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Stuart Palley
The French Fire burns overnight in the Sierra National Forest near the town of North Fork, CA on August 1st, 2014.
HEATING UP

A daredevil photographer captures the cinematic beauty of California’s wildfires

Kate Groetzinger
By Kate Groetzinger

Ideas fellow

Thanks to California’s historic four-year drought, some specialists are now referring to frequent wildfires as a “new normal” for the state. For the past two years, Los Angeles-based photographer Stuart Palley has been chasing these flare-ups to capture their unusual beauty.

“The fires move fast and you need to get there on the first night of the fire to capture its most intense behavior,” Palley told Quartz. “Two years ago I left my own birthday party early to go photograph a fire.”

Taken with a long-exposure or under a starry night sky, the 27-year-old’s shots of flames and smoke engulfing hills, forests, roads and homes are hair-raisingly gorgeous.

Between Jan. 1, 2015 and Aug. 8, 2015, nearly 118,00 acres of land have burned in California—up from about 88,000 acres in the same period last year.

Stuart Palley
The Rim Fire burns through Yosemite National park and the Stanislaus National Forest in late August 2013.
Stuart Palley
The Way Fire burns on August 19, 2014 in the Sierra National Forest near Kernville, CA overnight.
Stuart Palley
The Meadow Fire burns at dawn near Half Dome in Yosemite National Park early Monday September 8, 2014.
Stuart Palley
The Silverado Fire burns near homes in Silverado Canyon Friday Sept. 12, 2014 in Orange County CA.
Stuart Palley
The Silverado Fire burns near homes in Silverado Canyon Friday Sept. 12, 2014 in Orange County CA.
Stuart Palley
The Etiwanda Fire burns shortly after dusk on April 30, 2014 in Rancho Cucamonga, CA.
Stuart Palley
The Shirley Fire burns at night off of Old State Rd near Lake Isabella, CA in June 2014.
Stuart Palley
The Lake Fire burns in the San Bernardino National Forest Thursday June 18, 2015.
Stuart Palley
The Lake Fire burns in the San Bernardino National Forest Friday June 19, 2015.
Stuart Palley
The Lake Fire burns in the San Bernardino National Forest Friday June 19, 2015.
Stuart Palley
The Lake Fire burns in the San Bernardino National Forest Friday June 19, 2015.
Stuart Palley
The Lake Fire burns in the San Bernardino National Forest Friday June 19, 2015.
Stuart Palley
The Lake Fire burns in the San Bernardino National Forest Friday June 19, 2015.

 

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