Wildfire Filter


Sunsets seen through wildfire smoke can look pretty weird. I made this photo a few weeks ago looking over the southwestern flank of Winnemucca Mountain. It makes me think of Georgia O’Keefe’s early work, with a slightly apocalyptic bent. Although a picture can be worth a thousand words, there are times when a picture without any words is, in a sense, dishonest.

This image without an explanation is just a glowing pink pearl. But as I pressed the shutter, I thought about how the smoke in this picture is all that’s left of the grasses, herbs, and forbs that made up the grazing lands of several of my ranching friends. This particular fire is huge and the chances of finding replacement pasture for their livestock, small.

Our tragedy probably won’t make the national news. It’s not dramatic enough. But if you happen to be here, it’s plenty dramatic. The map of this wildfire shows that a sizable chunk of our sizable county has been converted to heat, acrid air, and sunsets that look like they came out of someone’s imagination and Photoshop.

So the beauty of this sunset is bittersweet — a snapshot of this Western summer, when our skies were rarely blue.