Monday, January 7, 2013

Silhouettes and Shadows

In a perfect world, I would holler at the suppression crews to stop what they were doing and not move while I repositioned myself to get the lighting and composition where I wanted it. Then, I would direct them into certain poses and order them to freeze while the fire grew in intensity and I clicked away.

That would be in my perfect world. Not the property owners nor the victim's perfect world, their losses would increase greatly while my feeble attempts at photography would benefit. Not the crew's perfect world, their safety would be compromised at the benefit of a more pleasing documentation of their impeded efforts. Not only that, but fire suppression crews really want to get at it and don't want to be held up by anything, let alone a F.O.G. with a camera. I'm guessin' the Chief and the bystanders wouldn't like it much either.

To be honest, I'm still a suppression guy at heart so I wouldn't really want to hold anything up either. The last thing I want to do is interfere with anybody doing their job. I enjoy the benefit of great access, one that I want to keep. So, when it comes to fire ground photography, sometimes you just have to take what you can get. 

That's how the photographs below came to be. Light low on the horizon, positioned right where I didn't want it. After the first shot, I realized that what I wanted to happen wasn't and that silhouettes were probably my best option to salvage the few minutes that I had. Although this was a training burn, I still wasn't going to have the crew stop while I accessed the roof and moved to the sun-ward side of the roof. Not that they would have listened to me anyways.

Click on the image to enlarge.

I don't remember who the crew was, but that's Crispy Helmeted
Billy monitoring the evolution.

I liked the way the masks are still visible yet transparent.

This one was taken a few minutes later. I found the shadow 
effect on the smoke interesting.

Same effect, slightly less shadow.

Final silhouette shot, the last operational shot of the day.

This project turned out to be a three day affair, with me being present for four of the six sessions. As always, I learned a lot and I refreshed some photographic skills that I don't get to practice very often. I even learned some new fire control concepts, though I likely won't get to practice them. I guess you can teach an old dog new tricks.

Thanks to the men and women of the Riverside Fire Dept. for letting me shoot their activities and, as always, thanks to you for reading.



  1. Terrific pictures, thank you for sharing!

    YYC (Aviation) Dispatcher

  2. I'm new here.........and I will go look/see your first post......
    but some of the real casualties....of 'Wartime' are the animals left behind.....!!!.....and while human life is precious......
    in many ways.....the pets left behind......have no way of knowing........and can't protect themselves......and are left behind.....or just plane ole "LEFT"...they are truly well...!!!

  3. YYC Dispatcher - Thanks for the kind words and for reading!

    Miss TWA/GetJets - From the nature of your comment, I'm just guessin' that you meant to leave this comment on one of the two previous posts. Regardless, the plight of domesticated animals' fate in war zones is addressed in Dowling's book.

    Sadly, I think that most of the issues in the book were present long before the war. Much of the world's philosophy on animals has not yet evolved to a point where many in this country have.

    One only has to travel to Mexico or even to poorer areas of this country to see the effects of irresponsible animal control policy. Having been part of the Katrina response in New Orleans, I can also tell you that it does not take a war to see how dependent domesticated animals are on us.

    On the plus side, some policies in regards to animal evacuation during disasters has changed since Katrina. FWIW.

    Thanks for the comments.

  4. I understand your sentiments about wanting the scene just right, but that's one of the things I've enjoyed as a photographer/ex-journalist: I love when I get a great image from a tough environment.

    That said, these are great images! Keep 'em coming.

  5. JCollins - I share your joy when things work out despite challenges. I guess that's why some people like action/street/documentary photography over fine art. landscape or other photographic genres.

    If I just could get the world to do what I want, my photos would be just that much better.

    Thanks for the comment

  6. Yep.....past 'post'.....oopsie!!

    In regard to animals and animal cruelty.....In many circles.....a dogs life is considered more of 'value' than a human..!!
    Not sure Michael Vick would have gotten as much attention...with the media....if he had taken a human out....??!!(my opinion)
    Oh Lord, do I remember Katrina.....I live 45 miles south of New Orleans......The levee's comprise was the 'Kill shot'....for that lovely city....!!..It's better than before......and I want to 'Thank you' for your 'Service'.......after Katrina....!!!!!!!!
    the days after Katrina....OMG.....of course, there are those who put even less value on life...taking addvantage of a Catastrophe, ....and turn into barbarians.......!!
    Take Care