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.