with Lorelle and Brent VanFossen

Sunset and Forest Fires

Trees silhouetted against sunset, California, photograph copyright Brent VanFossen, VanFossen ProductionsDriving up towards Yosemite National Park in California, the sunset turned incredibly intense. Recent forest fires had left particulates in the air which turned the sunset intense reds and oranges.

Brent VanFossen quickly pulled over, looking for any subject to frame as a silhouette against this vibrant backdrop of color and found he was in a burnt out forest area. Nothing but stumps and burned trees. He wandered down the hill with his tripod and camera, desperate to find some pattern, some interesting shape.

Down the hill he saw a burned out tree and thought that would be good. He raced down through the burnt scrub and it wasn’t right. The next one further down the hill wasn’t good either. Then there it was.

The tree branches seemed to twist in and around themselves, arms reaching towards the sky. Just beyond it was the moon, a tiny sliver of white in the rich sunset reds.

Brent set up the tripod and camera, sweat pouring down his face from the rough climb down the hillside of charred snags, and positioned the camera, snapping photographs as quickly as he could, adjusting, playing with the exposure, and moving fast.

The sunset didn’t last long. He only had a minute or two and it was gone. The darkness of the night dropped down fast. He turned off the camera, closed up the tripod and put it on his shoulder, and turned, and sighed.

In his rush to find a subject, he’d traveled quite a ways down the devastated hillside. Without a flash light. It took him a very long time, and a few staggering stumbles, to climb over the snags and scrub to get back to the car, his hands and clothing smeared with ash and charcoal.

The intense colors in the photograph were enhanced by using Fuji’s Velvia film, a slow and richly colored film, which leans heavily towards purple tones. This added more intensity to the colors of the sunset, which a slight underexposure enhanced even more. Digital cameras are currently unable to capture such color spectrum, though they may soon. For some things, film still serves a purpose.


  • anon
    Posted August 9, 2006 at 18:03 | Permalink

    there’s something about the fact that i can find no dates on your blog entries that i find disorienting…written last week? last year…???

  • Posted August 9, 2006 at 19:26 | Permalink

    That’s odd. Not that you can’t find the date, because it is there, it’s odd because it matters. Is there anything in the article that lends itself to date importance? The photograph could have been taken in 1985 or 2006. Same with the article. It could have been written any time and just happened to be published now. Does it invalidate or change the content’s value?

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