Working on an Editorial Photoshoot in New Jersey, for the State Forestry Service, I was making photos for a public awareness campaign on the importance of Prescribed Burning in the New Jersey Pine Barren Forest. In anticipation of the summer heat and possible drought like conditions, reducing the hazardous accumulation of forest fuels is an annual event in early spring.
For this assignment I carried two Canon camera bodies – one with a 17-35mm lens and the other with a 24-105mm. I certainly didn’t want to be changing lenses with all the floating ash and smoke swirling in the air. Both cameras were mounted to a camera body harness for easy access to keep up with the fast changing scenes.
Photographing a controlled fire requires respect for the forces of nature. It’s one of the few times I have to be more focused on my unpredictable environment than I can be on my subject. The intense heat, the roar of the flames, and the choking smoke and dust in the air, made for a challenging landscape to illustrate the story of the firefighters who protect New Jersey’s forests and safeguard the residents living nearby.
An important lesson I learned is to photograph while standing in the black burnt out ground. It’s hot and smoky, but it’s a place where the fire will be less likely to burn the protective coating off your lens, never mind your eyebrows – yikes!