Skill + luck = great photograph

Hewlett Gulch fire. THE DENVER POST | RJ Sangosti
Photo: THE DENVER POST | RJ Sangosti

There’s something mesmerizing about this fire photo; it intrigues me in a way I can’t explain. It looks like a painting. The flames seem impossibly orange. The smoke roils with color — grays, blacks, and menacing, choking browns; it has depth and layering. The deep green trees either fade into blue haze or pop with sharp detail. Often a photo like this is as much luck as skill. The photographer has to have the skill and equipment to get the shot, but being in the right place at exactly the right moment can be pure luck. A change in lighting when a cloud moves in front of the sun, an unexpected wind shift, or a sudden billow of smoke when another tree explodes. Photojournalist Sangosti, probably viewing the fire from a hovering news helicopter, had a very good day.

This photo, taken May 15, accompanies today’s Denver Post story about the Hewlett Gulch Fire now burning in the mountains northwest of Fort Collins, Colo. The fire began Monday afternoon, has grown to some 5,000 acres, and is only 5% contained.

21 comments

      1. Oh, good. I was right. I was hoping that I wasn’t imagining it… then I’d look like a total idiot. But I noticed, oh… a week or two ago, I think. First the header and menu. Today I noticed the content font. I really like it. Clean, crisp and great use of white space. Not too busy.

        1. The font throughout is Museo Sans, but you may have figured that out from the new “customized” link WP puts in the credits at the foot of the page. This should last at least a week before I start tinkering again. 🙂

  1. This is indeed an outstanding picture. It does leave me wondering if the photographer was merely lucky or exceptionally skilled, but I suspect it was a combination of both. I have noticed myself, since the perfection (if that’s not too strong a word) of digital photography, that being freed of concern for the cost of film allows one to experiment more and simply delete all but the best shots. Then too, that practice can lead to an appreciation for composition. This picture not only has exceptionally pleasing colors and contrasts but also is level and places the principal point of interest, the fire, near the “golden mean” of the frame.

    1. Bless digital photography and that no film thing. I’ve never forgotten the vacation I spent up here years ago. For a week or so I went crazy buying film and shooting pictures, determined to catch at least a few great shots of some of my favorite places. Slides and photos. Rolls and rolls of film. Got home, and the processing alone cost me more than all the rest of the vacation combined. And no particularly memorable shots either. That’s when I decided I was not and would never be Ansel Adams. I stopped hauling all that heavy equipment around with me and have trusted to the “emulsion of the mind” ever since. I’ve been just as happy. Maybe moreso because I’m more immersed in my surroundings and not busy trying to “get the shot.” (Admittedly I am sometimes very tempted to buy a new digital SLR with a good long lens … )

      1. You might need a long lens for birds and the like, but for normal telephoto work of 3x or so the regular little cameras now all come with motion stabilization, a function called different names by different makes. It electronically compensates for camera shake. If you get one I recommend a large memory chip and shooting at high resolution. They are truly amazing, and generally under $200.

        1. That’s what I’ve got — A Canon PowerShot SD890 IS. 5x zoom, 10 megapixel res. It is amazing. So much technology in a pocket-sized package. I’ve yet to figure out and try all its features. The shutter lag is my only complaint. No stop-action or split second shots with this one. Push the button and take a nap waiting for the shutter to respond. I bought a much bigger memory card and shoot at the highest res (in case I ever want an 8×10 print of something fantastic).

    1. I have no recollection of a frog on the Sugar Smacks box, but if we’re going to look for faces, I see two deep set dark eyes in sort of a chimp face looking intently at the highest point of the flames. Or maybe it’s more of a scruffy dog or cat face. I’m not seeing a frog. But the eyes are definitely there.

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