Fires


 This map contains live feed sources for US wildfire reports (I-209), perimeters, MODIS hot spots, wildfire conditions / red flag warnings, wildfire potential and weather radar. Each of these layers provides insight into where a fire is located, its intensity and the surrounding areas susceptibility to wildfire.

As air quality in Colorado worsens by the day due to fires in Wyoming I’ve been keeping an eye on the historically bad wildfire situation in Oregon, Washington, British Columbia and Montana. It wasn’t until this morning when I punched up a map of (major) active fires in the region did I understand just how bad it is.

1wildfire.JPG
Images from Oregon Live.com. These weren’t used by permission so I’m crediting them to the source with a link. Please read the story here.

There’s an article in willamette week (one of the Oregon online papers) about the Eagle Creek fire on the Columbia River. Started by kids with firecrackers. I just don’t know what to do with that.  They’ve shut down the Columbia River for a 20 mile stretch so aircraft scooping water to fight the fire don’t collide with maritime traffic. What a world we live in.

-c0af71c0270f02d4.jpgPast the immediate concern for structure loss, loss of life, property damage, danger to fire crews, displaced families, etc… it feels a little trivial to consider what this does to my trip plans.

I opened up my exploration to the rest of the PNW and discovered fires in the Puget Sound area of Washington, north in British Columbia, the northern Cascade range in Washington (where I’m planning on traveling through), and of course Montana – which is a holy mess with nearly a million acres actively burning.

I can imagine it’s difficult for people who don’t live in the Rocky Mountain West to identify with the force of wild fires. Probably as difficult as it is for us to imagine the devastation of hurricane events like Harvey. These are big deal natural disasters that impact millions and millions of people. We’re fortunate here in Fort Collins. Aside from the flood that wiped out so many in 2013, and the EF3 tornado that blew through Windsor in 2008 – Colorado enjoys a pretty stable weather routine. We’ve had our bad fires too – the Hayman Fire in 2002 among the worst at 137K acres, $39million in damages and 5 fire fighters losing their lives. The High Park Fire here in Northern Colorado in 2012 at 87K acres and $39.2 million.

In the aftermath of the Pine Bark Beetle’s decimation of our forests, Colorado is basically a sitting duck waiting for the carelessly extinguished camp fire, the unsuspecting adolescent playing with fire crackers or the random lightning strike. There was a smaller fire near Breckenridge earlier this summer they were able to get containment before too much damage was done. But all of our Rocky Mountain West states live in the shadow of ‘the big one,’ much the same way other parts of the country also deal with potential disaster endemic to their regions.

I digress.

Lifting my head out of the tragedy of this all (including Harvey in Houston), I’m attempting to proceed with my trip plans without feeling selfish and spoiled – fretting over things like air quality and views, while others are being jammed into make-shift rafts with buckets of belongings representing all that’s left of their lives. Ugh. It’s a helluva thing.

Elk Mountain, Wyoming

South Brush Creek, Snowy Range, Wyoming
South Brush Creek, Snowy Range, Wyoming

At first it looked like a dead animal – a brownish, furry lump in the middle of the dirt 320. The wind blew and late morning sun peeked in and out of an active sky. Through a dirty windshield it was tough to make out. As the car slowly rolled closer, the profile of a small head emerged from the fur, then turned a few times trying to get her bearings and let out a cry. As she began struggling to rise my first thought was she’d been hit by a car . Once erect I could see new, young legs, thin and delicate wobbling as they tried to support her tiny mass. She couldn’t have been more than a few days old. The baby antelope took a few steps then stumbled, her front knees dropping to the dirt road. I wondered if she’d have bruises or abrasions on her bony, new skin. She struggled to get up again, now in a panic. “I’m not gonna hurt you… just calm down” I said to no one.

Elk Mountain, Wyoming
Elk Mountain, Wyoming

Out of the corner of my eye to the left I picked up a flash moving fast across the sage. I turned to watch momma hurtling towards us full tilt. She was strong and powerful, leaping 8 foot spans each stride until she appeared heroically 10 yards in front of the car – between baby and me. She turned and looked squarely at me, then swiveled her tan and white head towards baby who was continuing to stumble in a panic down the road.

Pass Creek Road, Wyoming
Pass Creek Road, Wyoming

She stood for a moment – which itself is remarkable – out here antelope have learned to fear vehicles; rifles emerging from a slowed truck’s rolled down window. After a moment she took off for baby who had continued to run. Momma took the lead, baby trying to keep up, her head turning this way and that attempting to assess the threat. Momma led the way until they both crossed the road again and bounded up the hill.

Virga, The Medicine Bow, Wyoming
Virga, The Medicine Bow, Wyoming

In the distance they stopped; baby nowhere to be seen, having dropped in the sage somewhere. Mom and dad stood together 200 yards away watching the car slowly drive off.

Olympic National Park, Washington

HOH Rainforest Tryptich no.1
HOH Rainforest Tryptich no.1
Blue Hour, Rialto Beach, Olympic National Park, Washington
Blue Hour, Rialto Beach, Olympic National Park, Washington
Kalaloch, Olympic Peninsula, Washington
Kalaloch, Olympic Peninsula, Washington
Hall of Mosses, Hoh Rainforest, Olympic National Park, Washington
Hall of Mosses, Hoh Rainforest, Olympic National Park, Washington
Marymere Falls, Olympic National Park, Washington
Marymere Falls, Olympic National Park, Washington
Northwest Maritime Center, Port Townsend, Washington
Northwest Maritime Center, Port Townsend, Washington
Blue Hour, Rialto Beach, Olympic National Park, Washington
Blue Hour, Rialto Beach, Olympic National Park, Washington

 

Terra Firma

I’m excited to announce a new project – well, less “new” in terms of topic – but more “new” in terms of focused effort. The project is called Terra Firma, and I suppose like so many of my other “projects,” I’ve really been working on this one for a long time.

