Photo of the Week – November 16, 2012

I really enjoy photography, but I’m glad I don’t have to make my living doing it.  For me, photography is something I get to do for fun – grabbing opportunities when they arise, instead of having to record a particular event at a particular time.  I have incredible respect for journalistic photographers who show up and make beautiful or powerful images out of very challenging photographic situations.  I’ve done that kind of photography a few times, and found it much more stressful than enjoyable.  It’s much more fun to pull my camera out of the bag only when the light is good and I have some time to wander.

Restored wetland habitat at The Nature Conservancy’s Platte River Prairies, Nebraska. The sun was just nearing the thin edge of a big cloud bank, bathing the scene in warm diffused light – perfect conditions for photography.

Yesterday morning, I arrived at our Platte River Prairies field headquarters a little early for a meeting.  As I was driving in, I was enjoying the beautiful light being produced as the sun neared the edge of a receding cloud bank.  Since I had a little time, I turned onto a short trail road, parked, and hiked into one of our restored wetlands to see if I could find anything to photograph.

As I walked up to the edge of the water, I flushed a great blue heron and a dozen mallards, and listened to several flocks of cranes passing overhead.  During the next 15 minutes or so I walked the edge of a wet swale with my camera – until the sun finally emerged completely from behind the clouds and the light became too intense for my liking.  I packed up and headed for my meeting… and arrived right on time.

Deadline-free photography – it’s a wonderful thing.

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About Chris Helzer

Chris Helzer is an ecologist and Eastern Nebraska Program Director for The Nature Conservancy. He supervises the management and restoration of approximately 4,000 acres of land in central and eastern Nebraska - primarily along the central Platte River. Chris is also the author of "The Ecology and Management of Prairies in the Central United States", published by the University of Iowa Press.
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7 Responses to Photo of the Week – November 16, 2012

  1. Storm Cunningham says:

    Great photo, Chris! I know I’ve mentioned this before, but your posts would be far more dramatic if you could try to find “before” photos to post along with your great “after” photos. Cheers! – Storm

  2. Gary Shackelford says:

    Chris,
    Being a serious amateur photographer myself, your comments in the above post really struck a chord. I always learn from viewing your images, and I appreciate the care you take in creating them. In this particular image, the light was perfect and your positioning of the camera was impeccable. The stream is shown in a beautiful S-curve; the horizon is level and is placed at the intersection of the upper and middle thirds; the lone tree is off-center; and the clouds are perfectly aligned, with no overlap of the tree. The spot of green in the foreground is a perfect finishing touch. Well done!

    • Chris Helzer says:

      Thanks for the compliments, Gary. Of course, as a photographer, you know that one of the dirty little secrets of photography is that it takes a lot of photos taken to get a few worth using. I only posted one of the hundred or so shots I took yesterday! I found about 20 that I liked well enough to do mess with later, and only a handful worth really keeping long-term.

      It doesn’t mean there’s no skill involved, just that no one I know goes out (these days) and takes a single photograph and goes back home. I usually try a lot of compositions before I find the one I really like. Even when photographers carried big cameras and glass plates, they’d usually take a couple different shots so they could decide later which they liked best!

  3. Natalie Goergen says:

    I LOVE Great Blue Herons. Unfortunately, I see them far less often in my urban setting than you probably do.

    • Chris Helzer says:

      Hard not to love them – unless you run a fish farm… Yep, we see them very commonly, except during the coldest winter months. Even have had some nesting on our properties, though not lately. That’s a funny site – big gangly-legged herons nesting on little platforms of sticks way up high in trees!

  4. Dan Staehr says:

    Chris,
    I really enjoy and marvel at some of the photographs you capture, especially of the tiny insects! What type of camera and lens combination do you use for most of your photography?

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