Never Enough Zoom

Grebes on Meadowlark Lake

Photographers never have enough zoom. Take this photo for instance. In it is a “water dance” of grebes. Of that I’m certain, because of the shape of their heads, but don’t ask me what type of grebe that they are. I didn’t have enough zoom to get a clear enough picture that I could then identify them from. If I had had more zoom, this would have been a truly spectacular photograph, but without it, is just a nice one. I needed more zoom.

To help remedy this situation, when we got home, we bought a nice spotter scope and a device to attach an iPhone to it. While out west, we had seen other people using similar apparatuses. We haven’t exercised this new equipment much yet. Much for the same reason that it really would not have been of all that much utility in taking this photo, mosquitos. We would have been eaten alive, if we had tried to set up above Meadowlark Lake. Which was strange, since we were a couple of hundred feet above the water, but they were on us in seconds.

I took this photo last month in Wyoming. That morning, Anne and I had packed up our campsite in the Bighorn National Forest and were driving west on scenic WY-16. We were headed to Yellowstone. We had just crested Powder River Pass (elevation 9666 ft.) and were headed down out of the Big Horn Mountains. Even though, we had many more miles to cover that day, I decided to pull off at a road side plaque. It was a memorial plaque erected by the Ten Sleep CCC.

In Line of Duty

On August 18, 1937, a lightning strike started the Blackwater Fire in Shoshone National Forest, approximately 35 miles west of Cody, Wyoming. We were headed by there that day. Twelve firefighters were killed by the forest fire and 32 who were burned are commemorated on the plaque (Wiki has the numbers as 15 and 38 respectively), when a dry weather front caused the winds to suddenly increase and change direction. It just so happened that we had been listening to Norm Maclean’s “A River Runs Through It”, which in addition to its titular story, also included a story about working as a firefighter for the US Forest Service, set contemporary with the events commemorated.

In Maclean’s semi-autobiographical story, he was just a kid, fresh out of high school. When a fire was spotted, Maclean and the foreman would drive into town and recruit a truckload of unemployed men to be their crew. They would drive as close to the fire as the roads allowed and then with pack mules in tow, hike the often days journey to the site of the fire. All the while, the forest fire continued to grow. These crews fought the fires unsupported, in often treacherous terrain. In the story both young Maclean and the foreman packed revolvers, to keep their possibly mutinous men working on the fire line. While the men commemorated represent the forest service’s greatest single loss of life, these men were not alone in their sacrifice.  

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