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Refineries in forest fire smoke

Smoke from large forest fires in BC obscures the view of the Suncor refinery complex near Edmonton, Alberta.

Refinery horizon in thick smoke

And now for something completely different…

In my last post I mentioned that I don’t often photograph wildlife—but couldn’t resist the little warbler. And far less commonly than wildlife do I ever photograph heavy industrial complexes and refineries—but this week I couldn’t resist.

On Thursday morning (the 19th), thick smoke from forest fires burning in BC rolled in, covering the city in a dim, orange-y haze. While a big problem for asthmatics, unique lighting/atmospheric conditions like this are a great opportunity for landscape photographers. So I headed out of town with my camera, thinking I’d go to out to Ministik or one of my other favourite natural areas east of Edmonton. But as I drove out of town, the effect of the filtered light and the thick smoke obscuring background details, caught my eye.

I’ve noticed the interesting, almost abstract, shapes and lines of the refineries for a while but the high-contrast surfaces and limited colour palette never quite inspired me sufficiently to grab my camera (and I’m usually on my way out, or back from, a beautiful walk in the forest and I don’t feel like staring at refineries). Brooks Jensen, editor of the excellent photography magazine, LensWork, once spoke in a podcast (click here to listen to it) about the concept of the “decisive landscape moment”. Borrowing the idea from the late, great street photographer Henri Cartier Bresson, Brooks suggests that we need to wait for something unique to happen on the landscape in order to make an interesting photograph—a simple idea, but definitely worth keeping in mind. And on Thursday, the refineries east of Edmonton had their “decisive moment” and I had a lot of fun trying out making photographs of an entirely different subject matter.

I made a good number of photographs that I’m pretty excited about and perhaps I’ll share some more of them here. Leave a note in the comments to let me know what you think—I always appreciate hearing your reactions to any of the photographs I post here.

A folio print of this image is for sale for whatever price you think is fair. Enter amount: $

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