Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Wild Goose Island

with 21 comments

Here’s a non-traditional photograph of Wild Goose Island in St. Mary Lake in Glacier National Park on August 30th. I say it’s non traditional because the island is such a small element compared to the dead tree in the foreground that dominates the image. You could add that the photograph is unconventional because instead of clarity and blue water and snow-covered mountains, you get a smoky wildfire haze that has muted the details. Those same observations apply to the picture of Wild Goose Island below, which I made ten minutes later from another pullover on the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 3, 2017 at 4:48 AM

21 Responses

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  1. The clarity of the dead tree makes up for the lack of clarity in the distance. Was it hard to breathe with so much smog/haze in the area?


    October 3, 2017 at 5:59 AM

    • As persistent as the smoke was, I don’t remember it bothering us. I do do remember wondering whether the smoke would cause the authorities to close the road. Fortunately they didn’t while we were there, but they did close the western half of the road the next week. I just checked the report at


      and found that now most of the road is closed.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 3, 2017 at 7:16 AM

      • Come to think of it, toward the end of the trip I did find myself getting winded at times. The altitude probably contributed to that, but maybe the many days of smoke did too.

        Steve Schwartzman

        October 3, 2017 at 8:22 AM

      • Based on your road experiences both here and in Canada, I can’t resist saying “There’s no smoke without Steve.”


        October 4, 2017 at 7:06 AM

        • So it would seem, wouldn’t it? Coincidentally, not long ago I told someone about the way we’d almost had to detour around the fire-imperiled detour for the landslide. In fact, just last night I was wondering if the coastal road through Kaikoura has finally reopened. From what I can tell at


          the road is still closed.

          Steve Schwartzman

          October 4, 2017 at 7:21 AM

          • I believe that is so. It will soon be a year since the big quake which caused all the damage.


            October 6, 2017 at 3:52 AM

  2. It is all well and good, but where is the wild goose in question?


    October 3, 2017 at 8:54 AM

  3. Even if it’s caused by the smoke from wildfires, the haze gives those pictures a wonderfully mystical atmosphere.


    October 3, 2017 at 9:10 AM

  4. […] The smoky haze that accompanied us westward across Glacier National Park on August 30th stayed with us when we drove back the other way the next day. In some places the haze hovered above the remains of trees from a previous forest fire, reddening the sun and turning the world eerie. […]

  5. I suppose I should spare you references to your search for blue skies above Wild Goose Island being akin to a wild goose chase.

    It did occur to me that blue skies, a vivid lake, and perfectly clear mountains might have made it impossible to get such a good image of an especially interesting tree trunk. And I found myself wondering about differences between fog and smoke. If I’d seen these photos without context, my initial thought probably would have been of fog. But my hunch is that fog diffuses light differently than smoke — which probably doesn’t diffuse it at all, but only conceals. Is that so, in your experience?


    October 4, 2017 at 7:52 AM

    • You raise a question I’ve never thought about: whether fog and smoke cause light to behave differently. Even anecdotally I don’t have any impression of a similarity or difference. I expect scientists have studied this and know the answer but a brief search just now didn’t turn up anything. You might even say my search was a wild goose chase.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 4, 2017 at 8:17 AM

      • One of our NWS meteorologists arrived here from Florida, where he was the state fire meteorologist for the Florida Forest Service. Smoke modeling is one of his interests, so I thought I’d ask him about the smoke/fog question.

        He said the biggest difference is that fog’s behavior/appearance changes with the wavelength of light, while smoke is mostly constant. Then, he added that the differences probably affect color more than anything — which makes sense. I asked if he knew of any references on the subject for a general audience, but he didn’t. In fact, he wasn’t sure there were many references out there for anyone. As he put it, it’s “kind of a niche topic.” That made me laugh.


        October 5, 2017 at 5:42 PM

        • I’m glad you asked him and found out the main difference between fog and smoke. (And of course it’s easier and healthier to breathe fog than smoke.) Speaking of niche topics, smoke modeling seems to fit the category.

          Steve Schwartzman

          October 5, 2017 at 8:13 PM

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