I found Stuart Palley’s series depicting California wildfires absolutely awesome. Some of my favorite kinds of photos are landscapes and NatGeo-esque nature and wildlife pictures, and these were right up my alley. A couple of things about his style really interested me- the lighting, the sharpness, and the way he interposed the clubby Joshua Trees in the foreground with the massive blaze in the background.
Palley’s command of the lighting in the setting is what really makes his photos stand out in my opinion. He seems to show the fire lighting up the sky, and lots of his pictures seem to have taken on an effusive red-orange glow that seeps into the whole composition. Beyond that, bright pinpricks of light and larger globs of fire spot the hills here and there in the distance. It seems like the world is ablaze.
Only high in the stars does it seem like anything is safe from the fire, and the sharpness of the stars in Palley’s work provides a cool, icy contrast to the inferno below. The streaking outline of a plane adds a whole other element, that of humans surveying the destruction.
In my opinion, the fires are absolutely beautiful. Despite the extreme damage and danger they bring, it’s par for the course in California, and Mother Nature does what she wants. Palley does a great job of forcing us to consider the fires as beautiful, inexorable elements of nature, rather than a destructive nuisance.
Overall I was really impressed with Palley’s work. From looking at his work, I feel like I acquired a better understanding of some of the things long exposures can do at night- making the fires more brilliant, and making the stars pop out of the sky. The exposures also seem to lend Palley’s work their trademark orange ambiance as the exposure captures all of the natural light.
I could absolutely see myself doing this kind of work, if I had the skill. Being outdoors, in nature, exposed to the elements is something that piques my interest, especially when there’s a little danger involved. The color and vibrancy found in Palley’s work is awesome. If I pursued photography, this is certainly the sort of situation I could see myself taking photos in.