Most of British Columbia is blanketed with thick smoke from the many wildfires that are burning everywhere, it’s hard enough for one to breath let alone do photography in the almost featureless 36-degree landscape.
However, when I got a text from my ever-energetic photographer pal Jo asking me if I wanted to take a drive with her so she could photograph a friend and her horse, I didn’t hesitate to say yes.
I had spent the last two days in my air-conditioned home only going out to feed chickens and take a short walk down the road to pick up my mail. Yes, I will say that I never expected that I would want to spend money on air conditioning, two or three fans always made me comfortable enough. The heat doesn’t bother me much, but B.C. seems to be on fire every summer, and two summers ago I kept waking up in the morning with a burning throat from breathing the smoky air all night, so I bit the bullet and got air-conditioning installed in my home.
Jo wanted to do some portraits of her friend, Jessika with her horse. I figured I’d just wander around the farm where the horse was boarded and grab some shots of whatever was laying around.
Jo and Jessika got right to positioning and posing with the horse and after watching them for a bit I started looking for fun things to photograph.
Wide shots absolutely showed the smoke-filled landscape so I cropped my shots so as not to include the murky sky or the dismal sunless background. I had mounted a 24-120mm lens on my camera. I wasn’t sure I would like that lens when I got it, but I like the versatility of having wide to mid-telephoto capabilities. Its not as sharp as my 24-70mm, but the extra reach is worth it.
I took a couple wide photographs to show the hazy landscape and shot close the rest of the time.
What I like about digital is all the things one can do to enhance a photograph with post-production. Of course I cropped tighter than I shot, and moved my crop around for the strongest composition. I increased the contrast, added spot sharpening in places and increased the saturation. I also brightened or added highlights to some of the tree branches, the horse and to Jessika’s skin tone. I also converted a couple to black and white.
I quickly realized that a straight out of the camera image was losing colour. So the minimal corrections that I made didn’t really change my photographs.
Shooting in fog or smoke, or even low light, to me requires some editing. Sure one can get really creative, but for most shots I am only bringing my images to how I think they should look.
When I wandered on that smoky day I thought of how American photographer Dorothea Lange photographed migrants in all kinds of inhospitable conditions in what some called the dirty thirties. Her photographs are sensational and meaningful. I’ll leave a quote from her, “The camera teaches us how to see without a camera.”
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