Category Archives: events

After the Fires in California_We need you

Before the fires. Lush green mosses and ferns cover the trees during the rainy season in Sugarloaf State Park, California, which lies at the top of the Nunn’s Canyon area off Highway 12 in Sonoma, heart of the Nunn’s Canyon fire that also took out a lot of Glen Ellen. I wonder what it looks like now…

It raged, hot and infernal, consuming everything in its path, this fire-

In just moments, all was gone – houses, cars, memorabilia, furniture, cars, keepsakes, the stuff of lives lived, for so many. Most escaped with their lives, some with barely the skin on their backs. Now, they need everything – from underwear to shoes, hair combs to shampoo, to roofs over their heads, to food in their stomachs. Please do what you can to help via any one of the relief funds out there. Sonoma and Napa county residents thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your support. Here’s one link to a fire relief fund from my local credit union – it will help all four counties, because even Mendocino and Lake County were affected by fires that fateful weekend. 

The land looks like a war zone in places, houses reduced to rubble and ashes. Along Highway 12, about 13 wineries were affected, some completely destroyed, others in limbo as they can’t get to their last tons of grapes on their vines due to closures. It’s truly a mess, and it’s a domino effect. Two large hotels burned, about 13 wineries along Highway 12 into Sonoma were affected in various degrees, and all those employees lose their jobs temporarily, and many of them lost their homes at the same time, a double whammy! 

But in talking with so many supportive friends, I realized that the media coverage may have you all thinking that everything burned to a crisp. Not true! Not ALL of Sonoma or Napa or the town of Santa Rosa burned to the ground. So much is still standing, still functional, and we need to get the word out that we are all open for business. Please spread the word. We need your help. Come visit us, visit all the areas that didn’t burn, visit our coastlines, stay in our hotels, eat in our restaurants, drink our wine.  And don’t feel guilty about spending your vacation days in a luxury hotel or campsite (!) when so many are dealing with such losses. We need your money, to put it bluntly. And the counties will rebuild. Resilience is a wonderful thing. 

On the side of Nature, the hillsides and forests that burned are dull and scorched, the understory consumed in the flames. This in the end is a good thing, to clear out some of the ‘fuel’ that controls fires. And our native oaks and bay trees were designed to withstand heat/scorching, so all are not lost; and in a short time, with our winter rains, our hillsides will ‘green up’ again, the wildflowers will burst forth to show us that Nature is healing, and if enough rain, we may even have a bumper year for wildflowers, ironically, in burned and disturbed areas.  The trees will send out new shoots, the pine cones that needed fire have distributed their seeds, and the scars of fire will be covered in green mosses in the forests. In time, those that lost much will heal, and renew, too, but it will take longer than a season, I’m afraid. 

There were mixed messages during how it all began, at first, but it appears that with 10% or less humidity during a hot dry spell, small fires broke out here and there during that fateful Saturday afternoon, and stiff winds just whipped them up into bigger fires until power transformers were exploding on poles and adding to the fires. My partner saw flashes all over the hillside in the near distance Saturday evening, and thought it was dry lightning at first but later learned it was likely the transformers exploding on burning power poles. Locals escaping the firestorm said it was like ‘mortar fire’ the way the transformers were popping. yikes!

I was in Slovenia about to lead my photo tour, and I was stunned beyond belief with the breaking news via texts from my partner. I was helpless, as were friends from my area that were with me on the tour; we couldn’t go home, that wouldn’t help, but nor did we feel right having fun and being creative at first, with so much hanging in the unknown. And then we felt guilty – when we learned that our homes were spared. It’s normal to feel that way, but what an emotional milkshake it was for us the first few days. Returning last Thursday evening, to rain, the air was thick with an acrid smell, like a wet old campfire, but oh how welcome that rain was! And it put us on top of getting the fires under control, which are now mostly 90% and higher contained. finally. Now, let’s hope for more rain to keep our land moist and soggy and protected.

