Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Previously burned forest

with 37 comments

Intermittent fires are a part of the life cycle in forests. Here’s a view of previously burned woods in Glacier National Park, Montana, a year ago today. The smoke in the air came from fires currently burning, and days later authorities had to close parts of the park because of the danger. Below is an eerie, smokier scene from the previous day, also in Glacier National Park, showing Clements Mountain.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 31, 2018 at 4:40 AM

37 Responses

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  1. The second photo has a portentous look to it. If I didn’t know the darkness was caused by smoke, I would be concerned the end of the world was near!


    August 31, 2018 at 5:45 AM

  2. powerful message


    August 31, 2018 at 7:30 AM

  3. Indeed. I really love the first image. I remember from reading “Trees” by Donald Culross Peattie that at least one kind of tree waits until a burn to release its seeds, and then a dense stand of new trees springs up. This species will always explode into a hot fire every few years~it is just part of its biology.


    August 31, 2018 at 9:14 AM

    • We saw lots of previously burned woods and new growth in the forests of Glacier National Park and the Canadian Rockies. I’ve heard about trees that require fire to release their seeds. Not how I’d want to reproduce, but then I’m not a tree.

      Donald Culross Peattie was a wonderful nature writer. I wish more people knew about him today.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 31, 2018 at 9:44 AM

  4. It is hard to believe that some fire(s) are actually good for forests.
    Have a wonderful weekend,


    August 31, 2018 at 11:15 AM

  5. The silvering of the trees in the first photo is beautiful. Two or three trees seem still to have a bit of a charred look to them. I wonder if the passage of time has caused them to silver, or whether they emerged from the fire that way. When I asked about some reeds and snail shells that had turned silver after fires at the Brazoria refuge, I learned that the temperature and duration of fire can cause different effects.

    I think I’d bet on the passage of time as the cause here (like driftwood on a beach) but whatever the cause, it’s a gorgeous photo, and it’s one time when that white haze adds to the effect in a positive way.


    August 31, 2018 at 9:11 PM

    • I was taken by those densely packed parallel trees, photographing them in various compositions. I originally planned to show one horizontal and one vertical frame, then decided a single picture of the trees would get the idea across as well as two. I, too, wondered why only a few of the trunks were blackened and most not. Park rangers and botanists probably know; it didn’t occur to me to ask while I was still in the park. It could be the passage of time, as you said, especially given the six months of harsh winter the area experiences each year. As you’ve heard me say so many times, I photograph based primarily on aesthetics. Later I feel fortunate if I come to understand things about my subjects.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 31, 2018 at 11:04 PM

  6. The forest around my home includes many burned stumps. Redwood forests are one of those rare ecosystems here that do not burn regularly. It only burned because so many oaks, madrones and other trees grew here after the area was harvested of redwood more than a century ago. The big fire was about half a century after the harvest, which was about half a century ago. The regions becomes less combustible as the redwoods mature.
    In Oklahoma, I saw a region where the trees had been stripped by a tornado. That is a new one to me. It happened to be right near where the Moore tornado went through the following year.


    August 31, 2018 at 11:16 PM

    • When we last visited California, two years ago, we noticed that some redwoods had partly hollowed-out or otherwise damaged their trunks, and yet the trees continued to thrive. As you say, they really do tolerate fire better than almost anything else in the forest. It’s good that you live near a forest, even if it unfortunately includes burned stumps. Luckily for you, no tornadoes live there (at least I don’t think any do).

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 1, 2018 at 10:46 AM

      • Redwoods are commonly hollow inside. I built the shower at my former home inside a hollow stump, although the tree had bee harvested decades ago. The outhouse was built on top of a hollow stump that extended very deeply into the ground. It had rotted rather than burned, so was enclosed all the way around. Redwood does not typically rot so easily. (It was on a steep hillside so that it was very tall on the downhill side, but only about three feet high on the uphill side.) There was a burned out stump that was so big that I could have made it a garden shed by simply putting a roof on it. None of the live trees in my garden were hollow because they were less than a century old. Everything older had been harvested, leaving only their stumps.


        September 1, 2018 at 5:18 PM

        • It’s nice to see you have such a familiarity with redwoods. My contacts were necessarily limited and I imagine I didn’t appreciate a good portion of what I saw. That said, I took my share of redwood photographs.

          Steve Schwartzman

          September 1, 2018 at 8:09 PM

          • If you saw the big hollow ones, you probably saw the best of them. The biggest ones are up north, but even they are not much different, just bigger.


            September 1, 2018 at 9:44 PM

            • I remember one big hollow redwood in particular, I think in Big Basin Redwoods State Park, adjacent to the visitor center.

              Steve Schwartzman

              September 1, 2018 at 10:03 PM

              • Hey! That is right down the road! Some of the redwoods there are virgin because they were too remote to be harvested before the area was protected as a park.


                September 1, 2018 at 10:04 PM

                • Remoteness has its advantages. I’m glad the area eventually got protected. It’s good that you live so close and can enjoy it whenever you want.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  September 1, 2018 at 10:08 PM

                • Even the secondary growth is impressive. There are only a few virgin trees here, and they were only left because they were of inferior quality. Redwoods are so massive that their trunks can be fractured by earthquakes. Since they live for a few thousand years, they experience a few moderate earthquakes during their respective lifetimes. Consequently, there are a few that got fractured, so were never harvested.


                  September 1, 2018 at 10:13 PM

                • So inferior quality saved those redwoods. Sweet are the uses of adversity.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  September 1, 2018 at 10:46 PM

                • Inferiority saved the virgins in my neighborhood. There is nothing inferior about those in Big Basin, although they are not the biggest of what used to be in the region. There were merely inaccessible.


                  September 1, 2018 at 10:54 PM

                • Your first sentence could be taken in a different context, but we won’t go there.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  September 1, 2018 at 10:57 PM

                • tee hee. . . but it is true.


                  September 1, 2018 at 11:55 PM

  7. Intermittent fires WERE part of the normal cycle until we suppressed them, which is one of the reasons why so many forest fires we are dealing with nowadays are so calamitous. We are trying to do better, but are slow learners.


    September 1, 2018 at 7:59 PM

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