In Nighttime Shots of Massive Wildfires, a Photographer Shows Us the Light
By Patrick Rogers
During the day, freelance photographer Stuart Palley covers news events for publications like the Los Angeles Times and shoots images for advertising and PR clients. By night, he pursues his passion: photographing the wildfires that have been ravaging, with increasing frequency, the forests, grasslands, towns and cities of his native California. Over the past five years, Palley has documented nearly 75 fires, from the Mexican border to the Shasta Trinity National Forest near Oregon.
Palley's infernal images, which are collected in a new book, Terra Flamma: Wildfires at Night, tell the story of an epic confrontation between humanity and nature. His photographs, such as the one of a man running from a burning house in Thousand Oaks last fall, named as one of Time's Top 10 Photos of 2018, depict the conflict's resulting fallout in dramatic fashion.
"On the one hand, you've got this incredible natural phenomenon that is awesome in the biblical sense, and on the other, it's ruining people's lives, it's killing people, it's burning their houses down," said Palley. "It certainly affects me. I'm a human being first and a photographer after that."
Largely devoid of actual people (and thankfully so), the images portray humanity in the fiery husks of houses and vehicles caught in the flames, in the trails of city lights on the distant horizon, and in the glaring electric searchlights of firefighters at their command posts.
Palley shot his first wildfire during a summer internship at the Orange County Register in 2012 and has since become trained in wildland fire-safety procedures. He wears the same protective clothing as the firefighters and carries a radio to monitor their activity on the fire line. After a night of shooting, Palley said, his car and camera equipment smell of smoke and ash for days afterward.
Shot with a tripod and using long exposures, the night skies in his pictures beam with stars and aircraft. They trace gentle circles above the fiery fury below that sends sparks leaping into the air.
Such spectacular plays of light, smoke and color—a glow that cannot be found anywhere else—inspire him. "Fire is its own light source and has its own energy. It bathes everything in this warm light, which is very fleeting and temporary but creates incredible colors," Palley said. "Essentially I'm using the fire to light and paint the scene."
By simultaneously capturing the fires' luminous and destructive power—the yin-and-yang appeal of pictures, as he puts it—Palley hopes Terra Flamma sparks conversation and encourages people to consider their own roles in a natural process that is increasingly being influenced by human action (and inaction).
Stuart Palley stands at the scene of a wildfire.
Drought and wildfire are a natural part of the California ecosystem, but people are fanning the flames through the drier conditions caused by a warming climate and the steady expansion of urban development into lands that are vulnerable to seasonal fires. In 2017, "we had the most destructive wildfire in California history, and here we are barely a year later, and we've already had the new most destructive wildfire, which has eclipsed the previous one," said Palley, referring to the Camp Fire that raged through the small town of Paradise and surrounding communities last November, killing 86 people and destroying nearly 14,000 houses.
"In the immediate term, fires are going to continue to become more destructive. People will die," said Palley, who donates a portion of proceeds from his fine art work to the Eric Marsh Foundation for Wildland Firefighters, which supports firefighters and their families with retreats and post-traumatic therapy workshops. But he is also hopeful. "The recent massive fires in California have put this issue in front of people all over the country and all over the world. People are starting to take climate change much more seriously." Like his images, Palley's outlook is both bright and dark: "Hope for the best, and plan for the worst."
Reposted with permission from our media associate onEarth.
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Where Does the Deficiency Begin?<p>Nobody knows exactly how much vitamin D a person actually needs. The question of when a deficiency starts is correspondingly controversial. However, vitamin D is becoming increasingly popular.Not only is the pseudo-scientific literature on the "sun vitamin" experiencing an upswing, but the number of published studies has also increased enormously in recent years. For example, in 2019 <a href="https://academic.oup.com/edrv/article/40/4/1109/5126915" target="_blank">a study found that</a> Vitamin D is responsible for keeping the skeleton functional and is associated with cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and various types of cancer. <br></p>
An All-Rounder<p>Vitamin D levels in the body rise and fall according to sun exposure. If sufficient UV rays reach the skin, the body is able to produce the vitamin itself. However, the human body only derives an estimated 10 to 20 percent of its daily requirement from food.</p><p>The vitamin D that we synthesize from sunlight or food is not biologically active at first. Before the kidneys can produce the biologically active form of the vitamin, known as calcitriol, and release it into the blood, some metabolic processes must take place beforehand.</p><p>In addition, many organs have receptors to which the precursor of calcitriol binds. Further, this substance is also present in blood.</p><p>From this precursor, the organs then produce calcitriol themselves, which the body then uses for countless other processes in the body. This form of vitamin D thus regulates insulin secretion, inhibits tumor growth, and promotes the formation of red blood cells as well as the survival and activity of macrophages, which are important for the <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/5/7/2502/htm" target="_blank">immune system.</a></p>
Low Vitamin D, Severe COVID-19 Disease?<p>A research study carried out <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352364620300067?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">at the University of Hohenheim</a> has now established a link between vitamin D deficiency, certain previous diseases, and severe cases of COVID-19.</p><p>According to the study, "there is a lot of evidence that several non-communicable diseases (high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, metabolic syndrome) are associated with low vitamin D plasma levels. These comorbidities, together with the often accompanying vitamin D deficiency, increase the risk of severe COVID-19 events."</p><p>"This statement is completely correct," said Martin Fassnacht, head of endocrinology at the University Hospital of Würzburg. However, he qualifies that it is a pure association, "i.e. a mere observation that these events occur together.</p><p>Dr. Fassnacht is very critical of the hype surrounding vitamin D, but not because he denies the vitamin serves important functions. However, studies on humans have not been able to show that vitamin D has the healing powers many often propagate.</p><p>Fassnacht says, "If you take a closer look, the hopes that the administration of vitamin D has a healing effect have not been confirmed so far."</p>
Association Versus Intervention Studies<p>Many studies on the vitamin are association or observational studies. "By definition, these studies cannot prove the causal relationship, but only point to mere correlations," said Fassnacht. The physician tries to illustrate this with an example:</p><p>"Imagine two groups of 80-year-olds. One group is spry, active and does sports. If you compare them with another group living in nursing homes, the difference in vitamin D levels will be dramatic. Life expectancy would also be extremely different."</p><p>But to try to explain the difference in fitness by vitamin D status alone is far too simplistic. "Vitamin D levels are a good measure of how sick someone is. But not more," says Fassnacht. </p><p>According to Fassnacht, none of the intervention studies carried out to date -- that specifically examined the effect of vitamin D on various diseases -- has been able to confirm the previous association and laboratory studies or the presumed positive effect of vitamin D.</p>
Further Research Is Needed<p>"If a coronavirus infection is suspected, it is therefore absolutely necessary to check the vitamin D status and quickly correct any possible deficit," said the recommendation of the paper published by the University of Hohenheim.</p><p>"Studies are underway to see whether vitamin D helps in COVID-19 infection, but I personally do not believe that this is really the case," says endocrinologist Fassnacht. Nevertheless, he says it is of course useful to carry out these studies.<br></p><p>"I don't want to rule out that there are actually subgroups of people who benefit from an additional vitamin D dose," he says. After all, this has been proven to be the case with a severe deficit.</p><p>In view of the study situation, Fassnacht does not think much of preventive, nationwide vitamin D substitutes. "My belief that the vitamin helps somewhere is very low. But, of course, I can be wrong."</p>
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