Near the end of September this year, I spent four days photographing the aftermath of the 2021 Sparks Lake forest fire northwest of Kamloops, British Columbia. As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, the devastation was apocryphal, and the experience took me to an emotional place I didn’t know lived within me.
On the third day of my visit, my local guide, Ray, took me and my companion Anna to Deadman’s Falls. Three and a half kilometres southwest of Vidette Lake. A spot that, before the fire, must have been beautiful.
Sitting at the crest of the falls, surrounded by a black and white moonscape of charred pine trees, I turned my gaze to Ray and said, “You’ve seen the before and the after. I’ve only seen the after.”
“Yeah,” he replied softly.
This shot is an example of that experiential dichotomy that, at that moment, defined the two of us.
While capturing this moment, I could visualize how beautiful this spot, looking upstream from the crest, must have been two years earlier. It would have been ripe with fall colours with 50-year young pines reaching for the sky. Sunshine would have filtered through the trees, sprinkling the creek with mottled shadows. The sounds of birds chirping to each other would have trickled through the thick foliage. The sight of a hawk hunting would have pleasantly distracted me from my photographic craft.
But this was now the after. The birthing of a new forest that in 50 years would again become what I now dreamed in my mind’s eye it once was. I would, by then, be long gone.
Deadman Falls was yet another spot along this journey where I quietly wept. For the forest’s mortality, my own and the sacred silence of its rebirthing. Mixed emotions.
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