Yosemite wildfires show the 'beauty in nature's destruction'

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Yosemite/california wildfires
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Yosemite wildfires show the 'beauty in nature's destruction'
WEED, CA - SEPTEMBER 16: Kathy Besk (L) cries with her daughter Shelley Besk (C) and her son Bryce Shannon (R) after two CalFire firefighters found her rings in the burned-out ruins of their home on September 16, 2014 in Weed, California. Fueled by high winds, the fast-moving Boles Fire swept through the town of Weed yesterday, burning 100 structures that included the high school and a lumber mill. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
WEED, CA - SEPTEMBER 16: Kathy Besk (L) cries with her daughter Shelley Besk as they look at rings that were found by firefighters in the burned-out ruins of their home on September 16, 2014 in Weed, California. Fueled by high winds, the fast-moving Boles Fire swept through the town of Weed yesterday, burning 100 structures that included the high school and a lumber mill. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
FRESH POND, CA - SEPTEMBER 17: Firefighters monitor a backfire as they battle the King Fire on September 17, 2014 in Fresh Pond, California. The King fire is threatening over 1,600 homes in the forested area about an hour east of Sacramento and has consumed over 18,544 acres. The out of control fire is 5 percent contained. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
WEED, CA - SEPTEMBER 16: Foscheck fire retardant covers a car in front of a home after a wildfire on September 16, 2014 in Weed, California. A fast moving wildfire fueled by high winds ripped through the town of Weed on the afternoon of September 15, burning 100 structures including the high school and lumber mill. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
WEED, CA - SEPTEMBER 16: Kathy Besk (L) reaches for a ring found by CalFire firefighter Tommy Janow (R) in the burned-out ruins of her home on September 16, 2014 in Weed, California. Fueled by high winds, the fast-moving Boles Fire swept through the town of Weed yesterday, burning 100 structures that included the high school and a lumber mill. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
WEED, CA - SEPTEMBER 16: Foscheck fire retardant covers a home September 16, 2014 in Weed, California. Fueled by high winds, a fast-moving wildfire swept through the town of Weed yesterday afternoon, burning 100 structures that included the high school and a lumber mill. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
POLLOCK PINES, CA - SEPTEMBER 19: A firefighter pauses as he mops up hot spots in an area burned by the King fire on September 19, 2014 near Pollock Pines, California. The King fire is threatening over 12,000 homes in the forested area about an hour east of Sacramento and has consumed over 76,000 acres. The out of control fire is 10 percent contained (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
FRESH POND, CA - SEPTEMBER 17: A firefighter throws a flare to start a backfire as he battles the King Fire on September 17, 2014 in Fresh Pond, California. The King fire is threatening over 1,600 homes in the forested area about an hour east of Sacramento and has consumed over 18,544 acres. The out of control fire is 5 percent contained. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
FRESH POND, CA - SEPTEMBER 17: Firefighters monitor a backfire as they battle the King Fire on September 17, 2014 in Fresh Pond, California. The King fire is threatening over 1,600 homes in the forested area about an hour east of Sacramento and has consumed over 18,544 acres. The out of control fire is 5 percent contained. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
FRESH POND, CA - SEPTEMBER 17: A firefighter uses a drip torch to start a backfire as he battles the King Fire on September 17, 2014 in Fresh Pond, California. The King fire is threatening over 1,600 homes in the forested area about an hour east of Sacramento and has consumed over 18,544 acres. The out of control fire is 5 percent contained. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
FRESH POND, CA - SEPTEMBER 17: Firefighters monitor a backfire as they battle the King Fire on September 17, 2014 in Fresh Pond, California. The King fire is threatening over 1,600 homes in the forested area about an hour east of Sacramento and has consumed over 18,544 acres. The out of control fire is 5 percent contained. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
FRESH POND, CA - SEPTEMBER 17: Firefighters monitor a backfire as they battle the King Fire on September 17, 2014 in Fresh Pond, California. The King fire is threatening over 1,600 homes in the forested area about an hour east of Sacramento and has consumed over 18,544 acres. The out of control fire is 5 percent contained. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
FRESH POND, CA - SEPTEMBER 17: A firefighter uses a drip torch to start a backfire as he battles the King Fire on September 17, 2014 in Fresh Pond, California. The King fire is threatening over 1,600 homes in the forested area about an hour east of Sacramento and has consumed over 18,544 acres. The out of control fire is 5 percent contained. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
