"Go as far as you can see; when you get there you'll be able to see farther." ~ Thomas Carlyle
British Columbia is burning. There are fires across the province and the huge Williams Lake fire was roaring last Friday coating three provinces with smoke. According to a line drawn on Google Earth I live 542 kilometres or 337 miles as the crow flies from Williams Lake on the other side of the Rocky Mountains and yet I could barely see down the street and the smoke coated my nostrils like a bad campfire.
We drove about 200 kilometres south-east last Friday on the first stage of a rather rushed trip to a family reunion to B.C.. The smoke covered all of this trip and most of the entire route, which I’ll continue in my next post.
I’ve travelled this route hundreds of times in the past 26 years and was fascinated by the changes the smoke rendered to the scenery.
There was a mysterious feel. The effect was of intense fog, but the light and the colour were different.
The colour was a challenge when I processed the RAW images. I couldn’t decide on a ‘correct’ white balance and finally went with what ‘felt’ right.
I’m trying to shoot in manual, but I decided to keep my camera on aperture priority with the exposure compensated at .07. and see what came of it. For the most part, it worked well. The RAW images all went through a similar basic workflow in View NX (I still don’t have any more sophisticated RAW processor). I sharpened 5%, set the white balance to between 6000 and 8000, checked the histogram and adjusted if necessary, and brightened the images with the ‘lost highlights’ screen showing to the maximum without blowing them out. In some, I intensified the colour a bit.
I will likely play with some of these a little more, but for now, with over 1000 exposures to go through from the past week, I’m more interested in recording the trip while it’s still fresh in my mind.
It felt mysterious: shrouded and quiet. Although there was a decent breeze, the air didn’t seem to move. There was no variation in the density of the smoke, but it felt like there should be.
How I wish I could have spent some serious time photographing the fascinating effects of this terrible element, but unfortunately we were on a timeline and I had to content myself with shooting from the truck, taking advantage of the occasional wait for road construction and pee breaks.
It’s a terrible disaster. People are loosing their homes, hospitals are being affected, smoke is causing respiratory problems across the west – but it was predicted. Mother Nature has rejuvenated her forests on a cycle of fire and regrowth since the beginning of forests. Fire suppression has allowed stands to outlive their natural time.
Again I feel like a cold opportunist. But, man! The smoke was cool.