Portraits of Wildflowers

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Burned Tree Remains in Bastrop State Park 4653

I hadn’t been out to Bastrop since June of 2015, so on February 10th I drove the almost 50 miles from where I live to make an early 2016 visit. Many of you will remember that most of the trees in Bastrop State Park and adjacent areas burned down in the horrendous Labor Day forest fire near the end of the drought in 2011. Not surprisingly, the landscape is still largely one of devastation. These scenes are from the park’s Red Trail, which I don’t believe I’d ever wandered along on any of my visits during the four decades I’ve lived in Austin. Notice in the second photograph how a portion of the trunk’s bark remains incongruously standing on its own.

Burned Tree Trunk Remains 4442

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 24, 2016 at 5:03 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , , ,

24 Responses

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  1. Good morning, Steve,
    Horrible as it still looks, the good news is that nature seems to be catching up again. Let’s hope this year won’t be as dry.
    Have a wonderful day,


    February 24, 2016 at 8:21 AM

    • Even in the first spring after the fire plenty of plants came up, some more vigorously than they had in ages now that the pine forest no longer smothered them.

      I don’t know about Fredericksburg, but we got some much-needed rain the night before last. Yesterday’s newspaper said the Highland Lakes are mostly full, a big change from a year or two ago when Lake Travis was only one-third full.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 24, 2016 at 9:43 AM

      • Hi Steve,
        as horrible as it looks when it’s raging, such a fire can really do some good, too. You’re right there.
        We did have some rain here, about .75″. Better than nothing.
        As to the Highland Lakes: I’m really happy about their state. I remember one time when we had to walk about a mile from our resort that normally was on the water’s edge to get to the water of Lake Buchanan. It looked like a moonscape there.
        Have a great day,


        February 24, 2016 at 9:51 AM

  2. Some landscapes actually thrive after a burning! This does still look eerily forbidding though. It reminds me of driving through areas of Rhodes that had been ravaged by fire a couple of years ago. So much wildlife was lost! It was a sobering journey and I couldn’t really bring myself to photograph the remains of the trees there.

    Sarah Longes - Mirador Design

    February 24, 2016 at 6:42 PM

  3. Are those rocks at the base of the tree in the second photo? It looks like it, but I can’t remember seeing rock of that color in the hill country. It looks smooth, too, although some of whatever-it-is around the roots looks as though it’s been cracked. Could the rocks have been shattered by the fire?

    The striping around a couple of the trees in the top photo is interesting, too. I’m suspecting the dark rings are bark. Could insects have done that? I’d think if it was insects, they’d just eat it from top to bottom, or vice-versa, and not leave a pattern, but insect behavior certainly isn’t my forte.


    February 24, 2016 at 8:39 PM

    • Yes, those are rocks at the base of the tree in the second photograph. The earth in Bastrop tends to be sandy and is often of an orange color. It’s quite different from what’s in the Hill Country to the west of Austin, and therefore also host to many plants that don’t grow in Austin or to the west of it. I’m afraid I don’t know if the heat of the great fire cracked the rocks beyond their prior degree of fragmentation.

      I believe the darker areas on the trees farther back in the first photograph are residual patches of bark. On the closest tree, I think the dark areas are mostly burned wood. I have the impression that fires are quirky: unburned things coexist very close to thoroughly burned things. But then life is like that too.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 24, 2016 at 10:26 PM

  4. The top image is very good at pulling us through the composition. I know you don’t like converting to black and white, but I think it might be a good thing to try it and see how it changes the mood with the blue sky going very dark against the white of the trees…or not.
    I like seeing through the tiny triangular opening at the base of the trunk-bark in the second image.

    Steve Gingold

    February 25, 2016 at 6:01 PM

    • That little opening at the base of the stump in the second picture grabbed me too.

      I took up your challenge for the first photograph, using Photoshop’s preset for an infrared-style conversion. What do you think?

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 25, 2016 at 7:20 PM

      • I like it as I expected. How about you? Very different mood and even the visual depth has a more stark feel and expresses a stronger sense of the burn.

        Steve Gingold

        February 25, 2016 at 7:35 PM

        • Also, I should mention the nice job that you did arranging the composition with the tree spacing.

          Steve Gingold

          February 25, 2016 at 7:36 PM

        • I’ll admit that I like the conversion too and that it has a greater starkness than the original. From the mid-1970s through the mid-1980s I worked extensively with 35mm black and white infrared film—in fact it was my “normal” film and I special-ordered a whole bunch of 100-foot rolls from Kodak. I mention that because I still have a fondness for the black skies and bright foliage typical of infrared.

          Steve Schwartzman

          February 25, 2016 at 8:40 PM

          • I like the way the conversion seems to give equal weight to all the trees. Those in the background, or the smaller ones, are more noticeable. The variation in the bark patterns is more prominent, too. I simply didn’t see the tree on the left, with its bark still intact, in the color version. Losing the brown undergrowth seems to give more prominence to the trees, too: at least for me.

            Still, I think I prefer the color, with its hints of growth in the underbrush and the color variations in the trunks. For me, it conveys a stronger sense of place.


            February 26, 2016 at 7:53 AM

            • You may have missed a career as an art critic. By the end of your first paragraph I thought you favored the black and white version, so I was surprised when even after all your observations you ended up preferring the original because of the stronger sense of place you felt.

              Steve Schwartzman

              February 26, 2016 at 8:16 AM

  5. The scenes are pretty horrific, but it’s comforting to see some regrowth. I particularly like your second picture, Steve. Somehow it’s like a symbol of rebellion in a way – it’s still standing – and the contrast is startling. Many Australian plants need fires to germinate their seeds, and they vary in what intensity they need – an intense fire, medium intensity or “gentle” grass fire. Recently though we’ve had devastating fires in Tasmania that have destroyed species that were very old (including mosses) and it is unlikely they’ll ever grow back. It’s interesting how forces such as fire and water have the power to both destroy and give life.


    February 25, 2016 at 10:44 PM

    • I remember hearing about the fierce fires Australia has had in recent years but I didn’t know about the threat to species in Tasmania. (If I can go off on a tangent: the one time I visited Australia I bought a horseradish cheese made in Tasmania.)

      The stump in the second picture was like no other I recall ever seeing. You’re not barking up the wrong tree when you call it rebellious.

      Your last sentence reminded me that Hinduism has deities that are the creator (Brahma), the preserver (Vishnu), and the destroyer (Shiva).

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 25, 2016 at 11:10 PM

  6. […] to black and white. I took him up on that, and if you’d like to see the result, you can go back to that post and scroll down in the […]

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