Independence Day in the United States is approaching and, like every Fourth of July since 1777, this year’s celebrations will undoubtedly involve fireworks of many different styles, colors, and sizes; from elaborately orchestrated displays over the National Mall in Washington, D.C., to fizzing handheld sparklers waved around suburban yards. (See pictures of red, white, and blue animals for the Fourth of July.)
Celebratory fireworks have been exploding in the skies for centuries and, of course, their appeal is not limited to the U.S. The earliest documented use of fireworks dates back to ninth-century China and to this day they remain an integral part of cultural celebrations such as Chinese New Year throughout the country, from the major cities to rural villages. China may have invented fireworks (which Marco Polo brought to Europe in 1295), but the colorful displays you see today are courtesy of Italian pyrotechnicians who, in the 1830s, roughly a thousand years later, figured out that metallic powders could be used to create specific colors.
Fireworks, then, are a truly global phenomenon, as the pictures in this gallery, taken by members of our Your Shot photography community, prove. These photographers skillfully capture such iconic scenes as fireworks bursting over Japan’s Mount Fuji and Dubai’s Burj Al Arab, but also take us behind the scenes of the Paris’s Eiffel Tower display, and introduce us to customs so outlandish—and, in the example of Taiwan’s exploding beehives, potentially terrifying—it’s a wonder they aren’t better known. (Read expert tips on how to photograph fireworks.)
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