Alaskan Type I Incident Management Team. Photographer: John McColgan, Bureau of Land Management, Alaska Fire Service

‘Elk Bath’ photo added to Pied Type archives

Note: When I started Pied Type in 2007 by combining several older blogs, I overlooked this Sept. 2000 article from my old Everwild website. When I stumbled across the photo today on the internet, I remembered my story and was dismayed to discover I’d never added it to this blog. Well, now I have. (Hard to believe it’s been 16 years.) The only difference is that the original page had a black background. It looked a lot better but was harder to read. You can, however, click on this photo to see it with a black background:


Photo by John McColgan

 This spectacular photo originally came to us via e-mail,
with numerous forwards making its origin impossible to trace.
It bore only the following message:

“This awesome picture was taken in Bitteroot [sic] National Forest in
Montana on August 6, 2000. The photographer, John McColgan, is
a fire behaviour analyst from Fairbanks, Alaska. He took the picture
with a digital camera. Because he was working at the time he took
the picture he cannot profit from it; however, we feel the picture
is a once-in-a-lifetime shot and should be shared.”

NOTE, 12/27/00:
After we first posted this photo in September 2000,
Time Magazine, in its December 25, 2000–January 1, 2001 issue,
published it as one of its Pictures of the Year
(crediting McColgan and the U.S. Forest Service/AP).
Also, in its Winter 2000–2001 Special Edition,
The Year in Pictures, Time ran the photo as a
full two-page spread opening its Year in Nature section.
In this instance the credit read “John McColgan – AP.”
Time said the photo was taken August 17 in Sula, Montana.

NOTE, 1/18/01:
The photo appeared in the
January-February 2001 issue of Audubon magazine.
Audubon credited John McColgan/BLM Alaska Fire Service.
Their caption said the photo was taken August 6, 2000, on the
east fork of the Bitterroot River near Sula, Montana.

NOTE, 2/5/01:
One Web site ( advises:
“The Elk Bath picture was taken by the Alaskan Type I Incident
Management Team on August 6, 2000 on the East Fork of the
Bitterroot River on the Sula Complex. This photograph was taken
with a digital camera and is not available in high resolution.
If you use this photo, please credit the Alaskan Type I Incident
Management Team. Photographer: John McColgan, Bureau of
Land Management, Alaska Fire Service.”

Another site notes the photo was shot from a bridge
with a Kodak DC280 digital camera.

NASA found the photo noteworthy enough to include
in its Astronomy Photograph of the Day (APOD) series
on November 21, 2000 under the title “Fire on Earth.”

Life Magazine’s The Year in Pictures also included the photo.

NOTE, 9/6/01:
To our surprise, interest in this photo, at least on this website,
has continued to grow through this year, rather than decline.
In the last month we have received several letters
asking where the photo, or copies of it, can be obtained.

To be honest, we don’t know. We don’t know who owns the copyright.
We do not allow copying of the photo from this site because the photo
is not ours to distribute. It is, however, available from many other sites,
and prints may be available from Time, Inc., or NASA.

NOTE, 11/10/05:
A correspondent notified us of several broken links on
this page, and they have been removed. He also provided a
link for more information about the photo.

—Susan Richards


Page last modified 11/11/05
© 1997-2006 Everwild

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