FRESH POND, CA - SEPTEMBER 17: A firefighter monitors a backfire as he battles the King Fire on September 17, 2014 in Fresh Pond, California. The King fire is threatening over 1,600 homes in the forested area about an hour east of Sacramento and has consumed over 18,544 acres. The out of control fire is 5 percent contained. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
FRESH POND, CA - SEPTEMBER 17: Firefighters monitor the King Fire as it burns through brush on September 17, 2014 in Fresh Pond, California. The King fire is threatening over 1,600 homes in the forested area about an hour east of Sacramento and has consumed over 18,544 acres. The out of control fire is 5 percent contained. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
FRESH POND, CA - SEPTEMBER 17: A firefighter monitors the King Fire as it burns through brush on September 17, 2014 in Fresh Pond, California. The King fire is threatening over 1,600 homes in the forested area about an hour east of Sacramento and has consumed over 18,544 acres. The out of control fire is 5 percent contained. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
POLLOCK PINES, CA - SEPTEMBER 19: Firefighters mop up hot spots in an area burned by the King fire on September 19, 2014 near Pollock Pines, California. The King fire is threatening over 12,000 homes in the forested area about an hour east of Sacramento and has consumed over 76,000 acres. The out of control fire is 10 percent contained (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Fire burns near road signage near Uncle Tom's Cabin in El Dorado County, Calif., on Thursday, Sept. 18, 2014. The King fire has burned more than 70,000 acres. (Randall Benton/Sacramento Bee/MCT via Getty Images)
POLLOCK PINES, CA - SEPTEMBER 19: A view of a trees that were burned by the King fire on September 19, 2014 near Pollock Pines, California. The King fire is threatening over 12,000 homes in the forested area about an hour east of Sacramento and has consumed over 76,000 acres. The out of control fire is 10 percent contained (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
POLLOCK PINES, CA - SEPTEMBER 19: A burned out truck sits in front of a structure that was destroyed by the King fire on September 19, 2014 near Pollock Pines, California. The King fire is threatening over 12,000 homes in the forested area about an hour east of Sacramento and has consumed over 76,000 acres. The out of control fire is 10 percent contained (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
POLLOCK PINES, CA - SEPTEMBER 19: Tomatoes burned by the King fire hang from the vine in front of a home that was destroyed on September 19, 2014 near Pollock Pines, California. The King fire is threatening over 12,000 homes in the forested area about an hour east of Sacramento and has consumed over 76,000 acres. The out of control fire is 10 percent contained (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
POLLOCK PINES, CA - SEPTEMBER 19: An official insepcts a structure that was destroyed by the King fire on September 19, 2014 near Pollock Pines, California. The King fire is threatening over 12,000 homes in the forested area about an hour east of Sacramento and has consumed over 76,000 acres. The out of control fire is 10 percent contained (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
POLLOCK PINES, CA - SEPTEMBER 19: Firefighters mop up hot spots in an area burned by the King fire on September 19, 2014 near Pollock Pines, California. The King fire is threatening over 12,000 homes in the forested area about an hour east of Sacramento and has consumed over 76,000 acres. The out of control fire is 10 percent contained (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
POLLOCK PINES, CA - SEPTEMBER 19: Firefighters mop up hot spots in an area burned by the King fire on September 19, 2014 near Pollock Pines, California. The King fire is threatening over 12,000 homes in the forested area about an hour east of Sacramento and has consumed over 76,000 acres. The out of control fire is 10 percent contained (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
POLLOCK PINES, CA - SEPTEMBER 19: Firefighters mop up hot spots in an area burned by the King fire on September 19, 2014 near Pollock Pines, California. The King fire is threatening over 12,000 homes in the forested area about an hour east of Sacramento and has consumed over 76,000 acres. The out of control fire is 10 percent contained (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
FRESH POND, CA - SEPTEMBER 17: Firefighters take pictures with their call phones as they monitor a backfire while battling the King Fire on September 17, 2014 in Fresh Pond, California. The King fire is threatening over 1,600 homes in the forested area about an hour east of Sacramento and has consumed over 18,544 acres. The out of control fire is 5 percent contained. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
FRESH POND, CA - SEPTEMBER 17: Embers swirl around firefighters as they monitor a backfire while battling the King Fire on September 17, 2014 in Fresh Pond, California. The King fire is threatening over 1,600 homes in the forested area about an hour east of Sacramento and has consumed over 18,544 acres. The out of control fire is 5 percent contained. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
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By RYAN GORMAN