The blog picture below is of a vineyard below Nunn’s Canyon road east of Santa Rosa. I don’t know exactly what it looks like now, but I do know areas along Highway 12 did not fare well, especially the town of Glen Ellen. But even businesses that were spared in Glen Ellen are again opening for business! There was no pattern to this fire, as sustained winds of 35-50mph with gusts to 78 mph in some areas scattered the embers in many directions almost simultaneously, as if a dragon breathed across the land while swaying it’s head back and forth. Unfathomable.

And as I sat here at home this past weekend, sifting through the news bits and pictures, trying to get my head around it all, I found that I couldn’t. I missed all the terror, the uncertainty of potential evacuation, the panic of those who had to flee, and I will never really know how it all felt. While I’m grateful to be spared all that anguish, my heart aches for all of those that went through this in some way or another.


Area along Highway 12 near Nunn’s Canyon


Links for good facts about the fires: Press Democrat and a map showing the burned areas. 

Thanks for reading,

Also posted in Brenda Tharp's Photo Blog, general photography, Landscape Photography, Uncategorized

Upcoming Tour to Burma

I really can’t wait! Our upcoming trip is going to be a wonder-filled adventure with insights into the culture, religion and fascinating architecture of Burma. Here are some recent pictures that my pro-photographer/tour guide just sent me. We’ll have much the same opportunity on our tour. Two spaces are still available for anyone who wants to experience this amazing place. Check out the details here.


Burmese girl with tea pot

Eng GirlInntha People fishing

Also posted in Brenda Tharp's Photo Blog, Photo Blog, photography, travel photography, workshops & photo tours Tagged , , , , , |

Photo Tour to Myanmar

I’m delighted to announce that I’ll be leading a photography tour to Myanmar (formerly Burma) in the Fall of 2013! This promises to be a wonder-filled journey as we experience the place, the people, the traditions, with our hearts and through our lenses.



 © Win Kyaw Zan

Myanmar is changing fast now that’s it’s opening to the outside world. My guide tells me that prices are increasing, and businessmen from outside are entering the country with hopes of establishing trade connections and work relationships. As with other countries that opened their doors, Myanmar will change, and their challenge will be to keep to their traditions and to maintain the beauty and spirit of place while they grow.

With this happening, NOW is the time to go to experience this place full of spirituality, traditions, and amazing architecture.

My guide is Win Kyaw Zan, a professional photographer who has guided for many well-known photographers, including Art Wolfe and Nevada Wier.  He has the knowledge of what photography groups want, and this is essential for making the tour productive both in photographs and experiences that we’ll have. He’s a delightful person (by accounts I’ve heard from colleagues and friends who have traveled with him). We will be in the most capable hands, allowing me to focus on helping you make the very best photographs of any situation we find ourselves in. As we move about the country, Win will take care of tour logistics and details while we make photographs.

I hope you will consider joining me for this amazing journey.


Please visit the Myanmar page on my website for more information, pricing, etc.

Additional information on other tours is also available at the Tours & Workshops page.


Thanks for visiting!






Also posted in Brenda Tharp's Photo Blog, Photo Blog, photography, The Blog, travel photography, workshops & photo tours Tagged , , , , , |

A Sad Day for Bhutan




June 24th was a very sad day for the people and country of Bhutan – the Wangdue Phodrang Dzong, burned to the ground. Almost four hundred years old, this dzong was the cultural/admin and religious center for the region. It holds a festival every year in early October, and I have been blessed to witness this festival three times now.

The above picture and the one below were  from our most recent trip in October 2011. These festivals are so very important to the people and the culture. The dances tell the stories that carry the traditions and religion of the people on in to the future, woven into the very fabric of their lives.

Prime Minister Jigmi Thinley has promised it will be rebuilt. Buddhist culture looks at everything as temporary, and everything as opportunity. In the true spirit of the Bhutanese Buddhists, Mr. Thinley was quoted saying “We the people of Bhutan have not lost but gained another opportunity to renew and further enrich our proud heritage.”

According to a Kuensel newspaper editor, most of the cultural and religious artifacts were saved. Those are the most important things – that and the lives of the monks. The building can rebuilt, in the likeness of the original, but the symbolic artifacts are, of course, priceless!


Also posted in Brenda Tharp's Photo Blog, travel photography Tagged , , |