The Burnt Trees Project is a visual documentation of photographs, design and installation showing the lifelessness and regrowth since the 2005 fire in Kootenay National Park. The destruction along Highway 93 inspired an awareness for how interesting damaged trees could be. The images produced in our 4 season collective reveals a panorama, depictions of new growth and the surrounding landscapes.
In late February 2014, Brad and I took a trip out to the mountains to photograph the burnt trees triggered from a forest fire in the early 90’s. The day turned out to be amazing with bluebird skies and fresh snow. We have since been back numerous time throughout all four seasons.
We are now in the process of finishing our project and publishing our work into galleries.
Google Map showing locations we shot the photos. View Map
“On July 31, 2003 lightning started five fires in Kootenay National Park that deteriorated into one of the largest wildfires in the Canadian Rockies, burning 17,000 hectares. There were dozens of other wildfires in British Columbia and Alberta — including large wildfires near the Crowsnest Pass, Kamloops and Kelowna. It cost almost $1 billion to fight the fires. Hundreds of homes were lost, thousands of people were evacuated across Western Canada. The 2003 fire led to positive environmental changes and development of a national wildland fire strategy in the mountain parks in 2005. In 2003, when the fire was threatening to spread from the Vermilion Valley and into the Bow Valley, when it was 50 kilometres from the town of Banff, fire fighters set up a containment line, a common strategy in wild fire control, by lighting a backfire 15 kilometres ahead of the fire, ultimately saving the Bow River Valley in general and Lake Louise and Banff in particular. Mike Flannigan, a professor with the department of renewable resources at the University of Alberta, explained that fires in the backcountry are healthy and beneficial to the forest and that the 2003 forest fire was ultimately good for the ecosystem in Kootenay. Rick Kubian, resource conservation manager with Lake Louise, Yoho and Kootenay national parks, explained how after the 2003 watershed year, Parks Canada changed its fire management strategy to include among other things, a prescribed burn program. They examined the landscape from a broader scale in time and space. Historically, a forest fire is part of a natural cycle, similar to the seasons, a winter that precedes the spring. In post-fire areas, over a long period of time, various stages of the habitat, support diverse species. The Northern Hawk Owl that thrives in post-burn conditions is already in the area. With a profusion of fireweed, a brilliant pink flower that thrives in these conditions, and new vistas have opened up, the park is beautiful. By 2018 or 2023 the burned area will be prime grizzly bear habitat and better for moose.” – Wikipedia
Here is a video we put together of Brad and I rushing to the burnt trees forest along Highway 93. The photos we are taking belong to a larger collection that we hope will be showcased at the Leighton Art Centre in 2015.
“On July 31, 2003 lightning started five fires in Kootenay National Park that deteriorated into one of the largest modern wildfires in the Canadian Rockies, burning 17,000 hectares. The 2003 fire led to positive environmental changes and development of a national wildland fire strategy in the mountain parks in 2005. This is nature getting a chance to refresh itself.” – Wikipedia
When the fires happened, the smoke hit Calgary and lingered in the air for days. I could feel the smoke in the back of my throat with every breath; I was attached to the fire from my own garden.
The first time I saw the burn, I thought, now I can see the mountain. Travelling through the area is spectacular. Dead trees line the sides of the highway and move up the mountains: dark lines over the roll of the hills. The contours and and texture are visually exciting and the remnants of the forest add to the scene. I wanted to photograph this new landscape.
With my 2 ¼ camera, and a couple of DSLR’s in tow, my friend and I set off to highway 93. When we had found our spot and were unloading the van, we experienced the misfortune of being downwind of an exploding can of bear spray. With tearing eyes and a numb tongue, we began our hike along a trail of visual pleasure filled with colourful growth and the contrasting black trees standing as they had as forests years ago.
During the winter months, the lack of animal tracks prove that the devastation has extended to the wildlife. We never saw elk who were abundant when the forest was green. The shadows from the trees on the blankets of untouched snow turned the landscape into a beautiful sketch. Rows of shadows sculpted the hills where the curves had been hidden by the trees themselves.
Every season is beautiful and quietly exists in the presence of its own past. I look forward to photographing it as a work in progress: work for both me and the mountain as it rebuilds.
In late February (2014), Brad and I took a trip out to the mountains to photograph burnt trees triggered from a forest fire in the early 90’s. The day turned out to be amazing with bluebird skies and fresh snow. While there we took numerous photos, many of which we spliced together one way or another. Here is a panoramic that is almost a few 360° view. It was turned into a gif in order to scroll through at a larger size.