27th Annual Neighborhood 4th of July Block Party


Cheryl & Judy Invitation

Cheryl & Judy Invitation

We had a great time this year! Cheryl and Judy host a great gathering each year. For most of us we treat this as an annual “touchstone“. You get to renew acquaintances and find out how people are doing. Lots of participants have moved away and yet come back each year to renew friendships. It is quite touching.

The invitation arrived a few days ago so we made preparations to attend yet again. I kind of like the program that they use to make these cards. It prints them out on stationery which you then fold and insert in an envelope or otherwise seal for delivery. Quite neat!

Each year I usually bring my camera and make images (and short movies) of things that happen at the gathering. This year I decided to try and incorporate my GoPro Hero 3 Black Edition camera into the mix. And after a bit of thought decided to simply make it the centerpiece of my memorialization of the event and left the “real” camera at home.

One problem though how to “wear” the camera or at least to mount it and what sort of things to record. Well my first idea was to make a time-lapse image of the gathering beginning with the early arrivals and continuing throughout the day. I had decided that each frame would be spaced 60-seconds apart. That would mean a total of 60 individual images each hour of the gathering. Then of course you have the option of playing them back as a “slideshow” or perhaps as 1-second long images of the goings on at that moment. It usually means a tripod is needed.

This is the technique that often involves watching a sunrise/sunset occur or tracing the changes in a crowd gathering like Bike The Drive.

It is essentially an intellectual exercise in which you anticipate the rate of change you desire to see and then calculate the timing between individual images. I kind of like the effect. But I was hoping for something a bit more personal and thus memorable.

So my next thought was to interview folks. Actually I wondered if people at the gathering would mind interviewing folks at their table for say 5 minutes and then passing the camera back to me. But as luck would have it the Chesty™ halter was missing the adapter needed to hold the camera in place. So it was time again to punt. I decided that since I had my old bicycle helmet with me I would wear the camera on my head. A bit dorky for certain but it works quite well. And frankly after having used this technique I am satisfied that it was the best of my limited options.

My Methodology

GoPro Hero 3 Black Edition

GoPro Hero 3 Black Edition

I sat down with each group and explained the camera. I’ve always been something of a geek. Technology has always been my forte. This is not to say anything positive about my skills, just that I love technology and regardless of the skill level I nevertheless enjoy what I do. So to put everyone at ease I spelled out what the camera was (i.e. GoPro Hero 3 Black Edition) and tried to place its use in some context.

These are the cameras that are used by young people these days to create FPV (or First Person Videos). You might also term their use a way of creating an immersive experience where you don’t just watch a person doing something acrobatic but actually see it just as they might when doing it. It is a fascinating medium and should only get more powerful over time.

Now if you have ever done any video work the first thing you learn is that unlike still image making brevity is of the essence. Trying to process even a half-hour video can take a very long time when you factor in the editing, titling, trimming and uploading. And if you add a musical soundtrack or something else you increase the time you spend waiting for everything to come together. So you think “short and sweet” and try not to film stuff you would only have to remove later on.

I use iMovie to capture and edit the video and then uploaded it to a service (e.g. YouTube or Vimeo). Everybody knows YouTube so it’s a safe bet when it come to uploading. But the image quality of Vimeo is impressive so lots of folks who are preparing things for production might use it instead. Either way you get a great product and it is essentially free.

The only downside to any of this is that uploading is time-consuming if you are not using the premiere version of either service. So you finish working on your video and then begin the upload and wait and wait and wait. Anyone for popcorn?

The Gathering

I’ve always been drawn to folks of Faith. I believe in a Supreme Being and as one lady in the video remarked it is always nice to be somewhere that praying is not considered weird. So we have felt right at home with group which is loosely tied together on the basis of faith but mostly upon a mutual respect for the lives each of us is living.

I am certain that our collective political leanings are different but that is not (nor in my mind what should be) the focus of fellowship with others. Rather it is a common bond that spans age, gender, race and sexual orientation and frankly is all about facing the future together. It is rare that people ever get a chance to do that in this lifetime. I cherish the fact that I have been fortunate enough to have met these folks and in fact live in a community where everyone is able to get along despite differences. That is the essence of the American Experiment.

What is a true blessing is that the folks here are cognizant of this very thing. They are somehow in awe of being able to find a place where for at least a half day each year they can let their hair down and simply be humans in a human setting. Some of the folks here are related by birth others not. This is a gathering in which the single most important thing is mutual respect. We simply share. It is as if we were all at a cocktail party where everyone is relaxed and not anxious about appearances or social status or much of anything else.

The focus is on the food, conversation and the humanity of each person in attendance. Political discussions or religious ones for that matter are seldom encountered. Instead it is a casual bit of remembrance of gatherings in the past, a catching up between “friends” since the passing of a year and a general enjoyment of one another without reservation. That is a blessing if ever I have encountered one.

The Questions

I asked each group of individuals how many of these gatherings they had attended. Quite a few had been to all 27 of them. We’ve been going for almost 20 years (perhaps even more) but it has been a very interesting journey. After that I asked each one to give me a “most memorable gathering recounting” if they could think of one. I did not try and force the responses and even got a few queries of my own from the interviewees. This is fair and frankly was fun to be able to think through the many fine outings we had shared together.

I hope you like the video. I perhaps might have had more interviews but I think I got most of the folks covered who were there with one or two exceptions. And I apologize in advance for the camera movement. I was wearing the GoPro Hero 3 strapped to a bicycling helmet for support. Probably a bad idea, but it was a “fallback position”. One thing I will certainly want to do in the future is consider an auxiliary microphone. Unlike the ones on my Nikon camera which face the front and thus pick up the voices of the subjects better, the GoPro microphones are rearward facing and inside the hardshell container I am afraid the sound bounces around a bit. Here’s hoping that your 4th of July celebration of our nation’s Independence Day was memorable. Take care and let’s all try to be around for next year’s observance as well.

27th Annual 4th of July Block Party from Beezodog’s Place on Vimeo.