I snapped this shot of a DSE controlled back-burn in the Otway Ranges south and west of Melbourne, from a vantage point just off the Great Ocean Road. To the naked eye, the fire was visible as the faintest of glows behind the crest of the hills and as a slight reddish tinge on the underside of the clouds. A long-exposure photograph reveals not just the column of dark smoke and the way in which the mid-level winds are blowing it across the sky, but also soak up the ambient light the fire casts onto the clouds of smoke above. Those directly over the fire obviously catch the most intense light, which then fades outwards as though the clouds themselves are burning. We don’t normally think of the sky as a reflector of light in quite such a visible way, but here it’s almost like the smoke was a mirror capturing the ferocity and location of the fire beneath it.
The red-orange hues, the darkness, the columns of smoke and the coiled shape the clouds have taken on all reminded me of some sinister dragon’s lair- an apt metaphor in drought-stricken Victoria where bushfires lurk with destructive malice, waiting for the slightest excuse to cause devastation. This back-burn, I’m happy to say, was in control and over within 48 hours, but it was interesting to watch its effect on the clouds and the sky as I was out and about with my camera. The second shot also captures some of the starry night sky above the smoke- a nice comparison.