Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

But it wasn’t all smoky haze

with 41 comments

Over the three weeks of our trip to the Canadian Rockies and vicinity, we did enjoy a few days free from the otherwise predominant haze. One of those clear days was September 2nd, when we drove north and covered the length of the Bow Valley Parkway in Banff National Park, Alberta. One of my favorite mountains from along that route was this whitish one, which I believe is part of the Sawback Range. Based on what I read on a nearby sign, I think the burned trees and lack of dense ground cover in the foreground resulted from a prescribed burn.

UPDATE. I’ve now heard back from travel specialist Arden A. at Travel Alberta after I’d written to try to find out the name of this peak. Arden replied: “While the peak in your photo does not have an official name, it is known informally as ‘The Finger’. Well-known Canadian mountaineer Lawrence Grassi created the epithet after a climbing incident in 1935. If Grassi was the inventor of the name, poet Earle Birney brought the peak to prominence with his poem ‘David’ – a literary staple in Canadian school curricula.” Along with that explanation came a link with much more information about “The Finger.” If only every organization were as knowledgeable and forthcoming with information as Travel Alberta was in this case.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 25, 2017 at 4:40 AM

41 Responses

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  1. I like the little wreath of clouds around the mountain peak, and the way the slope of the mountain is emphasized by the sloping trees. The ribbon of green is especially nice.

    Speaking of prescribed burns, I learned this weekend that the section of burned prairie I documented used to be a rice field. That explains the berms running through it. They weren’t constructed as part of the prescribed burn process, they’re left-over dikes that still are in the process of degrading.


    September 25, 2017 at 8:20 AM

    • The leftovers from human endeavors on the landscape can be fascinating, can’t they? We have a prairie coming back from an erstwhile housing development. Some houses were built but later taken down, while others only got as far as foundations and basements. There are some streets buried in the prairie, and a street sign or two. I love it. I don’t love the basements, though. There are no trails so you never know when you might drop into a large hole…I just don’t go in there anymore.


      September 25, 2017 at 8:59 AM

      • The persistence of human alterations to the land makes archaeology possible. Somehow, though, I doubt that the developers of that housing project were out to foster archaeology. It’s strange to think of “streets buried in the prairie.” I’d hate to hear that you’ve disappeared into a black hole. It sounds like not going in there is the prudent path to follow.

        Steve Schwartzman

        September 25, 2017 at 10:41 AM

        • Almost as strange as streets buried in the prairie, a city buried beneath wheat and barley fields https://www.outlookindia.com/newsscroll/lost-city-of-alexander-the-great-found-in-iraq/1154664


          September 26, 2017 at 5:34 AM

          • Thanks for the link. I find it interesting that the photographs revealing the site were taken way back in the 1960s. I wonder what other finds are hidden away in spy satellite photographs.

            Steve Schwartzman

            September 26, 2017 at 8:34 AM

            • I imagine spy satellite photographs have not yet revealed all their secrets.


              September 26, 2017 at 11:00 PM

              • That’s for sure. Documents still remain classified even from as far back as World War II. I sometimes wonder about the things that will finally be revealed long after I’m dead.

                Steve Schwartzman

                September 26, 2017 at 11:07 PM

                • In some cases, we may be better off not knowing.


                  September 27, 2017 at 4:01 AM

                • Perhaps, and yet I would still like to know. I find it unfair—to use that word from childhood—that people in government can do dishonorable things, lie about them, and mostly get away with it.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  September 27, 2017 at 7:23 AM

        • I like how you put that…


          September 27, 2017 at 8:44 AM

        • It is one of the places I considered taking you and Eve to, because floristically it is very rich. However it is also ferociously full of ticks.


          September 27, 2017 at 8:47 AM

          • I remember your mentioning the ticks. You did the prudent thing by not taking us there.

            We didn’t encounter any ticks on the Canada trip but we did find a few on the trip to South Dakota.

            Steve Schwartzman

            September 27, 2017 at 9:26 AM

            • I’m hopeful that ticks won’t be something I have to deal with when I finally can move to the northwest. Reports are varied on the subject but the life cycle of ticks suggests that they thrive better in thick vegetation and deciduous forests than they do under evergreens. I do remember them from family trips to South Dakota though. ugh.


              September 28, 2017 at 9:01 AM

    • I’ve contemplated the “wisdom” of growing rice in Texas. East Texas gets more rain than the central part of the state, yet the rice farmers still take water from the Colorado River. From what you say, at least one rice field has “bit the dust” and is reverting to the prairie it once was after berm met burn.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 25, 2017 at 10:34 AM

      • You’re so right, Steve, e.g. when I think of the scarce water of the Colorado being used to water rice fields. And also, in the Panhandle, depleting the Ogallala aquifer for growing cotton. It deeply saddens me how irresponsibly mankind treats nature.


        September 25, 2017 at 11:07 AM

        • After the lesson of the drought, the authorities finally for a time stopped letting rice growers divert water from the Colorado River. According to the article at


          rice farmers in 2016 started getting water from the Colorado River again.

          Steve Schwartzman

          September 25, 2017 at 12:54 PM

          • If you want some interesting conversation and a different perspective, you should stop by the Blessing Hotel and talk to some of the rice farmers there.


