Photographing the Waldo Canyon Fire


We’re heading into fire season and I want to share my story of photographing the Waldo Canyon Fire

I've photographed many wildfires in my time as a news photographer. From a safe distance they’re always a kind of spectacle, up close it’s another matter. I never got up too close to a wildfire.

That is until the Waldo Canyon Fire erupted. The worst day of the fire was Tuesday, June 26. I remember just how hot and dry it was, and watching the smoke column west of town getting larger and larger as the day went on.

In the early afternoon I grabbed my cameras, got in my car and drove to the westside. I began photographing the fire from Colorado Ave. and then I headed north on 30th Street. I stopped at Garden of the Gods Road and made this picture of the fire as it cascaded down the mountain.

  • Sean Cayton

Then I drove north on Centennial to Flying W Road and ended up on Rossmere Street. I can remember just how thick the smoke was. A deep red glow was emanating from it. After a minute outside and couple of pictures later, I decided that whatever picture was to be made was better left unmade. 

I almost never saw flames. But as I was leaving the Mountain Shadows neighborhood, I glanced into my rear view mirror and saw a wall of fire as high as my car. Later, I watched the TV news report on the devastation and realized just how close I was to becoming a cooked goose. It’s a lesson I’ill keep with me. 

Photographers must take risks, but they must know when to make an exit, also. On that day, I’m glad — and so is my wife — that I made the right decision.

Of all of the wildfires I’ve photographed, I can’t remember seeing as much destruction on a single day. And I hope to never witness another day like that in Colorado Springs in my lifetime.

Colorado Springs wedding photographer Sean Cayton loves remarkable photographs and the stories behind them. You can see his wedding work at, his personal work at and his editorial work in the Colorado Springs Independent. Submit your photo and the story behind the image - no more than two a week, please - to for consideration in upcoming blogs.

Comments (4)

Showing 1-4 of 4

Add a comment

Add a comment

Clicky Quantcast