An Unfortunate Reality: Fires Are The New Norm

Forest fires, unfortunately, are all too common during the summer months around Bend and the rest of the Pacific Northwest, often wreaking havoc on ecosystems and communities. While the destruction is undeniable, these natural events also create unique photographic opportunities that are rare and captivating. The haze from forest fires is caused by tiny particles of ash and soot suspended in the air. This smoke can travel thousands of miles, affecting air quality and visibility for days and even weeks. For photographers, this haze can alter the landscape in fascinating ways. Before we jump into some of the surprising ways smoke can amplify wedding photography or family portraits, it's crucial to prioritize safety when considering a photography session in areas affected by forest fire smoke. Always remain far from active fires and be aware of local advisories, particularly for sensitive groups like the sick, elderly, and young children. The health risks of smoke can be significant. Simply put, if anyone isn't comfortable with photographing, it's best not to. But with that in mind, here are 10 reasons photographing with forest fire smoke can be amazing.

wedding at Cave Creek Farm with forest fire smoke

Reason 1: Softened Light

The smoke particles diffuse sunlight, creating a soft, glowing light. This lighting is incredibly flattering, reducing harsh shadows and highlighting subtle details, making it ideal for portrait and photography.

Wedding couple softly smile and embrace each other in the woods

Reason 2: Dramatic Skies

Smoke adds depth and drama to the sky, creating stunning backdrops for photographs. This effect is particularly pronounced during sunrise or sunset, where the colors become more vivid and intense.

Couple dances on quiet forest road in smoke

Reason 3: Unique Aesthetic

The smoky air lends a unique, ethereal quality to photographs, adding a sense of mystique or dreaminess that is hard to replicate in clear conditions.

wedding dress hung outside in forest fire smoke

Reason 4: Enhanced Colors

Smoke particles can enhance the colors of the sunset, making them appear more vibrant and deeper. Such scenes are perfect for capturing memorable moments that truly stand out.

a groom dips and kisses his wedding bride on a lonely road in forest fire smoke

Reason 5: Mood Setting

The smoky atmosphere creates a moody and romantic setting, adding emotional depth to photographs. This effect can be particularly impactful in wedding photography or dramatic landscape shots.

a bride and groom hug each other while looking at forest fire smoke

Reason 6: Unique Textures

Smoke adds texture to the air in photographs, providing a tactile quality that gives images a painterly effect. This can make the photos appear more artistic and meticulously crafted.

a bride softly smiles at her husband during their wedding ceremony

Reason 7: Distinctive Memories

Photos taken with the backdrop of smoke are distinctive, making them memorable and unique. Such images can capture a moment in time that is unlike any other.

a bride and groom celebrate their marriage on a riverbank with forest fire smoke in the distance

Reason 8: Soft Backgrounds

Smoke helps blur the background, which can be beneficial for emphasizing the subjects in the foreground. This technique is excellent for portraits where the focus is squarely on the individuals.

a wedding couple sit in a forest meadow and stare into the woods

Reason 9: Filtered Sunlight

The filtered light through smoke can create unique lighting opportunities, with rays of light appearing more defined and almost tangible. These conditions can be used to add a magical or surreal element to your photographs.

groom checks cufflink before wedding

Reason 10: Symbolic Imagery

For some, the presence of smoke can symbolize resilience or a new beginning. Incorporating this element into wedding photos or personal projects can add a layer of meaning and narrative depth.

wedding couple hold each other in a forest meadow

Frequently Asked Questions About Photographing in Forest Fire Smoke

Q: Is it safe to photograph in areas with forest fire smoke?

A: While it can be safe to photograph in areas with forest fire smoke, it's crucial to check local air quality indexes and adhere to any advisories issued by health or environmental organizations. Always prioritize safety and health, particularly for vulnerable groups. It's also vital to never approach an active fire scene or interfere with fire operations. This can endanger both you and firefighting personnel. Maintaining a safe distance and respecting emergency responders' efforts are imperative to ensure everyone's safety.

Will the smoke affect the quality of our wedding photography or family portraits?

Smoke can actually enhance the aesthetic of your photos by creating a soft, diffused light, dramatic skies, and unique color enhancements at sunrise or sunset. However, it's important to work with a photographer experienced in shooting in these conditions to ensure the best outcomes.

How can we prepare ourselves for a photo session in smoky air?

Stay hydrated and possibly wear light face masks before and after the session to reduce smoke inhalation. If anyone has allergies or respiratory issues, it might be best to choose a location with less smoke or reconsider the timing of your shoot.

What are the best times of day to capture photos in smoky conditions?

Early morning or late afternoon, particularly during golden hour, can be ideal. The low angle of the sun filters through the smoke, enhancing natural light diffusion and color saturation in the skies, perfect for emotional family portraits and romantic wedding photographs.

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