching for a place to put my tripod (there were supposedly 1.5 million people crowding the beach) – people would trip over and walk into it for the next hour, despite a clear path on the road in front of us. I located a patch of sky and started taking photographs, only to realise after a few minutes that the manual focus wasn’t set correctly. Once this had been (mostly) remedied, my camera decided to shut down with the non-specific error 99. With some rapid testing, I was able to determine that I could “reboot” the camera by switching it off, changing to an automatic mode, removing the lens, replacing the lens and switching it back on, and that the error occurred when I tried to take a photograph in manual mode when the exposure meter was off-chart below -2 stops. I’m really hoping that this kind of behaviour doesn’t repeat itself, but was able to take a few shots of the end of the display.