summer solstice


Summer solstice 2012 finds the West on fire.

Smoke-filled summer days have become the new normal. If it isn’t Arizona burning it’s Colorado burning. Or it’s New Mexico burning.

My nose is full in the morning and my throat hoarse all day. The multi layers of brown in the air don’t really go away – for months at a time now it seems.  Evening is a hauntingly beautiful and eerie glow. Describing it as “hellish” would be a bit cliche and seemingly over-dramatic. And honest.

It used to be that little fires swept clean the forest floor. These “cold fires”, sparked by lightning, were generally small. The cold fires cleaned up the ground surface, keeping it open, savannah-like and resilient. In those days, fires didn’t burn in the canopy.

A telephoto lens is perfect for zeroing in on the carbon contaminated thunderheads to the south over the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of northern New Mexico. Those giant thunderheads promise rain but they don’t deliver.

The day after summer solstice will be much as the day before.  Hot, windy, dry and filled with the smoke of a hemorrhaging landscape.



EDIT: I’ve had a number of questions regarding this photo. It is NOT smoke from a fire but rather a thunderhead that is colored with light that is filtered through smoke from all the fires.  Sorry for any confusion. (6.20.12., 511pm)



  1. Comment by Jeff Titelius

    Jeff Titelius Reply June 21, 2012 at 9:57 am

    Beautiful pic but a tragic event. I can only hope it ends soon!

  2. Comment by Murray Lundberg

    Murray Lundberg Reply June 21, 2012 at 4:02 pm

    Here in the Yukon Territory, we're having what must be one of the coldest, wettest Springs on record. It's a crazy world.

    • Comment by Jim O'Donnell

      Jim O'Donnell Reply June 22, 2012 at 5:11 pm

      Its just gotten strange. There were several times late this last winter when it was colder here than in ….. GREENLAND. No kidding. I was stunned.

  3. Comment by Patricia Smith

    Patricia Smith Reply June 22, 2012 at 3:39 am

    NM is always beautiful. Even when it's scary, ie 18 inches of water in the streets of Santa Fe after a summer monsoon. I'm sure the locals are praying for one of those storms as I type.

    • Comment by Jim O'Donnell

      Jim O'Donnell Reply June 22, 2012 at 5:10 pm

      I totally agree Patricia. And yes….I cant think of much better right now than several days of downpour. Its not in the forecast however.

    • Comment by Patricia Smith

      Patricia Smith Reply June 24, 2012 at 4:35 am

      We could use a couple of downpours here in northern Illinois too!

    • Comment by Jim O'Donnell

      Jim O'Donnell Reply June 27, 2012 at 8:07 pm

      And STILL nothing on this end! I hope you've had some rain. Taos today is hot, dry winds.

  4. Comment by Jim O'Donnell

    Jim O'Donnell Reply June 22, 2012 at 5:10 pm

    Jeff Titelius is it gorgeous. The sunset at the same time through the smoke was wild. But it is tragic and sad to say, increasingly just part of the norm.

  5. Comment by Joan Barrameda Villarante

    Joan Barrameda Villarante Reply June 22, 2012 at 11:05 pm

    Jim, you are an artist! Amazing!

  6. Comment by Johanna Bradley

    Johanna Bradley Reply June 28, 2012 at 6:06 am

    If only I could send you a few thousand buckets full of our rain! It forgets to stop, here. Wonderful photo.

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