PICTURES: The stories behind the best Clarence cane fire shots

AS cane fires start to appear on the horizon of the following weeks, many people will be waiting at night with their cameras to capture the spectacle.

The Daily Examiner asked four local photographers to show off their favourite images of cane fires at night, and explain why it was so special for them.

If you've got a favourite cane shot, send it to newsroom@dailyexaminer.com.au

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Jeremy Billett - Against the Night

Against The Blaze - Jeremy Billett
Against The Blaze - Jeremy Billett

 

Towards the end of the 2017 cane season I was seeing burns light up the skies after work most nights. I'd been trying for a few years to find a field I could get to at the right time and hadn't gotten much I was happy with.

The images and cane fires I'd seen in person always felt and looked different to what I imagined. The flames were fast, messy and unpredictable. It was always beautiful to watch, but hard to photograph in a way that felt "nice".

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My photographs of previous fires were always a distracting mess, too dark, or too bright. I usually got home with nothing to show for it, there was no point of interest and I was usually distracted by the flames themselves.

In contrast the burning orange skies from distant fires always felt like candles in the night, calm and lingering. Like they were guiding me home.

I reached out to a friend with a farm after missing several other local cane fires, and by chance they were waiting for the right night for their burn. With a few hours notice I got the message that it was going ahead.

I didn't have any information about how they had planned the night, so as I've done before I went in with no expectations.

As the cane fire moved through I got the usual messy snaps of the fire itself, but the night was very calm so there was a lot of hanging smoke and light as they started on the next field.

I didn't notice the lone tree standing in the night until the smoke in the air started glowing bright orange from the fire in the next field. It stood out in defiance against the blaze under burning light and I spent twenty minutes photographing this single tree as the light and smoke changed.

It felt like a much better photograph and it's still one of my favourite cane fires photos, coincidentally with no fire visible. It's both calm and strong, light and dark, and showcases the lingering glow of the cane fires we see in the distance through the night.

 

Jessica Robertson - James Creek Evening Cane Fire

Evening Harwood Cane Fire - Jessica Robertson
Evening Harwood Cane Fire - Jessica Robertson

 

A cane fire at night is a beautiful sight, the way the flames dance and crackle twirling with plumes of smoke and black ash that spiral into the sky creating a rich orange glow across the horizon as the sun sets on another day.

Cane fires are one of my favourite subjects to capture, as their intensity and beauty is one of a kind. Who would ever have thought mankind could tame and control such a beast thus creating something so beautiful!

This photo was my first cane fire photo and my most favourite, taken with my drone not long after I received my drone certification from CASA, just down the road from where I live in James Creek.

I love the fact I was able to not only capture the cane fire with the Harwood Bridge in the background, but I was also able to capture the Sunshine Sugar Mill with its stunning reflection on the mighty Clarence River, the heart of our sugar industry.

The power of a photo is immeasurable with its ability to transport you in time. From the intensity in the flames to the richness of the colours in the winters' sunset, this picture takes me back to the moment where I can close my eyes and hear her crackling and dancing with the cane as if I'm there. I can smell the richness of the burning sugar and feel her warmth like a mother's hug. It makes me smile and reminds me of home.

 

Megs Burgess - Cane Fire Reflections

 

Cane fire reflection - Megs Burgess.
Cane fire reflection - Megs Burgess.

 

Where else can you see some of the best cane fire burns? Nowhere except for the Mighty Clarence Valley. With so many properties around, most of them grow cane.

It's an amazing experience to be up close to a burn in which I have with the owners of the property. The sound is just awesome, it actually sounds like "Snap, Crackle and Pop"

READ: Fields of fires ignite the night.

The first time I seen a cane fire I said to myself " I need to photograph one of those" so it was like chasing a storm instead if I seen smoke away I went chasing cane fires. It wasn't long after that I got to know a few of the property owners who then said I am welcome to photograph any of cane burns. One of the property owners is actually the president of the Cane growers association for the Clarence Valley, which was great for me.

The image I have shared with you was taken at Palmer's Channel. I'll never forget that night. I was told to be at the property at 5.30pm and here I was waiting for instructions etc. I jumped in the it's and away we went about a kilometre down the back.

It was freezing cold and everyone had gone to start the burn. I was told to stay here as this is where you will get the best photos. It was pitch black and so quiet, so anything that made a sound I'm like what was that.

Then the cane started to burn and now I know why the owner said stay here. I'd never in my dreams would expect a cane fire reflection.

 

Louise Senz - Tyndale family farm - InFocus winner 2020

Tyndale cane fire - Louise Senz
Tyndale cane fire - Louise Senz

 

The photo was taken last November on Mum and Dad's cane farm at Tyndale, right behind our house. It took me 12 years to get the photo I wanted because I was always holding a baby or toddler and so couldn't get the timing or my position right. I wanted the pecan nut tree and the old barn with the flames and glow behind. Nothing says home to me like the sight and sound of a cane fire, and I just wanted to try and capture some of that. I love that in this one you can also see my brother walking across the shot.

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I only entered the comp because a friend saw the photo when I posted it on Facebook, and suggested I give it a go. I was pretty chuffed with myself (and surprised) as I have no photography experience at all, and the photo was only taken on my iPhone. Someone also helped me to get the resolution right so it would meet the criteria of the competition. I've got it blown up and hanging in our living room now.

 

READ: Cane fire photo helps Daily Examiner to a Walkley award


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