September 12, 2015, 6:52 a.m.; West Shore, Lake Tahoe. When we arrived for our annual reunion of friends on September 11, the 2015 Butte fire had been burning for two days. It was about seventy miles (as the crow flies) to the southeast of us—the same direction as the prevailing wind. The smoke was ominous. No stars that night. When we woke up early the next morning the omen had fully manifested. A thick pall hung over the lake.
It was especially dense on the other side, to the east. We arose for the sunrise, as was our habit, but the sunrise was more like a full moonrise. There was no filter on the lens but there was a miles-thick atmospheric filter in front of me. I shot straight into the sun. 230mm, 1/320 second, f/5.6, ISO 100. The smoke was so impenetrable that I could make an exposure like that.
You see pretty much what I saw. Well, actually you see more than what I saw when I made the shot. I didn’t notice the sunspots until I got the image into DxO Pro later that morning. At first I thought it was dirt on the camera sensor — but no. I checked sunspot activity on the Internet: those are indeed sunspots.
The crop above is at 100%. You’ll see them in the upper-right quadrant. It takes a hell of a fire to provide such a filter.
(Nikon D750; Nikon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR zoom. RAW processing in DxO Pro; final editing in Adobe Photoshop.)