Photo of the Week – December 13, 2013

Monday morning was cold here.  If I remember correctly, it was about 4 degrees below zero when I decided to go for a walk with my camera.  (Because, hey, what else would you do on a morning like that?)

There wasn’t much wind, so it honestly didn’t feel all that bad, especially since I was dressed for it.  However, my camera was sure cold.  It worked fine, but I had to keep an extra battery in my pocket (so it would stay warm) because batteries don’t last long at very low temperatures.  The biggest issue, though, was that the viewfinder on the camera kept frosting over from my breath.  Those of you who think photography is easy haven’t tried holding your breath every time you put the camera up close to your face…

As the sun came up, the prairie was populated with seedheads wearing little snow caps.  Unfortunately, for whatever reason, I couldn’t seem to find a single one that photographed well.  So, I ended up with this photo of milkweed seeds, in which you can’t even really tell it was snowy.

But trust me, it was cold.

Common milkweed seeds on a frigid, snowy day.  The Leadership Center Prairie, Aurora, Nebraska.

Common milkweed seeds on a frigid, snowy day. The Leadership Center Prairie, Aurora, Nebraska.

Oh, and by the way – I took several versions of this photo and struggled to decide which I liked best.  You might ask, “Chris, why don’t you just put a couple versions up and ask us which we like better?”   Sure, that’d work great.  I tried that yesterday with the bison photos.  Twenty four hours later, well over 100 people voted, some contacting me outside of the blog, and the vote was almost exactly evenly split.  A number of you tried to have it both ways, so your “vote” didn’t really help.  The remainder of you did, at least, express an opinion, but in the end, there was no consensus.

I suppose I could take my cue from the United States government, and decide that since the readership is polarized I should just shut down the blog for a while.  However, as an example to my country, I’ll take the high road and compromise.  Both photos will be included in next week’s “best photos of 2013″ feature.  You have only yourselves to blame, though, when you look at through that photo montage and think to yourself, “Gee, this is nice, but it seems like there’s one too many images in it…”

(Seriously, though, thanks for voting.  Both images were obviously popular.  Some people felt very strongly one way or the other.  Others liked them about equally.  It was fun to read the reasons people chose one over the other.  While there were some very thoughtful responses, my favorite was definitely the one from Mary, who chose photo B  because the bison reminded her of her old uncle!  As of the time I’m writing this, the vote count is 53 votes for A and 50 for B…)

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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 – December 13, 2013

  1. Mike Suiter says:

    Chris – out of curiosity, how close was your lens to the subject? I have a lot to learn with my macro, and even the slightest breeze makes things tough. I’m finding that manual focus is the way to go when you’re in close.

    • Chris Helzer says:

      Mike, I’m not sure, but I think probably 8-10″ from the subject. I was using a 105mm lens on a DX camera, so it functioned like about a 160mm lens – giving me some space to work with. I definitely rely on manual focus for most close-up work. The only exception is in very low light where the camera can sometimes “see” better than I can. Even then, I try it both ways to be sure I get it right.

  2. elfinelvin says:

    Having somewhat unsteady hands, I always hold my breath when I take photos. Nice shot of the milkweed, I think I can see some snow in there.

  3. Leroy Haeffner says:

    Yeah I was on the winning team by a nose. well actually the side view gave a better nose was the other one. well both are winners thanks for sharing it was close that is the way i read them too! close! 12 here today!

  4. kismet20 says:

    Definitely the right choice to include both bison photos, as each was excellent, but for different reasons. After all, would you restrict yourself to having just one photo of your old uncle on the piano?

  5. Mike I just watched the video you posted, it is very nice. I have done a few shots with the full moon but nothing like these.
    Chris, glad you decided to use both images uncle or not.

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