Visual Size-Up on the Fireground

Looking at the fire conditions from a photographer's perspective

A visual size-up is important when operating on the fire ground. Knowing the type of structure you are going to shoot makes a big difference in terms of the composition you make. Visual size-up is all about the kind of photos you want to create while on scene. It continues with how the camera reacts in different weather situations. How compelling is your story-telling with your images? (Anywhere from 5 to 20 images.) Overall shot, mid range shot and close up.

Situational awareness is being in the right place at the right time. When photographing a working fire I ask myself five things. First: How long will it take me to get to an incident? Second: Where is the action taking place on the fire ground? Is the action happening in the rear or front of the fire building? Third: is the incident commander asking for extra equipment or a second alarm? What are the fire conditions in the building? Fourth: What is the presence of the police? Brooklyn’s NYPD presence varies from Buffalo Police Department presence. Fifth: How close can I get to an incident without putting myself in danger?

Having a visual plan and understanding your situational awareness as a photographer on the fire ground is important. The pre-planning stage and the execution of your plan of attack are what matter most.

Visual Size up. 650 Goodyear Avenue, Buffalo, NY © Lloyd Mitchell

Nothing but tower ladders were operating on the front side of the building. Shot this from the back side of the building. Situational Awareness: Williamsburg, Brooklyn 2nd alarm. © Lloyd Mitchell

Read more of Lloyd Mitchell's fireground photography articles here.


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