A photographer who has spent the majority of his life in and around Yosemite Park says this summer's wildfires have shown the "beauty in nature's destruction."

Darvin Atkeson has been going to the vast National Park on vacations since childhood and has lived nearby for the past 20 years, but he told AOL News that this year's wildfires surprised him.

"One tree would go up in a matter of seconds, the pine needles would be stripped and nothing would be left," he recalled, adding that flames often shot twice as high as the nearly 160-foot, centuries old conifers disappearing before his very eyes.

"It was amazing how fast a tree that old could disappear, it was shocking," Atkeson continued. "In just five to 10 seconds it was gone."

A series of wildfires has torn a path through the famed California park over the past couple of weeks as a historic drought continues to suck any moisture from the trees.

The Meadow Fire has largely left homes untouched, but the Courtney Fire has burned down a number of homes.

Atkeson recalled coming across a rancher who had to flee his property with only a half hour's notice.

"He was devastated over having to leave his livestock, horses behind...he knew his house was gone."

Atkeson said he never learned of the ultimate fate of those animals, but said authorities work hard to save the lives of horses and cattle, often even setting them free to be collected at a later time.

He also initially feared the Courtney Fire would burn down his home and drove to the front lines to investigate before firefighters had even arrived.

"The whole area was turned bright orange, there was just no natural light... the light was very surreal," said the photographer, adding that he was worried because ash kept falling all around him.

He and his son drove to the other side of Bass Lake, realized there was no danger because the fire was moving away from his home and took hundreds of pictures.

The most spectacular of them captures a shooting star, the Milky Way Galaxy and the fire all in one shot. The pair left the aperture on his Nikon D800 open for half an hour to create that stunning image.

Despite the beauty, Atkeson laments that it took many of those trees hundreds of years to grow. He is upset the conifer forest will not return for the rest of his life, but says the devastating fire does bring with it a sense of renewal.

The meadows that open to wildflowers, shrubs and bushes provide food for deer and other wild animals, he says.

Some of his favorite pictures include a wide shot of helicopters landing on top of the 3,000-some-foot-tall Half Dome.

The rock formation is so tall the helicopters are "like mosquitos on top," he chuckled.

Other favorites include shots of the flames surrounding the Half Dome fire, especially one showing flames shoot into the air as if to grab the dark storm clouds rolling in.

"It's just got his beautiful, surreal light shooting through the clouds, the dark of the clouds and just to the right of the clouds a flame... It's just a beautiful shot."

He compares the picture to any number of paintings by 19th-century artist Albert Bierstadt, whose stunning paintings of Yosemite were deemed by contemporaries back east to be exaggerated versions of reality, said Atkeson. History has proven otherwise.

This wildfire cycle is the worst in at least 20 years, said the photographer. But they are all part of the plan.

"While this looks like a disaster, it is a natural part of the cycle," he said.

Whether its hurricanes as viewed from space [or] tornadoes ripping across the beltland of America, there is a beauty in nature even though it's destructive," he added. "We have to plan for that."

Atkeson and his wife plan by constantly keeping a suitcase by the door.

Though he says firefighters do "an excellent job" of saving peoples lives and getting them evacuated, there is often only about 30 minutes notice.

Atkeson said he prefers dealing with the occasional wildfire to the earthquake danger he felt while living in San Francisco.

"We just have to be prepared."

Atkeson's other work can be viewed on his website and by following him on Twitter.

Also on AOL:
Fires Forcing Evacuations in California

Related links:
Racing wildfire engulfs homes in California town
Northern California wildfire burns 100 homes
Southern California fire 20 percent contained
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