The first shells of the firework show explode over Washington as kayakers and boaters watch from the Potomac River. (Kevin Ambrose)

We watched radar apps on our phones as showtime approached. Showers and thunderstorms were forming all around Washington. My group of photographers, who were set up on the west bank of the Potomac River, prepared umbrellas and plastic bags and discussed strategies to stay dry.

But we never needed the rain gear. The storms seemed to fizzle out just before moving into town.  Perhaps it was payback for last year’s wet and cloudy fireworks show, when low clouds and drizzle all but ruined the show.  The weather stayed dry with breaks in the cloud cover.

An easterly breeze, however, did blow smoke toward Virginia, but there were plenty of moments when the view was good, and areas to the east, which usually have to deal with smoke, had a clear view.


The grand finale was bright, loud and smoky. (Kevin Ambrose)

Below are a small selection of photos that I shot from the bank of the Potomac. It’s one of my favorite views of the city for shooting fireworks.

During the shoot, I ran two cameras — a Sony a99II on bulb mode with ISO 200, F/13, and  three- to five-second exposures timed for the shell bursts, and a Sony a7RII with ISO 200, f/18, and repetitive six-second exposures. All of my photos displayed in this post, except for the last, were from the Sony a7RII. The grand finale video was recorded with the a99II.

Also included in this post are shots from Washington Post photographers and readers. It was a good show! I’m very happy it stayed dry.


Smoke was not a factor early in the show. (Kevin Ambrose)

Smoke partially obscured the view later in the show for viewers in Virginia. (Kevin Ambrose)

Fountains of sparks rain down over the Mall. (Kevin Ambrose)

A crazy display of ground fireworks. (Kevin Ambrose)

A wide view of the fireworks show over Washington. (Kevin Ambrose)

Video of the grand finale

Washington Post photographers


Explosions light up the Washington Monument during Tuesday’s fireworks display. (Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)

(Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)

A couple enjoys the fireworks at the Washington Monument. (Calla Kessler/The Washington Post)

A young woman in a flag headband watches the fireworks at the Washington Monument. (Calla Kessler/The Washington Post)

Readers’ photos


July 4 fireworks, Washington. (Tyler Reber via Flickr)

July 4 fireworks, Washington, D.C. (James McNellis via Flickr)

July 4 fireworks, Washington. (George Jiang via Flickr)

July 4 fireworks, Washington. (AllTheGoodIDsAreTaken)

July 4 fireworks, Washington. (Jim Havard via Flickr)

Fireworks, July 4, 2017. (mikeschiavo via Flickr)


Fireworks from Washington Golf and Country Club, July 4, 2017. (Kevin Wolf via Flickr)
The crowd in Washington, D.C. watched a number of performances including the Blues Brothers, the Beach Boys and Gospel singer Yolanda Adams who did a rendition of God Bless America during a fireworks show over the National Mall on July 4. (Reuters)