It is forest fire season in California, Oregon, and Washington State.

In 2020, so much forest area was destroyed there as never before in a single year.

Due to the fires, the sky over the western United States is colored orange.

The sun is often barely visible, clouds of smoke drift across the sky, and ash particles rain down on the cities.

The smoke particles in the thick plumes block the blue components of the sunlight, which is why not only does the sky look orange in many places, but the daylight also appears significantly darker than usual.

Lights and headlights have to be switched on in the middle of the day.

Images of this orange-tinted darkness are currently flooding the social media, and the status messages with images of the apocalyptically discolored sky repeatedly say that no filter was used here: #NoFilter.

Alternatively, it is written that the images look like a filter has been placed over all of California.

The image filters to which these statements refer have only been available to photo amateurs for every smartphone camera for almost a decade and have evidently changed our image perception so permanently that their non-use now has to be emphasized.

The variants of image processing via app, which are also easily accessible for laypeople, became a mass phenomenon with the Hipstamatic photo app, first published in 2009, and the Instagram social media image platform launched a year later.

In the beginning, it was about a vintage look at the push of a button: the images were given the structure and color scheme of analogue photo techniques, and based on Polaroid photos, they were cut into squares.


We have been looking at the world through filters for a long time

Over the years, as Katja Gunkel

writes

in her basic study,

The Instagram Effect

, "an increasing concentration on the colors of the image while at the same time turning away from optical structure

effects

".

The change in color is one of the defining aesthetic characteristics of photography that is widely used in social media.

But not only static images are changed in color, color correction has long been used in the videos of successful YouTube stars.

The user-friendly options with which even laypeople can make color corrections and color changes to their photographs and video clips in the apps have set their own trends.

In recent years, for example, there has been an increase in photos on social media in which the colors orange and turquoise are intensified.

This effect is often attributed to the influencer Sam Kolder, whose travel videos on YouTube fit exactly into this color scheme, which he also uses in his Instagram feed.

During this processing, red colors are shifted towards orange, while blue colors are changed to turquoise.

The complementary contrast of orange and blue-green increases the radiance of the colors.

This color processing gives the recordings a cinematic quality, which is also due to the fact that this variant of color correction is extremely popular in Hollywood blockbusters.

The digital post-processing of the colors of feature films requires large computing capacities and is therefore still a relatively new phenomenon.

One of the first films to be completely digitally color corrected is the Coen brothers film

O Brother, Where Art Thou?

whose sepia coloration produced on the computer attracted a lot of attention.

As always with new technical possibilities, there was also a lot of experimentation with digital color correction in the first few years that followed.

Complementary contrasts shaped the movie posters of Hollywood films after the turn of the millennium, and the intensification of the orange-turquoise contrast can be seen, for example, in numerous superhero films of the past decade.

If you want a shimmering turquoise-orange example of this, you just have to

watch

the trailer of

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

from 2016, in which the color-saturated flames and explosions stand out in a particularly orange against the turquoise background of the cityscape.

But not only the worlds of the superheroes appear in turquoise and orange, also in the film

The Martian

from 2015 the red planet Mars is mainly depicted in orange and thus contrasted with the blue planet Earth.

A completely orange colored environment appears apocalyptic and hostile to life. 

The currently orange sky over the western United States has image properties that strongly remind viewers of color-changed images on social media or in films. The movie poster for

The Martian

has now become a meme in a modified form, instead of the original title it now reads

The Californian

. The film poster of the Martian landscapes with sandstorms in the orange sky suddenly seems appropriate to the Californian reality, the catastrophe can be better understood by referring to dystopian film landscapes.