First Night

December 30, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

First NightFirst NightAs the chapter closes on one year, the fireworks show at Portsmouth, New Hampshire's annual First Night celebration helps to ring in the next. "An optimist stays up until midnight to see the new year in.
A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves."
William E. Vaughan

I no longer usher in the new year when the clock strikes 12. What does that make me? A realist? :)  

Actually, I do welcome the year - it's simply a few hours after everyone else, just as the darkness begins to lift. Somewhere in the great outdoors, camera in hand, I watch the day break and photograph it as it happens.

Truth be told, New Year's is my least favorite holiday. Living in New England softened my attitude - just a little - in part because of First Night. Conceived of in Boston and introduced in 1975, by the time I moved to New Hampshire First Night had become quite a "thing" and expanded beyond Beantown; Portsmouth had one, too. One of the hallmarks of the celebration is fireworks. The magic elixir. How can I say no to fireworks? 

While I did go into Boston one year for the festivities, it was a lot easier to stick around the Seacoast. 

On New Year's Eve I'd head into town to photograph the fireworks display which - happily - takes place in the evening rather than at midnight before it's bone-chillingly cold. At 8pm it's just frigid! 

The next morning it was off to the ocean, where I'd sit in the darkness waiting for the sun to come up. Sometimes there'd be a handful of other people out there along the shoreline, too. They were in on the secret. There's no better way to start the new year than watching the day unfold.

The New Year's Eve fireworks situation is more of a challenge here in Teton Country; it's a bit of a drive and the weather is often dicey - but I'm planning on being at Grand Targhee Ski Resort tomorrow when the torchlight parade begins. Assuming that works out, early on Saturday I'll be in position and ready to photograph the first morning of 2022 on the western slope of the Teton Range. Will I be gifted a sunrise? The cloud cover app says it's unlikely but hope springs eternal.

Stay tuned, though: Mother Nature may derail all my grand planning.

After a mostly dry December (exceptionally dry), the sky has opened up. It began snowing on Christmas Eve and has barely stopped since then. I've lost track of how many times I've cleared my driveway. Surprisingly, the mountains are now ahead of the December average snowfall. The lion's share of that powder has come in the last week.

All that snow - along with high winds - has made a mess of the roads, some of which have been closed intermittently. Pretty much everything between Eastern Idaho and Western Wyoming was shut down on Tuesday. 

It's snowing as I write this. Again. (Still.) We'll see what happens.

Happy New Year!

"To make an end is to make a beginning."
T.S. Eliot

CountdownCountdownNew Year's Eve torchlight parade and fireworks at Snow King - Jackson's oldest ski hill (1936) and the first ski area in Wyoming. (Jackson, Wyoming)

About the photographs

Above: The landmark North Church in Portsmouth, New Hampshire pairs beautifully with fireworks. For many years the church's steeple was visible from nearly everywhere downtown as well as from across the river in Maine, though recently constructed buildings have unfortunately eliminated some of those sightlines. On this First Night I photographed the fireworks from the top of the parking garage just a block away from the church.

Below: it's the New Year's Eve torchlight parade and fireworks display in Jackson, Wyoming. Snow King is the "Town Hill" and when it opened in the 1930s it was the first ski resort in the state. I made the photograph from the viewing platform at Flat Creek on the north end of Jackson near the Elk Refuge.


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