|From Columbia Gorge FIre in Mosier, Oregon|
While covering the Microwave fire early Friday morning in the Columbia Gorge, I decided to go to Courtney Road across the river on the Washington side to get a better view. I had been up there before and knew it would be spectacular. Reporter Stuart Tomlinson and I were not disappointed. An air tanker made a few drops right in front of us. I moved a photo from my car before leaving. While there I was also thinking ahead to what I could shoot later in the evening.
I know from covering dozens of fires over the past 19-years that the view from Courtney Road was very rare and special. I also knew the flames would glow just after sunset and make a great photo.
I made plans to return no later than 7:45 p.m. Friday night. One thing lead to another and I didn't get into position until about 8:10 p.m. My deadline for page one was 8:30 p.m.. When I finally got there, I set up my tripod in and fired up the Canon 5D Mark II and started shooting immediately. It took me a few frames to get the exposure dialed in and then I cracked off about 10 more frames with different compositions and hustled back to my car. My laptop was already sitting there online and ready to go. I imported the raw images in to Aperture, made some quick and adjustments and and uploaded it to The Oregonian's ftp site. I made the call and told them I had just sent their page one centerpiece photo. I looked at my watch and it was 8:24 p.m. I made deadline!
With that done, I went back to shooting. The flames grew the fire moved quickly down the hill toward Mosier. I and everyone around me on the hill thought for sure Mosier was being swallowed by the fire. It just looked like the fire was ending up right in town. Flames were crowning in the trees, and large bright areas would appear as if a house was going up. It was an unbelievable sight. Hwy. 14 was lined with cars and there quite a few up on Courtney Road watching the action. Thankfully, very little damage was done to Mosier.
Interestingly, the moon made a brief appearance from behind the clouds and then was obscured again. I got all excited about that, because the brightness of the moon was pretty close to the brightness of the fire below. I knew it would make an even better photo than I had shot earlier and kept working on it. The view of that fire from Courtney Road on Aug. 28, 2009, was something I'll never forget.