Well I actually made it to the "Almost Annual Popanyinning and Surrounds Grand Bonfire Affair" fundraiser event run by the local progress association. It was touch and go. I have been trying to get there for about ten years but, for various reasons, never actually made it.
When I woke up on the Saturday morning I had more or less decided not to go as everyone else who I had tried to drag along—even using a bribe in one case—had all bailed out on me. But then as the day wore on I flipped and flopped, and probably changed my mind about ten times. Finally, at around 2:00 p.m. I made the final decision and chucked my brand-new Oz Trail portable camping chair—bought last Thursday night especially for going to the Bonfire Affair (seriously)—in the car and headed for Popanyinning.
It's normally about a 90 minute drive, but after stopping a few times along the way to take some pictures I finally arrived at my friend's place in Popanyinning at about 4:15 p.m. After the obligatory comforting cup of tea and a bit of chat about the general status of life and the universe in general, we headed down to the Popanyinning Greater Sports Ground at about 5:10. The ceremonial lighting of the bonfire was advertised to take place at 5:30 and I definitely wanted to be there to capture that on my 16GB SanDisk Pro Extreme SD memory card.
Fortunately when we got down there we had no trouble parking—in fact the designated parking area was basically empty so we could pick our parking spot among the local native bush.
I decided to take a few snaps of things being set up. Below you can see the heap of logs piled up for the bonfire, the live band going through their sound check routine, and the fireworks team setting up the fireworks out in the middle of the main oval.
Having seen the pile of logs for previous Popanyinning bonfire events I would just make the comment that I don't think this year's pile of timber is the largest bonfire pile I have seen being prepared.
Anyway, that point aside, right on 5:30 p.m. we had the lighting of the bonfire. As you can see, I was right in there with my camera catching this pivotal part of the whole Bonfire Affair on film … errr, on my SD Card.
At this point I felt compelled to offer a couple of suggestions—to anyone in earshot who might be listening—that might make next year's lighting of the bonfire a little more interesting. Firstly they could have coloured streamers draped over the logs, and if coloured streamers come in too heavy for the budget, then maybe just use toilet rolls. My thinking here was that 'kids' that come early could pay $2 for a streamer roll—which were bought by the Bonfire committee at the Reject Shop for 10 for $2 thereby making more money for the progress association—to throw over the pile of logs. Or they could use those little popper things that go bang and fire out a cluster of small coloured streamers?
Then, when the bonfire catches, you would have the fun of seeing your streamers go up in smoke!
My other really useful suggestion was that, to add a bit of glamour to which is really a rather drab affair, they should have Miss Popanyinning light the bonfire. If she doesn't want to get too close to the flames and such they could rig up some nifty fuse-style lighting mechanism. I was think that Miss Popanyinning might even be in high heels to really glam the affair up, but that might not work out given that the 'ground' is mostly blue metal and gravel. Dammit.
As the bonfire started to catch it became increasingly harder to toast marshmallows. The sticks got longer and longer, until after a very short time it became impossible for the kids to find a stick long enough to toast their marshmallows without their clothes bursting into flames.
Kids being kids, and the excitement of the idea for toasted marshmallows being high, they built a smaller fire away from the main bonfire that was custom designed for the toasting of marshmallows.
All the light you can see in the following image—which has an amber/orange cast—is coming from the main bonfire off to the right, and as you can sort of see the auto-white balance in the camera was not too sure what to do with this kind of main light. The engineers at Sony thought they had it all covered with moonlight, candle-light, flourescent light, sunlight, tungsten light, LED light, flash light . . . but nobody thought of bonfire light.
The following picture was taken at 6:20 so the fire had been going for about forty minutes.
You can see that the crowd is starting to build up now.
The fireworks kicked off close to 7:30 p.m.
At the beginning there was a low rumble going through the attending crowd that the fireworks display was going to be a bit of a letdown—a fizzer, so to speak. But after about five minutes all was forgiven as a great little fireworks display got its legs.
Happening where it was in a remote country town, the crowd was able to get a little closer to the action than would generally be the case at a city fireworks display. This made the in-air explosions loud and sharp in the still cold night air. This was appreciated by many of the young'uns in the crowd, but not so by some of the the very young.
After standing out on the oval watching the fireworks everyone is feeling chilled, so it's backs to the bonfire and warm up.
Look how well the matrix metering on the camera has handled this exposure factoring in the LED spotlight array on the right hand side, to the bonfire on the left, and the pitch black sky. It has done very well. The only thing I have done to this picture in PhotoShop is crop it. No exposure or lighting adjustments of any kind have been applied.
It wasn't long after this we left and went back to my friend's place for a cuppa tea before my long drive back to Kalamunda—which has a whole other story in it about a lost dog (seriously).
I am glad I went and if they have another one next year I will most likely go along again—but remember it is 'Almost Annual'; they don't have one every year (just had to get a semi-colon in this post somewhere).
And next year I will be bringing a few cans of beer along. Nobody friggin told me there was no bar there!! Seriously. A country town bonfire and there was NO BAR THERE!!
I will leave you with this close-up of a large bonfire's very hot smouldering centre. And yes, I think I can see the face of Jesus in there ... can you?
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