            September 26, 2017 at 7:07 AM

            • It just occurred to me that not everyone knows what the Blessing Hotel is. It’s a historic hotel in Blessing, Texas, that dates to 1906, and it’s famous for its family-style breakfasts, lunches, and Sunday dinner. It’s a go-to spot, drawing fishermen, oil and gas guys, ranchers, families, rice farmers, truckers, farm workers, and wandering photographers from as far afield as Victoria, El Campo, Port O’Connor, Bay City, and Houston. The restaurant sets the menu, and serves from the stove, and everyone sits at long tables and chats with people they might never otherwise meet.


              September 26, 2017 at 7:20 AM

              • You’re right that this Everyman hadn’t heard of the Blessing Hotel. I didn’t even know where Blessing, Texas, is till I looked it up. I’ll have to do more exploring in that part of the state, which I barely know.

                Clearly the rice farmers in that area are going to have a different perspective, given that their livelihood is at stake. I’m reminded of the bumper stickers from a few decades ago with the self-serving message “Eat more beef.”

                Steve Schwartzman

                September 26, 2017 at 9:21 AM

  2. I’m so relieved that prescribed fire is beginning to be used in our forests. It will be a bumpy ride back to ecosystem health, after 50 years of fire suppression in which fuel has built up to dangerous levels. And it remains to be seen whether the prevailing climate conditions will permit the forest to regenerate after fire, as it once surely would have. I would have to think that fire would help control the beetles that so devastate the already stressed trees.


    September 25, 2017 at 8:55 AM

    • The long-term buildup of fuel in the Bastrop pine forest made the 2011 fire there so devastating—along with the drought we were in then, of course.

      Even if the same things don’t come up after a burn, other things will. In Bastrop, once the thick carpet of dry pine needles burned away, wildflowers that hadn’t been seen there for a long time began to grow.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 25, 2017 at 10:45 AM

      • That’s true, that happens here as well. But I am concerned for the ancient trees. Hard to replace a 1000 yr. old redwood.


        September 27, 2017 at 8:43 AM

        • Along those lines, it’s a shame that so many of the ancient redwoods and sequoias got cut down before the idea of preserving them took hold.

          Steve Schwartzman

          September 27, 2017 at 9:21 AM

          • Yes and what really makes me mad is that if cut a certain way redwoods spring back from the stump. So rather than clear-cutting the trees, they could have created stands of renewable wood! Those darned lunkheads.


            September 28, 2017 at 9:03 AM

            • You made me curious about the origin of lunkhead. The American Heritage Dictionary says the first part is probably altered from lump.

              Steve Schwartzman

              September 28, 2017 at 9:26 AM

              • I made people laugh at me once when I made reference to someone being cold-conked, but I think that makes so much more sense than cold-cocked. Either way I guess you’d end up a lumpy lunkhead.


                September 29, 2017 at 8:24 AM

                • You’ve gotten this lumpy lunkhead thinking about the origin of expression cold-cocked. My guess is that it came about as a metaphor for cocking a gun, with the emphasis then shifting to the release and the striking of the hammer. The cold part would be the same as in a telemarketer cold-calling someone, meaning ‘out of the blue, unexpectedly, with no prior contact.’

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  September 29, 2017 at 9:35 AM

  3. Excellent framing of the angled dividing the shapes and colors, Steve. It would have been excellent with a traditional Schwartzman blue sky, but the cloud formations adds a little zing.

    Steve Gingold

    September 25, 2017 at 5:10 PM

    • This was another instance of “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em,” with the ’em being the clouds you found zingy. I did photograph some other mountains that day with clear blue skies behind them.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 25, 2017 at 5:33 PM

  4. […] appeared, I received quite a bit of information about the mountain shown in it. I’ve updated that post to include the new […]

  5. I like the way The Finger appears as an extension of the trees; a petrified layer of giant trees. ‘David’ speaks to the appeal of the mountain. To David it was a fateful appeal. I am glad you didn’t have the same urge as David to climb it.


    September 26, 2017 at 5:44 AM

    • You can rest easy. To David the mountaineer the urge was fatal, but this photographer would never feel compelled to go up against such a Goliath of a peak.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 26, 2017 at 8:46 AM

  6. If I’d known the peak had been named The Finger, it would have been impossible not to see it stirring the clouds.


    September 26, 2017 at 7:22 AM

    • I still have trouble seeing it as a finger because it seems too stubby. I might be able to accept it as The Knuckle, with the rest of the finger folded down out of sight on the other side.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 26, 2017 at 8:49 AM

  7. Beautiful!!


    September 26, 2017 at 7:59 PM

  8. An impressive peak with an appropriate name. I like the way the line of trees echoes the slope of the peak. When we toured BC on a fly-drive some years back, what impressed me was the amount of information provided at lookouts and trail points – very informative and much appreciated.


    September 28, 2017 at 2:18 AM

    • We also noticed the many informational signs in the Canadian Rockies. Some were of a type I’d rarely seen anywhere else: angled toward a mountain and bearing just the name of that peak. Quite a few regular signs warned that at this time of year bears come into the area to eat berries and fatten up in preparation for hibernating.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 28, 2017 at 6:27 AM

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