Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘fire

A visit to Bastrop

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On March 26th we visited Bastrop State Park for the first time since last fall. Almost 10 years ago a disastrous fire destroyed the majority of trees in the park, and the landscape is still full of burned dead trunks, both standing and fallen. The charred pine trunk in the photograph above was on the ground. I don’t know why the resin in the upper part of the picture picked up so much blue.

In contrast to that log, take this opening flower of plains wild indigo, Baptisia bracteata var. leucophaea, a species that makes its debut here today.

If you’re wondering what a full inflorescence looks like, the last picture will show you,
complete with the kind of insect that I assume was eating the flowers.

Four posts back I noted that it’s common to hear politicians and activists bandy about the phrase “common sense.” I said that’s a loaded and misleading term because some or even many things that a majority of people believe to be common sense are easily shown to be untrue. In that post and the next and the next and yesterday’s I gave examples of “common sense” leading to incorrect conclusions. Here’s another example.

Every person has a birthday. A year consists of 365 days—or 366 if you want to count February 29, which occurs only about a fourth as often as other days, thanks to leap year—so there are 365 or 366 possible birthdays. You’re naturally curious, and you get to wondering about groups of people, and how likely or unlikely it is that at least two people in a group have the same birthday (the day, not the year). In particular, you get to wondering how large a group of randomly chosen people it would take for there to be a 50-50 chance, i.e. 50%, that at least two people in the group share a birthday.

Many folks would answer that “common sense” tells them they’d need a group half as big as 366, namely 183 people, for there to be a 50-50 chance of a matching birthday. The truth is that with a group of only 23 randomly chosen people in it there’s about a 50% chance two or more people in the group will have matching birthdays. (I won’t go into the math, though it’s not difficult). By contrast, in a group of 183 people there’s a virtual certainty of at least one matching birthday.

You could also turn things around and ask how likely it is that in a group of 23 people there’ll be at least one pair of matching birthdays. Many folks might pull out a calculator, find out that 23 is about 6% of 365, and conclude by “common sense” that there’d be only a 6% chance of a pair of matching birthdays. You’ve already heard that in fact there’s about a 50% chance.

Here’s a way to confirm this without trying to rely on “common sense.” Stand on a busy street and ask people passing by what their birthday is. Mark the dates on a yearly calendar to keep track of them and see if there’s a match. If necessary, keep going until you’ve asked 23 people and still haven’t found a match. Then repeat the experiment a bunch of times. With enough repetitions, you should find that about half of the time you’ll get a matching birthday pair.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 12, 2021 at 4:22 AM

Charred

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The wildfires that began on Labor Day in 2011 burned down
a large part of the forest in and near Bastrop State Park.

On August 14th of this year I made abstract portraits of some of the charred trees. Those included the standing remains shown in the first picture, along with two tree trunks on the ground that I could aim straight down at; the first of those two shows a loblolly pine (Pinus taeda), and the second perhaps an oak.

There are plenty of relevant quotations I could cite. Here are a few.

“From small fires comes oft no small mishap.” — George Herbert.

“Poca favilla gran fiamma seconda.” “A little spark gives rise to a mighty flame.” — Dante, The Divine Comedy: Paradiso.

“A spark neglected makes a mighty fire.” — Robert Herrick.

“The most tangible of all visible mysteries—fire.” — Leigh Hunt.

“A little fire is quickly trodden out;
Which, being suffer’d, rivers cannot quench.” — Shakespeare, Henry VI, Part 3.

“Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!” — New Testament, James 3:5.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 5, 2020 at 4:47 AM

Previously burned forest

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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

Regeneration

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When I stopped in Glacier National Park on August 30th to photograph the remains of a forest fire from a few years before, I was taken with these seed heads of a grass that had filled in parts of the forest floor since that fire. The dry grass stalks stood immobile that afternoon, yet their leaning and their arcs might prompt your imagination to see movement. The gray skies in the distance need no imagination to be seen for what they were: smoky from the wildfires that became the backdrop for much of our trip.

Sonja Hartmann at the park’s plant nursery identified the photogenic seed heads as Calamagrostis rubescens, known as pinegrass. Above the center of the picture’s lower border are the similarly colored but differently structured seed head remains of yarrow, Achillea millefolium.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 12, 2017 at 4:54 AM

Eerie

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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.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 4, 2017 at 4:57 AM

Bastrop burned tree remains

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Bastrop State Park. August 11. Remains of the horrendous forest fire of 2011.

If you’re interested in the craft of photography, points 3, 14, 18, and 19 in About My Techniques pertain to this picture.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 21, 2017 at 4:48 AM

Le rouge et le noir in Utah *

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maples-turned-red-5569

On October 23rd of last year we followed Kolob Terrace Rd. northward in and out of the western side of Zion National Park. Eventually we got to the Kolob Reservoir and the grove of bare aspen trees you’ve already seen, but before then we stopped for the fall color shown here. While I didn’t pay attention to the dark trunks then, now they make me think a fire had passed through that area.

How different this is from the scenes of autumn in central Texas that you saw last time.

————–

* Le rouge et le noir, or The Red and the Black, is the title of a novel by Stendhal.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 10, 2017 at 4:59 AM

The resurgence continues

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Black-Eyed Susans Amid Burned Bastrop Forest 6089

Today is the official birthday of the United States of America, which now enters its 240th year as a nation. The country has its share of problems—which country doesn’t?—but let’s hope for a resurgence. On that theme, some of you will recall, and others of you will now learn, that in September of 2011 a huge fire burned for days and destroyed most of the pine forest in Bastrop State Park, along with over 1600 nearby homes.

In the first spring after the devastating fire I posted some early evidence of recovery in the form of a prominent white prickly poppy flower whose pristine brightness contrasted with the burned pines beyond it. One month ago today I went back for my first visit to the area in 2015, and the colorful views that I saw in many places encouraged me. Here’s one showing how densely the brown-eyed (or black-eyed) susans, Rudbeckia hirta, were flowering.

In order of prominence, this photograph offers you blue, white, and at the bottom a bit of red, so a happy reversed red, white, and blue to you on this Independence Day.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 4, 2015 at 5:25 AM

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