Your Shot Blog

#wildfire2014: A Blazing Beginning

August 17, 2014

Mark Thiessen is a staff photographer for National Geographic. He manages the photo studio and regularly goes out on assignment for National Geographic magazine. He has been shooting wildfires for the past twenty years and is our expert and editor for our #wildfire2014 Hashtag Challenge. 

Launching the #wildfire2014 Hashtag Challenge on such a specific subject was new for us. But I’m sure glad we did it. I’m seeing some wonderful images. Many that I wish I had taken myself. 

I especially like the photos that firefighters have shared showing what life is like on the line. Your pictures capture the dirty, hard work of digging line. I can almost smell the smoke and taste the grit in my mouth. When the smoke interrupts the sunlight, it can give an otherworldly mood to the pictures.


In the above photo, Kari Greer expertly used a fill flash to subtly fill the shadows but still maintain light rays drifting through the smoke, making a beautiful shot that would otherwise be a silhouette.


This is a remarkable black-and-white portrait of a swamper by Jake Niece, above. Black and white is good at showing shape and form while at the same time removing distractions of color. You are in his personal space and his eye contact brings presence to the photo. I wish I saw more portraits like this. Nice job, Jake!


I’m also seeing some stunning landscapes. Fire at night is a beautiful thing, and Michael Stanford made a nice shot (above) of the burning mountainside reflected in the river at dusk. It’s nice that there’s a little bit of blue in the sky to define the ridgeline and fill in the shadows so they don’t go completely dark. 

I’ll get my own chance next week. I’m heading out west to shoot fires. At this point, I don’t know exactly where my starting point will be, but If you hear of anything interesting, comment on one of my photos in my profile

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