We live in the driest state in the driest continent on earth. Summers here can be harsh and unforgiving in their intensity. We regularly suffer days of heat above 39 degrees celsius (102 F plus) that stretch into weeks. In this heat, electrical equipment fails, much needed air conditioners shut down in the middle of the blazing day, and shopping centres become crowded as people try to stay out of the heat.

It’s often said flippantly by people looking for an answer to the burning questions of climate science, but I don’t remember this many scorchingly hot days when I was younger. Our school always had a hot weather policy, but I don’t think it was activated a heck of a lot.

Last week saw the beginning of the worst bushfires in South Australia since Ash Wednesday in 1983. It started in the Adelaide Hills area near Kersbrook; only a half hour drive from here. The native flora dries out so quickly in the summer heat that it provides plenty of fuel for the merest spark.

The fires quickly spread over the next several days as temperatures soared to 42 degrees and above (109 F). The wind at the fireground whipped the flames in all directions and blew storms of embers to new locations. Brave CFS (Country Fire Service) crews worked day and night to control the blaze, but the adverse weather conditions on one day meant that even they had to pull out to preserve their own lives and let it burn out of control.

We could see dark smoke hanging like a mushroom cloud not too far away from us. The acrid vapours drifted over the city of Adelaide and hung low over our town. Not surprisingly, we were following CFS alerts closely just in case we had to evacuate. In fact, we knew several people who had to do so because they were closer to the heart of the fire, and their properties were threatened.

On one of the worst days, with the fire not too far away from us, I went outside to see the sunset. The sun’s rays were bent and refracted through the smoke and dust in the air, creating an amazing sunset.  From destruction, beauty can arise.

Bushfire Sky (Lumia 1020 1/30.3--f/2.2 )
Bushfire Sky (Lumia 1020 1/30.3–f/2.2 )

As the CFS alerts continued to filter through, I found it important to go about things as normal. After all, our fire plan was simple enough, and making a few photos helped to keep things calm.

Despite the threat, the bushfire never came to our town. Much needed rain has fallen in the last few days, and the fires are now well under control. Authorities are still not entirely sure of the total damage, but suffice it to say that there’s been more than enough destruction of fauna, flora and people’s homes to call this the worst bushfire in South Australia since Ash Wednesday.

I also made another photo with a very different device. It’s blurry and technically horrible by most standards, but I think it captures more evocatively the grimness of the fires.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Grim Sky (Pinwide Pinhole lens – 15mm f128 )

This is a fiery sky through a pinhole lens. It’s a blurry and grainy nightmare, and I think it better transmits the essence of the night our community was under threat.

pinwide-pinhole-camera-lens
Pinwide Pinhole lens

 

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Fiery sky through a pinhole

18 thoughts on “Fiery sky through a pinhole

  • January 20, 2015 at 6:33 pm
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    Stunning photos, Steve. Glad to hear about the rain! 🙂

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    • January 21, 2015 at 3:48 am
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      Thanks Amy. I know the rain was a Godsend really! In the end, there was a lot of devsastation by the fires though. Nearly 30 houses were destroyed, so could have been worse. Big impact on the local wildlife though 🙁

      Reply
  • January 20, 2015 at 1:42 pm
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    love the contrast of the two photos and I would be interested to know more about pinhole photography. It that something you affix over the lens or an actual lens? Have just switched to a DSLR camera and have a lot to learn.

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    • January 20, 2015 at 3:28 pm
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      Thank you 🙂 Well, you can buy pinhole lenses, or make your own. What type of DSLR do you have? A pinhole is quite literally a very small hole that lets in a tiny amount of light. There’s no glass. It’s photography back to basics really. People even make them out of cereal boxes! There are some unique characteristics of pinhole photos. The pinhole itself is so small that longer exposures are often necessary. Vignetting is typically very pronounced on photos. And depth of field is incredible, as the holes typically provide an aperture of f96 to f128 in many cases. I plan to post more about the pinhole 🙂

      Reply
  • January 12, 2015 at 5:19 am
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    Hey Steve. I am so loving these sunset! Beautiful!
    You know I live in Oklahoma which is known as one of the hottest states in the summer. It has been as hot as 115 F so we are about the same. It does rain but only in the Spring and Fall and today it is raining. It is supposed to sleet tomorrow so interesting weather. Great post! 😀

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    • January 12, 2015 at 7:12 am
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      That’s very hot! It gets to that in places in the outback here. I reckon I passed through part of Oklahoma some years ago on a drive across the US. I remember a lot of plains and grass.

      Reply
  • January 11, 2015 at 9:22 pm
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    Your photo and story have given me a vivid snapshot into a world about which I know nothing. I have only a vague idea of what a bushfire is. And, I am glad you posted both of the photographs.

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    • January 12, 2015 at 7:15 am
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      I’m glad to have provided you that insight Carol 🙂 It sure gets hot around here. Bushfires are expected at this time of year, but this was an especially big one.

      Reply
  • January 9, 2015 at 3:11 am
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    Mate, perhaps those stories going around about HAARP Weather manipulation operation are true. Look at the weather in the U.S. Heavy Snow falls in California and other places where they have never had snowfalls before.
    Nice write and I love the two images particularly the second one, which added a foreboding feel to the image that you captured

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    • January 9, 2015 at 9:51 am
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      Yeah, I remember reading about HAARP tech many years ago. My mate and I used to publish a street zine back in the early 90s. We’d photocopy it cheap and distribute it around the city by foot. Good days!
      Hard to believe that we’re about to receive record rainfall in SA now isn’t it? hmmm…

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  • January 8, 2015 at 10:38 pm
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    Dramatic shots at such a tense time and so pleased for you the rain came when it did!

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    • January 9, 2015 at 1:44 am
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      Thank you. And would you believe that today, we face record rainfall? Strange.

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  • January 8, 2015 at 4:13 pm
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    Glad that you guys are ok, Steve. Hope everything is under control now. Take care. Helen

    Reply

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