looking back on 1988 Yellowstone fires

By Jim Stanford on August 25, 2013

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A bull elk surveys a burned area.

Twenty-five years ago this week, the Yellowstone fires hit their peak. Nearly 800,000 acres, or 36 percent of the park, burned that summer in a series of blazes, some caused by humans and others by storms. Winds of up to 80 mph fanned the flames, creating a conflagration beyond control.

Aug. 20, 1988, was dubbed “Black Saturday,” when the fires doubled in size, consuming more acres than all other fires in the park’s history combined.

Last year, when the Little Horsethief Fire burned up the back of Snow King and east Jackson was under an evacuation advisory, residents got a taste of fear. But watching those flames lick at the ridge above Cache Creek pales in comparison to firsthand accounts of the Yellowstone blazes.

The late Theo Meiners landed on one of the firefighting support crews in the summer of 1988 and kept a journal of his experiences. Focus Productions published excerpts in Jackson Hole Skier magazine that winter and has re-posted them for the 25th anniversary. The short essay is worth a read.

Of the Mink Creek Fire in the Teton Wilderness, Meiners wrote:

By mid-July winds had whipped this conflagration into gargantuan proportions; a column of smoke rose to over 30,000 feet, visible from Salt Lake City. The Black Rock Ranger Station became a base camp city of 1,200 firefighters. There was every kind of helicopter imaginable. Cargo planes and bombers were everywhere. The FAA even sent out flight controllers. This was war.

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June winds make for dramatic skies

By Jim Stanford on June 23, 2013

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The June 12 thunderstorm generated a flurry of stunning images, as well as marble- to golf ball-sized hail. Click to enlarge.

This morning on the Snake.

June has been a breezy month, as anyone pushing boats down the Snake River can attest. Even mornings and evenings, typically the calmest times of day, have been brisk.

The upside is the skies have been turned into works of art, with cirrus clouds framing the Tetons and spectacular formations kindling the imagination. Last Sunday, Father’s Day, a chorus of dancers seemed to glide above the peaks, while today a flourish poured forth from the Grand like a trumpet blast.

The June 12 hailstorm produced the most dramatic photographs, like the one above shot by Chris Owen atop Snow King Mountain. He was doing some trail work for the Bridger-Teton National Forest and just dodged the storm. Sarah Tollison captured a similarly apocalyptic image from her office at DeFazio Law. Meteorologist Jim Woodmencey has a roundup of photos on his blog.

It has been fun the past few weeks to follow the #jacksonhole hashtag on Instagram and watch as shooters like Tristan Greszko and Sue Cedarholm capture different vantage points of the sky. The hailstorm made for particularly compelling crowd-sourced reporting.

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Eye-opening images from 2012

By Jim Stanford on January 15, 2013

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Sunrise on the Snake in September, when a mixture of fog, smoke and autumn foliage made for a brilliant scene. Click to enlarge.

After devoting much of the fall to multimedia projects, travel and other assignments, photographer David Stubbs has restarted his blog, A Vivid Eye.

Rousing the site from slumber, Stubbs has compiled a selection of his favorite landscapes, sports action, portraits and newsy images from 2012, including a dramatic shot of the Little Horsethief Fire cresting the ridge atop Cache Creek.

The News&Guide, too, put together a reel of its best photographs of the year.

When not shooting the likes of Dick Cheney (for a documentary film) or hanging from a rope in the Apocalypse Couloir, Stubbs often focuses his lens on his own backyard and produces stunning beauty from scenes of everyday life. Glimpses of those moments should give readers plenty to look forward to in 2013.

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a good reason not to see Django Unchained

By Jim Stanford on January 11, 2013

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Quentin Tarantino’s latest film has been getting plenty of hype locally, owing to some scenes being shot here last winter when a snowy backdrop was needed.

In the wake of the Newtown massacre, a British interviewer had the nerve to ask Tarantino yesterday about the abundance of graphic violence in his films. Skip to 2:40 in the video for Tarantino’s petulant reaction.

I’ve always had a problem with the director’s glamorization of violence, and skipped most of his work since Reservoir Dogs. In the interview he says he already has addressed the question, but in fact he has said very little. I know because after recently watching Inglorious Basterds on video, I did Google “Tarantino use of violence” to try to understand where he is coming from.

Last winter, during the Django shoot, he had an assistant call ahead to a Jackson restaurant to request a particular cut of steak. Watching him freak out in this clip, it’s easy to see why. If a news interview is a “commercial” for his movie, we’re all here to serve his whims, while he has no responsibility to anyone.

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Selko honored for ski photography

By Jim Stanford on December 12, 2012

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Selko, right, poses with some gaper while covering the 2006 Torino Olympics.

Although the news has been shared widely since last week’s announcement, let me add my congratulations to photographer Jonathan Selkowitz for being named the International Ski Federation’s Journalist of the Year.

The award recognizes journalists for their career contributions to the sport. For 20 years, Selkowitz has poured an astounding amount of passion into covering ski racing, which is far from lucrative and, aside from Olympic years, receives little attention.

I’ve had the pleasure of working with Jonathan at two Olympics and other skiing events. No one works harder on and off the slopes, as the story below attests. He also is one of the more thoughtful humans on the planet.

In winning the award, presented jointly by the FIS and U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association, Selko joins a select group that includes longtime TV announcers Bob Beattie and Tim Ryan and the late USSA correspondent Paul Robbins.

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