While the Sand Fire was burning up the California countryside just a few miles away, I was sitting at home comfortably watching it on TV. After staring at the tube for what seemed like hours, which it probably was, I remembered that I’m a photographer (not a great photographer, kind of a lazy photographer, but an okay photographer nonetheless), so I decided to get off of my butt, pack up my gear, and go capture (shoot) the fire.
Pack up my gear? Yikes! The fire is charring half of California and I still have to get my camera ready. See, that’s where the “kind of lazy” part comes in. I am so not prepared for this type of photography. But I will do my best to get some shots, good shots I hope, and at least have a fun time getting out of the studio and shooting something different.
I open my camera bag(s), and start snatching, sorting, and filling my daypack with everything that I think I will need, but in actuality will not use most of it. I always over-pack. It’s getting late, the fire is expanding, so I hurriedly grab lenses, a digital camera, extra bodies, more batteries, an old-school film camera, tripod, canned air, a bottle of water, lens rag, my dog (Silver), my sunglasses, a sun hat, and everything else that I can stuff into my bag. No, the dog doesn’t fit in the bag.
And… I’m out the door. Oh wait, not yet. I need a few more things. Extra CF cards, another role of film, cable release, lens hood, and then as I’m out the door again, I start thinking more artistically, and once again I head back in, this time to pilfer my filter stash — snagging a handful of whatever filters my fingers latch onto.
Finally, I’m out the door to shoot the fire with no idea on where to go to do so. I don’t want to get too close, I don’t want to get stuck in traffic, so I figure that I can get a good (safe) shot from the hills of Burbank. I drive pell-mell up the winding roads. Actually I don’t drive pell-mell it just sounds good to say that. I leisurely drive up the well-paved but narrow roads, past the golf course, and past the famous Castaway Restaurant with the intention of parking near the Starlight Bowl, and then take a short hike to the top of the hill and… Nope! Starlight Bowl has a concert and unless I have a ticket and want to pay for parking I need to figure something else out. I quickly formulate a new plan as the traffic police force me to turn right instead of my intended left.
I drive up to the Stough Canyon Nature Center and park at the bottom of the hiking trail. I can’t see the fire, it’s not exactly the award winning composition I had in mind, but at least I can see the smoke, lots of it, and it’s making the sun blood-red. Cool.
I set up, take a few shots. Take a few more shots. Then take a few more shots. Ok, I’ve shot this to death. So, I decide to get my filters out, and play. First filter, wrong size. Second filter, wrong size. Third filter, seriously? I don’t even know why I own this filter. Last filter, right size, but wrong filter. Just my luck. I thought I had grabbed an ND filter so I could experiment with some long exposures, but no, this was a cheap-o Infrared filter. Oh well, let’s screw it on and see what we get.
I capture a few more shots, very red — Wow!
At this point, unless I want to hike up to the top of the hill to get a better view, there’s not much more for me to shoot here. I look at my panting dog and realize there’s no way she is going up the hill in this heat, so I decide to pack it all up and head back to watch the fire on TV. Yeah, I really didn’t want to hike up that trail either.
I get home, watch the fire on the news for a bit and then decide to download and Photoshop my fire (smoke) photos. I actually got a few shots that I really like. And surprisingly, the shots with the Infrared filter (basically acting as just a red filter), turned out really well — the best of the bunch.
Lon Casler Bixby is a professional photographer and published author in various genres: Fiction, Poetry, Humor, Photography, & Comic Books.
See his writing here — www.amazon.com/author/loncaslerbixby/.