At work in Hell’s kitchen

Anyone who picked up last Friday’s Daily Telegraph could not avoid taking in the front page.

Covering the paper was a wrap of one of the powerful photos coming out of the bushfires that continue to engulf regional area of NSW.

Like all good photos, it was a combination of being in the right spot at the right time, and having a photographer’s eye for an indelible image that sum up an event. There is a skill in not only taking the photograph, but mastering the conditions around you.

Front page of the Daily Telegraph from the 18th of October: picture taken by John Grainger

Front page of the Daily Telegraph from the 18th of October: picture taken by John Grainger

John Grainger, the photographer responsible for the front page image, says that when taking photos in those environments you need to be aware of everything going on around you.

“It was hot and smoky, and you have to really watch what’s going. There was a fire tornado and they are just what you would expect – hot wind and embers spitting up and they’re not uncommon really.

“I was locked into the area. I had gotten through the road block and I just followed the firefront, and I came across a house that was being protected by the Rural Fire Service and that is where I got the shot,” he said.

Mr Grainger isn’t a stranger to fire photography, having previously been a member of the RFS. On the other side of the coin he also helps to extinguish embers while on assignment

After the 1994 Sydney bushfires, he joined the RFS, mainly taking photos for the service of fires and accidents.

“I’ve got more experience than other people with fires. When you see them you’re not so shocked, you’re not freezing when you see the fire,” he said.

However Mr Grainger explained that even with all his experience you still need to watch what the RFS is doing,

“You’re safe if you’re with the RFS, but you still need to keep an eye out. If they run, you run.”

Mr Grainger is still chasing the fires and he describes the situation as still being extremely unpredictable,

“I’m in Lithgow and it’s fairly calm at the moment. I’m in the highest lookout in the Blue Mountains and the hills are covered in fire – the weather is forecast for it to get worse but it just swirls around. “You just don’t know what’s going to happen and it’s the same with the photographs. You really have to play it by ear.”

Leave a comment