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Wednesday, 16 September 2020


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During sunset in Canton, MA (12 miles south of Boston) last night, you could see a noticeable orange haze softening the sun. Amazing. 3000 miles away.

We did not have to wait long for Blade Runner 2049.

Eolake Stobblehouse

It is hard for me to believe these photos were not helped along with a "custom" white balance to enhance the orange. A bit of underexposure and it surely is an enhanced and questionably accurate representation of reality.

With my Nikon Z6, and 24-70/2.8 S, I took a shot of the red disk sun through the wildfire smoke, just north of Bakersfield, California, on I-5. It was pretty eerie to behold, like I was viewing a sun in a different solar system. You could easily look at it without squinting.

I can vouch for the orange color. I'm about 70 miles in a direct line SSE from the Golden Gate, and I saw the same thing.

Seattle has had days like this too, a couple of summers ago (bad fire summer) and again, well, today...maybe not quite that orange yet today, but its getting worse by the hour.

Not to take anything away from Paul's photos (which I think are great), but it's easy to create a similar, almost apocalyptic look by photographing with an infrared camera using a 720nm filter and then leaving the color uncorrected during post-processing.

To wit, I took this photo one afternoon with a sunny blue sky and some fluffy white clouds while walking my dog along the northern edge of the nearby Salt River Indian Reservation:

A larger, higher resolution version of this photo can be seen here.


We had those same skies here in Albuquerque for 4-5 days back in 2011, due to large fires in both Arizona and New Mexico. I just went back and looked at my straight-out-of-camera files, and both the darkness and the color are the same as Paul's.

One caution to anyone out shooting in those conditions: I breathed a lot of smoke during that week--we didn't have a pandemic and weren't all wearing masks then--and when I got a cold several weeks later, it developed into bronchitis and then pneumonia. I recovered, but have had to deal with asthma ever since. I'll always wonder if the smoke was the cause.


True. It was dark and it was orange.

JoeB, it really did look like that. I nearly went out to take photos myself, but it was making me too sad.

I live in an eastern suburb of LA, and I can tell that the color renditions in these photos are quite realistic. I saw a very similar quality of light last week when the "Bobcat" fire started burning. It is only about 10 miles from me.

For what it's worth, the local weather said today that the smoke is here.
In Detroit.
Nothing like those pictures, of course, but a high thin haze that's covering the entire sky.
If the wind keeps up, it'll be to you, Mike, in a few days.

I understand the skepticism but I was there. I woke up that morning and for the briefest moment I thought I'd woken up on Mars. Utterly surreal and disturbing. Oddly, the marine layer that pushed the smoke up made for relatively clean air below, I could swear that I smelled an ocean like breeze. I also took a numbers of shots on my iPhone that "corrected" the color out of the images. Paul's photographs very much reflect what I saw.

I feel for you Marc, our wider family made the mistake of travelling from Sydney to Bateman’s Bay after Xmas last summer. Got caught there NYE. I still have the photos from where we sheltered in a restaurant in the marina, while that dark orange glow takes over outside - at 12:25 pm.

Whilst that was scary enough, the smoke lingered for days afterwards while we were trying to get organised and join the mass exodus from the south coast. It was so dense we couldn’t see the horizon from the beach. That had a post-apocalyptic feel to it that just rubbed salt into the wound.

I really feel for those going through it all now. Australia’s review into last summer just got released: confirms that last summer was unprecedented, that management of national parks fuel load is not a silver bullet, and that arson was not a contributing factor - the big ones were all lighting strikes.

I was amused at the people complaining that they couldn't take photos showing the orange sky with their phones and didn't understand why.

On very rare occasions being a photo geek has its rewards.

Those orange photos are indeed accurate. I live near San Francisco. My metered exposure at high noon that day was 1/42 second at f/2.0 and ISO 800 (10 stops more than normal). Three hours later it was so much darker that I couldn't make a handheld exposure even with image stabilization.

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