Rock Cut, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
First Light at Rock Cut, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Terra Firma is a landscape collection on johnbcrane.com (please click here to sit back and enjoy the slide show). I suppose I’ve been working on this project for 20 years or so – but only now feel like I have something tangible to say. Terra firma is a Latin phrase meaning “solid earth” (from terra, meaning “earth”, and firma, meaning “solid”). The phrase refers to the dry land mass on the earth’s surface and is used to differentiate from the sea or air. Considering a reference many of us may already be familiar with, here’s how Terra Firma was first born: “And God said, ‘Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.’ And it was so. God called the dry land Earth,[d] and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good.” (Genesis 1:9-10 ESV). The distinction here is that the land was created to separate the heavens from the depths.

Cape Flattery, Olympic National Park, Washington
Cape Flattery, Olympic National Park, Washington

Like many landscape photographers I’ve had a passion for the outdoors for many years. Since the first time setting foot in Colorado in 1977 as a high school student I’ve never left the wilderness. Physically perhaps – but mentally, emotionally and spiritually – no. When I returned home to Illinois after our first backpacking trip to Highlands Camp in the Indian Peaks Wilderness I moped around the house for weeks. All I could think about was how to get back, as fast as possible. I’d tasted wilderness – true, honest to goodness wilderness – and was spoiled for anything else from that point forward.

John B. Crane in the Weminuche Wilderness, southern Colorado's San Juan range, 1985
John B. Crane in the Weminuche Wilderness, southern Colorado’s San Juan range, 1985

Years later, in May of 1980 when Mount St. Helens erupted in the Cascade Mountains I had joined REI, received my first Jansport backpack and ice ax and was turning sofa cushions over in the house looking for enough money for plane fare to Seattle. As fate would have it I never made it out to photograph the mountain exploding – which is why I’m still alive today.

I devoured books by Robert Service, Barry Lopez (Arctic Dreams, Of Wolves and Men), Peter Matthiesson (The Snow Leopard, Men’s Lives), Farley Mowatt (Never Cry Wolf), Edward Abbey (Desert Solitaire, The Monkey Wrench Gang) John Muir and John McPhee (Coming into the Country, The Control of Nature, Basin and Range), and developed a particular fascination with the Rocky Mountains, the Cascade Mountains, and the Pacific Northwest. I followed the classic, black and white photographers and while I appreciated the art form, decided I was more interested in color photography.

A particular fascination with Alaska developed and upon graduation from Colorado State with Bachelor of Fine Art, my dog Max and I caught a ride to Seattle, then caught the Alaska Marine Highway to Alaska’s Southeast for my first true foray into the wild where I lived and worked the salmon for the summer, wandering the Alaska’s inside passage between shifts.

Scow Bay, Petersburg, Alaska
Scow Bay, Petersburg, Alaska (1984)

That summer was filled with far too much to attempt to summarize here. Suffice it to say, that trip to Alaska took the beginnings of a fascination with wild places and emblazoned into my very being a thirst for which there is no quenching. Here so many years later I can see and hear and feel almost everything from that trip; the pull to return to Alaska is incessant – like gravity.

Today, a body of work has formed. While I enjoy flipping through images and the memories they trigger – I’ve come to believe it’s somewhat of a responsibility to share these images. The world has changed dramatically over those same years since 1977. Wild places continue to be eaten away by industry and development, and people today simply don’t understand – can’t comprehend – what has been lost. I’ve done my best to not be the pessimist; attempt to find the remaining open lands, wild places – and prove to myself that there’s still a lot of land out there, nothing to worry about. Lately, though – it’s getting more difficult to do this. Again – wanting to be a positive voice in the conversation – the approach I can take is to show the beauty of the land. My hope is these images will inspire a whole new generation of explorers, wanderers, travelers, seekers and dreamers to get out there and see this land we’re so blessed to live in.

Fall River, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Fall River, along the Old Fall River Road, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado.

Comprised of color images from around the United States – many of which were made within our spectacular National Parks System – Terra Firma attempts to focus on the land.  A seemingly endless variety of landscapes lie within Terra Firma. Topographic features from slot canyons to grand canyons. From ant hills to foothills. Front mountain ranges to still, quiet valleys and everything in between. Not all images have been made in our beautiful National Parks; many have been created in no-name stretches of empty land – between notable destinations –  because the light was right or the feature simply would not let me pass without demanding an image be recorded.

Lory State Park, near Fort Collins, Colorado
Lory State Park, near Fort Collins, Colorado

CONTENT, NOT PROCESS
I suppose like many photographers I use a variety of different cameras and tools to create different images. This project is a earnest attempt to – once again – step away from the process and instead focus on the contents of those four, intimidating boundaries constructing the edges of the frame. I want everything the viewer sees to communicate something about the land – not the process. To that end, you’ll see no mention what so ever of whether an image is recorded digitally or etched on film, and you’ll see nothing about what type of camera – or the technique with which the image is created.

I hope you enjoy Terra Firma, and more so – hope it inspires everyone inclined to get “out there” into the wild – while the wild still remains.

Peace to you, John B. Crane