The Digital Photo Guy

Fire! and a Bunch of Dead Bodies

by on Mar.18, 2014, under Lightroom, Monday Morning Tips, Photo Editing


OK, so the fire was a controlled burn training exercise but it was still fun to get in close and play PJ (photojournalist.) The original destination was the Old Miners’ Cemetery in Jerome, AZ, a hippy-dippy artists’ colony in a historic  mountain-top mining community. Jerome, like Bisbee, AZ, is a mining town that has successfully reinvented itself after the mines were tapped out and closed in the early 1950s. Today, Jerome is a cool little town filled with artists’ galleries, restaurants, coffee shops and tourism money. It’s a great example of a town that moved into the future rather than dry up and die like so many small towns that cling to a forgotten and, ultimately, insignificant, past.

OK, pontificating over, on to the the photos. I saw the black smoke from the Old Miners’ Cemetery and immediately knew it was a structure fire. In old mining towns like Jerome, fire is an ever present danger so I knew the local FD would pull out all stops. I hustled over there only to discover it was a training event. Still, I was able to get in close for some great PJ shots. In fact, I was so close that when the wind suddenly shifted, hot cinders rained down on me burning my shutter finger.

Jerome-103   Jerome-104   Jerome-105

Jerome-106   Jerome-101

The first shot is just as I got there. I was using my Canon 5D Mark II with the 24-105/4L for landscapes at the cemetery and didn’t have time to swap out for my Canon 7D so I went with what I had ready. The moral of the story is, “Don’t over think the scene, just start shooting.” This was when the fire was at its tallest and wildest. After I got several keepers “in the can” (does anyone still say that?) I moved positions to get the old mine head in the frame (2nd shot) to make it look like a mine fire. As I was taking the shot of the bearded FF (#3) I noticed the second hose handler was a woman. I know there are female FF but this was the first time I had photographed one in action. The only way I could tell she was female was when her ponytail flipped out from under her helmet. On the last two photos, I briefly considered moving in front of the FF to get their faces but discretion won out. Getting old certainly takes a toll on my spontaneous stupidity!

Jerome, AZ Old Miners’ Cemetery

The real reason for being in Jerome was to photograph the Old Miners’ Cemetery. This is an old, semi-cared for cemetery that seems to have been last used around 1916. The rest of the group met up at 7:30AM but I wanted to catch the first light so I got there at 6:30AM. There’s a reason they call it the “Golden Hour.” Unfortunately, it was a typical clear Arizona day so the “Golden Hour” only lasted about 15 minutes. The cemetery scenes were perfect for BW conversions. I started out using Topaz Labs B&W Effects but found I could get faster and better results by first converting in LR4 and adding the finishing touches with TL B&W Effects.

Jerome-201   Jerome-204   Jerome-203   Jerome-202

In the first image, I used the Transparency slider in BWE (B&W Effects) to bring back a hint of the underlying colors. To do this, you have to do the whole conversion in BWE because, obviously, if it had been converted in LR4, there wouldn’t be any underlying color to bring back. The remaining three were converted in LR4 and tweaked in BWE. I don’t recall the exact steps but I usually started with one of Topaz Labs presets.

All photos were made with a Canon 5D MkII and 24-105/4L on my Gitzo 3530LS with a Markins ballhead. Now, I know some of you will automatically wrinkle your nose at the thought of lugging around a tripod but, trust me, there’s no way you’re going to be making good photos at Oh-Dark-Thirty without something to steady the camera.

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2 Comments for this entry

  • Karl

    Nice site. Your photos rock!


    ps: I was blocked from commenting on your “Protecting Yourself from Internet Creeps” article
    pps: Is it true that you invented the Bitcoin?

    • Lee

      Yo Karl,
      Long time, no type. I see you’re still driving the o6NH. I assume you’ve finished all your edumacation and have now returned to the world of working stiffs? Thanks for reading my blog. Hope winter hasn’t been too brutal to you. SHHH! Don’t tell anyone I invented Bitcoin, whatever that is! Sorry you were blocked but, sometimes, Akismet (spam filter) gets overly feisty.

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