Fire and life

Natures Palette

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Fire in Yosemite, or just about any other wild place, is a fact of life. Lightning and fire is natures way of taking out the trash. In our urbanized culture we see fire as a destroyer of life and property.  In nature, while there is loss of life, fire is a birth process. The problem with our perception is that we operate on a different time scale than most of what we see around us. For the trees in the forest our little ~80 year life span is just a blink.

I spent a couple of days in Yosemite just prior to the [wikipop]Independence Day[/wikipop] holiday.  There are, as of this post, two wildfires burning in the park. While I rarely venture into the valley during the summer because of the crowds, I do still appreciate the view. Friday afternoon my wife and I hiked out to Dewey Point to have lunch. There was so much smoke that Half Dome was only a faint grey outline. It was still a good hike but it would have been nicer with a view to reward us.

I took this image a couple of years ago.  It was from a stretch of Highway 41, North of the Glacier point road. The area had been burned, roughly a decade ago, but in that short length of time was already bursting with new growth. I’d driven by the area several times thinking, to myself, that there was a picture hiding there somewhere. The sky was grey, from some management fires in the valley, so I choose to exclude it. What struck me was the contrast of color. The green undergrowth, the yellow of the Elm, the gold of the Oak, the bright pink of the Dogwood all contrasted against the stark grey and black of the, still standing, burned forest.  Color vs monochrome.  Life vs death.

The fire that obscured our lunch time view will almost certainly bring new photographic opportunities as long as I’m willing to accept nature’s timeline. Change happens continuously all around us, we just need to slow down to see it.

To make the image, I used my 24-70 f/2.8L zoomed all the way to 70mm.  I was using my Canon 30D at the time so I was getting the benefit of some additional magnification from the smaller sensor. While depth of field was no concern I chose f/11 as it is one of the sharpest apertures on that lens. The exposure was 1/13th of a second at ISO 100