For those of you who live under a rock, this may be news to you, but over the past week we’ve lost over 150,000 acres of the Angeles National Forest to a brush fire (arson). A week ago you could see flames roaring through the night a few miles up the hill from my house, and the air was certainly not pleasant to breath. You could see the pyrocumulus clouds from across the county in Long Beach! The firefighters have done a tremendous job in keeping the fire from claiming too many homes, as well as saving critical communications towers on Mt. Wilson – thank you to all who have helped!

“Station Fire” ~ Station Fire, Angeles National Forest
Taken from the 9th floor of the Caltech Library
The Tech: Canon 5D2, 500mm +1.4x tc, tripod
Exposure: iso 1600, f/5.6, 8 sec
Processing: 3 exposure panorama stitched with PTGui

We were fortunate that the Santa Ana Winds were not blowing, otherwise it would have been even more disastrous. It is, however, important to remember that Southern California’s ecosystem has evolved around wild fires. Many of the native plants require fires to reproduce. By artificially controlling them and preventing the fires from burning naturally on a regular basis we endanger some native plants, as well as creating a huge stockpile of dry fuel. When a fire finally does get started that unburned fuel leads to a much more devastating burn than would occur if there were regular but smaller burns. It’s a complicated balance that we clearly still don’t have right. In any case, there’s always upsides to large fires, so I’ll do my best to share some of those! All that ash in the air provided us with some wonderful sunsets along the coast, which was a refreshing change of temperature and air quality from downtown Pasadena last weekend. If we’re lucky the following two years will prove to be good years for all those wildflowers that have been waiting patiently for decades to finally get a chance to germinate.

“Tides of Color” ~ Laguna Beach, CA
The Tech: Canon 5D2, 16-35mm mkII, tripod
Exposure 1: iso 100, f/16, 8 sec
Exposure 2: iso 200, f/16, 2 sec
Processing: I used two exposures to blend for dynamic range, and a third exposure to help control the water flow on the left side of the image.

“Secrets of the Sea” ~ Laguna Beach, CA
The Tech: Canon 5D2, 16-35mm mkII, tripod
Exposure: iso 400, f/18, 20 sec

The following evening I returned to the beach, to breath some fresh air again, and to meet up with Steve Sieren and Eric Good. The extremely high tides and clear skies made photography more difficult, but exciting at the same time. Eric showed us this spot dubbed “The Pit of Death,” as one a separate occasion he saw an unfortunate photographer get taken by surprise and lose his whole bag of equipment to the “Pit”. Steve managed to lose something too…

“Fishing the Pit of Death” ~ Laguna Beach, CA
The Tech: Canon 5D2, 16-35mm mkII, tripod
Exposure: iso 400, f/14, 2 sec
Processing: Double processed raw file for highlights and shadows, and I brought some detail back into the right portion of the sky with a second, shorter exposure.

And on a completely unrelated note, I’ll share some images from this weekend – a return trip to Vasquez Rocks. The diversity of subjects is just wonderful! I’ve been enjoying some explorations in slightly different subjects and compositions than typical, I hope you like the results.

“Gin Stars” ~ Vasquez Rocks, CA
The Tech: Canon 5D2, 70-200mm, tripod
Exposure: iso 200, f/16, 1/30th
Notes: This is intentionally processed dark to bring out the Juniper berries, and to call on the metaphor of them looking like stars. The flavor in Gin comes from Juniper berries, hence the title.

“Conference of Corvids” ~ Vasquez Rocks, CA
The Tech: Canon 5D2, 100-400mm, tripod
Exposure: iso 100, f/14, 1/20th

“Twisted” ~ Vasquez Rocks, CA
The Tech: Canon 5D2, 100-400mm, tripod
Exposure: iso 200, f/14, 1/60th

“In Opposition” ~ Vasquez Rocks, CA
The Tech: Canon 5D2, 16-35mm, tripod
Exposure: iso 100, f/14, 1/8th

One Comment to “Surviving the Fires”

  1. wildphotography says:

    Excellent photos, as always! Love the last one. Evidence of recent erosion?

    Regarding the fire: I could see the pyrocumulus clouds all the way up here in Goleta. We’ve had some amazing sunrises courtesy of the fire. But I’m glad it’s winding down.