Yelena Safronova

New York, NY, USA

I am an artist working with photography, inks, and oil. I've been deeply moved by the scope of ever-lengthening fire season in California, US. Last fall, I was looking forward to exploring and photographing some of California's preserved parks. I want to show how precious our planet is, and that it is worth taking care of. I booked a short trip and daydreamed about a hike in Limestone Canyon. 

The weather report promised clear skies for my entire stay. The light in California is a pink gold, making you feel as though you're walking through a beautiful movie - I wouldn't need to change colors in my photos. Sadly, days before my trip, all hiking in Limestone Canyon was canceled due to fire weather. Reports of wildfires were alarming, but I cast aside all worries and hoped for the best.

I explored Upper Newport Bay Reserve in Costa Mesa, CA - a place that was first used to search for gold and then as a salt mine. It became a reserve in 1970s, but the efforts to restore the ecosystem are ongoing. People are allowed to walk only on sparse pathways, so as not to disturb snakes, small birds, and rabbits. The landscape appeared still and quiet.

My next stop was the Mission Canyon in Santa Barbara. I hiked in the Botanic Garden, glimpsing the plants and small wildlife native to the area. This garden focuses on preserving what's native to the area, not bringing in exotic samples. The mountains gleamed pink and beckoned exploration. 

The prevalently warm, dry weather with deep blue skies and gentle breezes lulls you into forgetting all cares and danger. Days after I left Santa Barbara, the residents of the city saw flames in the distance coloring the sky like a strange sunrise. California is breathtakingly beautiful, and I'll be back many times. //