A search of information published by pet experts, a query to photography experts at The Sun News and notifications from public safety officials add up to a lot of smart moves to take to keep July 4 from being a bad memory.
Those bombs bursting in air can wreak havoc on sensitive dogs and cats. Here are some ways to at least minimize their stress, and yours.
• Take a walk and wear your dog out before sundown.
• Don’t take your pet to an outdoors fireworks event, even in your own yard. Many animals will flee at loud noises
• If possible, stay home with your pet when fireworks are expected nearby.
• Keep your dog or cat in a secure place during fireworks, preferably indoors or in a crate. Animals are much more sensitive than humans to loud noises and need to feel safe.
• Close the doors and windows, turn on the television, music, fans and any other noisy devices to try and drown out the noise and percussion of the explosions.
• Sit with the dog. Don't force cuddling because fear can turn some animals aggressive. Have treats available but most dogs won't eat through fireworks.
• If your pet is extremely fearful of loud noises, consider purchasing a Thunder Shirt (Petsmart, $39.99). These heavy vests help suppress an animal’s central nervous system to calm them.
• Make sure your pet is properly tagged and identified and have a search plan if he or she runs off. Contact local shelters, put up signs and use social media to get the word out as soon as possible if your pet is missing.
Stay safe on the roads
State troopers and area police have beefed up patrols and anticipate added traffic because the holiday falls on a Thursday this year.
Increased patrols for drunk driving and aggressive driving are expected along area highways for the 102-hour travel period, officials said. Last year, the travel period was 30 hours and five people died on the highways during that time.
In addition to basics, such as not driving while drinking or being aggressive behind the wheel, they advise:
• Ensure your vehicle is properly maintained. Vehicles often break down due to the extreme temperatures this time of year; remember to check the tread on your tires since the heat from the pavement can cause blowouts.
• If you break down or have a minor collision, pull as far off the roadway as possible, activate emergency flashers and call *HP or local authorities.
• Motorists are discouraged from walking on any roadways for emergency assistance especially interstates where it is illegal.
• Move over and allow first responders to pass and do their jobs safely; this is the law in South Carolina.
• Get real-time traffic information at http://www.scdps.gov/schp/ and SCDOT traffic information at:http://www.511sc.org
Get the perfect fireworks shot
Award-winning veteran photojournalists for The Sun News offer their approaches for capturing the moment.
• Most digital cameras have a fireworks setting under the menu button. For simple point and shoots that will probably give good results.
• No matter what camera you use, support is necessary. For fireworks, my first choice is a tripod with a head that allows shooting vertical photos. A bean bag on a fence post or a car roof also may work. Trying to hold your camera in your hand will not yield very good results, though you will give better results on video than for still photos.
• I shoot with the widest angle lens available and try to put people, buildings, the town anything to give a sense of location. One of my all time favorite fireworks shots was years ago just after a rain made the streets shiny and reflected the fireworks.
• Professional fireworks are very bright so there is no need for high ISO setting, I usually use ISO 200 to give the best colors. If I can see the location where the fireworks are being shot from, I open the shutter when I see the first one launched and leave it open for 2-3 bursts, with the aperture (f-stop) set to f/11 or f/16. I will vary this some during the show, sometimes you can tell that a burst is extra bright and then I will close the shutter as soon as it is over.
• Remember, video will provide not only the color of the fireworks, but the sounds of the evening.
• Enjoy, but remember if you are in a crowd guard your tripod legs so people don't bump them or trip over the tripod. If I have friends along, I station one at each leg to help with this.
• Make a sandbag with a leg of pantyhose and plop your camera on it so you have a stable spot to shoot for a sky view and maybe some cool stuff in the foreground. The sandbag beats a tripod and isn't as clumsy to carry around.
• Set the camera on manual focus to infinity at f/8 and f/16. Jump around between 1 second and 5 seconds depending on the light at the scene and how close you are to the fireworks.
• Use a low ISO - anything below 400 - so you avoid that digital blue pixel stuff in the darkness. Make sure you don't have any street lights or house lights in the frame since a three-second exposure will leave you with pretty fireworks dripping around a big, white shinny thing.
• The two big things to watch out for are over exposure and camera movement. There's no real manual setting for fireworks, since distance and ambient light factors in. Play around with it and change settings as you go so that hopefully you’ll get it perfect in time for the finale.