I really didn’t like going out into this. It’s nothing I haven’t been exposed to much worse fighting fires but…. That ridge is 40 miles out visible last night. The visibility this AM (7 days ago when this posts) was less than 3 miles. 10 times this bad. The sun literally set in just a few minutes as the pall ascended to cover it’s face.
This has been a very dry year west of here. As bad as it is up here, it’s worse over by Sheridan and surrounding areas. Of course we are not nearly as bad as the poster child of rough years… California. Gotta love 100 degrees and rolling brown outs. This image represents a Wyoming/Montana Brown out so to speak. The grass here now is considered “hour fuel”. Hour fuels are combustibles that can be soaking wet but within an hour will readily ignite. Red Flag warnings are wide spread through out the south west. They occasionally work their way up into this country too.
We had lightning later around midnight that day. Fortunately it rained well enough to keep any lightning strike from taking off. Of course struck trees can smolder for days…. I go up on ridges often this time of year. Looking for that tell tale smoke plume. I’m carrying 50 gallons of water on “Clever Girl” and a portable water filled back pack. It does a good job on small hot spots. IF you can knock something out quickly, it’s better than letting it get big I assure you lolol. I’m not a tough as I used to be though but I’m often looking. Being there is everything.
So you want to go fight a fire eh? It’s not a Disney™ ride. I believe that I have never been more covered in dirt, sweat and soot more than by fighting a good grass fire. Just recently I took two very newbie guys out to fight our recent on ranch fire a few weeks ago as this posts. Trial by fire. They had no idea but hung in there….
I have been totally soaked, over heated and generally bounced to death. Driving a 1000 gallons of water in a 37000 pound 6 wheel drive truck to the scene is usually bumpy across the backcountry trails. Some of the toughest jobs on the planet is the professional smoke jumper game. The “hot spotters” are an amazing group of people. Olympic Athletes with a purpose all. The crews that come into clean up a fire area are careful, hard working and generally in a great attitude about what they do. God bless all first responders.
I don’t think the fire crews are generally worried about changing the way they work to suit the new “norms”. On the fire line, there are a few more considerations that somehow seem more immediate of a concern. You suck a lot of smoke if you dive in front of a grass fire with a big truck full of spraying water. I have found that behind the flame front it’s WAY too hot with the ground radiating heat as well as the flame. In front of the flame, you don’t want your truck or your pump to stop working. I have driven straight into an advancing flame front numerous times. I’ve also seen them so tall that I didn’t go through it.
Grass fires are a way of life up here on the grassy prairie Wyotana area. Sparsely populated with miles between ranches, a grass fire can go un-noticed until it’s almost out of control. A fast local response saves the gov’t thousands of dollars in pay and travel time. We do our best along with most of our neighbors that can. The same is true across the west.
This is one of the most intense smokey sunsets that I have ever captured. From the summer of 2018, I’m just now finalizing the image. I have a huge back log of about 4000 images that I’ve previous worked on and like a lot. Getting them all finished is job one around here until it isn’t.
I’m standardizing all my frame sizes to be consistent. These days I’m mostly finishing square and 3×2 aspects (landscape and portrait) with ventures into 2:1 diptychs and 3:1 triptychs multiple image scenes. I’m slowly building those “coffee table books”. I’ve got nearly 1200 finished images with 250 – 300 word (or more) narratives attached composed since September 21st 2019. Every day without fail since then I’ve put out an average of 5.7 photos and 2000 words. I’m not sure I can keep this up through the summer but I’ll give it my best.
The light environment here was quite dark with the sun still up. When only crimson hues make it through the gauntlet of smoke, soot, ash plus atmospheric conditions. In other words this was actually a very low light capture, you could easily look at the sun with your frail human optic sensors. This was more like 20 minutes after sunset with a dim moon looking at me instead of a setting sun.
I’ve seen this happen with ice in the air but never this intense. Smoke and other particulates are better at it but suspended atmospheric ice does a wonderful job trapping all the blues greens and yellows.
Forest Fires hundreds of miles away accentuate and attenuated this image. Various levels of smoke from burning forests give western photographers opportunities. I am not ashamed to take advantage of it though my heart goes out to those that the fires impact. I’ve physically fought my share of grass fires living surrounded by a sea of grass. Fires used to burn here from their start to the first snows putting them out. I’ve seen some tremendous sunsets as a benefit to natures actions cleaning up the dead fall that we have allowed to accumulate to dangerous levels.
I’ve said many times before that I don’t use glass filters in front of my lenses. When shooting directly into the sun, the best filters have lefts a ghost of the sun in my images. Offset artifacts are not generally welcome to a photographer that tries really hard to be a photorealist. I will occasionally wander using lens reflections/flares in my work, but not here lol. 📷
Big Long Telephoto lenses have a tendency to CRUSH perspective like a compressed accordion . Getting topography, Windmill and Sun all to line up at the same time while at the same elevation as the sail…..not that regular an occurrence lol. I know the topography I work pretty well after ‘working it’ for decades. Knowing the direction the sun is going to rise is a matter of looking it up on google. Get a compass, a map (in my head by now) and figure out “what two or three things” can line up.
I never know WHAT the show is going to be when I go out with cameras. I do usually know WHERE it is going to take place though. 😄