Thirty years ago this past week on a trip to the Outer Banks of North Carolina, I set up to take a series of photos to capture a wildfire-enhanced sunset with the picturesque Corolla Lighthouse in the foreground. The wildfires were nowhere near the east coast but were actually the historic 1,000,000 acre blaze in and around Yellowstone National Park nearly 2,000 miles away. The fire blackened over half a million acres within the park boundary or 63% of the park.
The smoke and ash was carried eastward by the jetstream and created a milky haze that made its way to the Atlantic coast. The airborne particulate created colorful sunrises and sunsets across the US for weeks.
In that summer of 1988 I had recently purchased a set of Cokin Filters and experimented with them in conjunction with Kodachrome and Ektachrome slide film. The photo below shot on Kodachrome 200 was the startling result of stacked Cokin red, orange and yellow filters handheld in front of a $99 Kmart 500mm f/8 lens.
I had one of those 'I remember exactly where I was' moments in life when I first previewed the box of processed slides in my Chevy Nova parked outside of the old Positive Images photo shop in Riverview. The inexplicable way the rim of the sun is darker than the surrounding sky was and still is jaw-droppingly confusing. In the weeks following the North Carolina trip I tried to duplicate the effect using the same setup but never came close.
The photo above was copied in a cheap slide duplicator to convert it to a digital format. The digital version was not enhanced in any way and in fact pales slightly compared to the original slide.