• Mark White

Finding Color in the Wildfire Haze During Seattle's Air Quality Alerts

Looking north from Alaskan Way S, around 5PM September 13.

In August 2018, wildfires in Eastern Washington and Oregon smothered the city for several days in a dense haze. I've mentioned several times in my posts that while the haze was horrible for our health -- a day breathing it was like smoking 7 cigarettes -- the smoke particles filtered the sun and allowed me to take shots of the Great Wheel without the glare of the summer sun, or the dark gray of a winter mist.

I spent last weekend -- Sept 11-13 -- in the smoke again, seeing what other "gift" to my camera the smoke could bring.

Color. I found that the smokey conditions allowed me to easily isolate bright colors form the gray, monochrome background of the smokey haze. Street signs and lights offered some of the only options with enough contrast. There were very few humans stupid enough like me to be walking in the smoke, and those that were tended to be wearing darker clothing.

These images were shot with a my Olympus 40mm-150mm at f/16. I used a monopod to stabilze the camera; my shutter speed was in the 1/40-sec range. I wanted the small opening to exact as much definition as I could out of the lines and silhouettes. The days were cloudless. There simply was no sun coming through the smoke. The air quality index was far into the unhealthy range. Not a great shooting environment. My head ached all weekend, even despite the N-95 mask I wore throughout.

Sunday August 13, late afternoon, looking north toward the city center from the SoDo neighborhood.

The Space Needle in the distance as seen from Lakeview Boulevard on Sunday afternoon, Sept 13.

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© 2016-2020 MARK WHITE  |  mark@mjwhitephotos.com I 206.409.1247

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