New Year's Eve 2012 was clear and cold in Middletown and rather than huddle beside the TV to watch Dick Clark's postmortem Rockin' Eve, we ventured out into the darkness of the ranch and lit a bonfire to celebrate.
We had some trouble getting the fire going in the cold and the damp but when we finally got it burning hot enough, it took off.
In photographing the fire, the sparks were what got my attention. Over the period of exposure and against the black backdrop of the still moonless evening, the orange sparks left scurrying orange trails of light across the photo.
Individually the tiny spark trails were interesting, but together they formed a high column of complex twisted light, like a photo of a firework only wilder and more intricate. What I loved most about photographing the spark columns was that each one was distinct depending on how the hundreds of different sparks twisted skyward.
In order to allow enough time for the spark trails to really show up in the photos I had to lengthen the exposure time. This was problematic in that the light from the fire was too bright and overexposed parts of the picture, but it also gives an essence of white heat coming off the fire that I liked.
As we gathered around the bonfire we tuned our radio to the Old Crow Medicine Show New Years Eve Concert being broadcast from the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. With the sounds of banjos and fiddles streaming from the car stereo, and people dancing around the fire, it felt like something out of the movie Oh Brother Where Art Thou, or maybe Deliverance, depending on your taste or distaste for hillbilly antics. The only thing missing was the moonshine, though we did have a gallon of homemade apple cider that we passed around.