After weeks of muted light, thick haze, and skies that are more dead-fish white rather than our normal expansive blue we got some high winds and, for a brief window, clear skies. And just like that, we were suddenly treated to stars.
Last night, just when I was ready to turn in, I stepped out on my back porch to look up at the sky. When I realized how clean and clear the air was, I knew I couldn’t sleep. I needed to go to Glacier.
I have been avoiding Glacier. I suffer from asthma and the more than one million acres that are burning in Montana have made the simple act of breathing more difficult for everyone, but especially for “at risk” people like me. So, to protect my health, I haven’t been photographing the fires. But the clear skies over Whitefish were enough to have me thinking, hoping, that maybe tonight, I could go see the park. And besides, I have been missing the stars. I wanted to be out photographing.
My photos of the Sprague Fire are less dramatic than a lot I’ve seen. My goal was more to photograph the stars than the fire. But once I was in Glacier, I couldn’t not photograph the fire. It’s a journalism thing. Journalism is so ingrained in my thinking, that even when I am not working, a part of me is always tuned in to what I am seeing and whether or not it needs to be something that goes in the newspaper. I’ve been a full-time photojournalist since 2002, some things you just can’t escape, even in the off-hours.
It made my heart lighter to finally have stars. I am hoping and praying for rain and an end to this year’s fire season. This has been the heaviest smoke in my eight years in Montana. But the same high winds that brought us these clear skies, may also bring us more fire and then more smoke. But for one night, I’ll take the blessing of stars and I’ll count my blessings just to have seen them.