Photo of the Week – June 27, 2014

A selection of photos from a prairie ecologist’s family vacation in the mountains of Colorado…

Rocky mountain stream.

A rocky mountain stream not far from the door of the cabin we stayed in last week.  South of Idaho Springs, Colorado.


Slow shutterspeed

Since I don’t see fast flowing water (or rocks) very often in my part of Nebraska, I don’t often get to play with the old photography trick of using a slow shutterspeed to show the movement of the water.


slow shutterspeed again

I spent way more time than I should have on the slow-shutterspeed-trick…


Where the snow is coming from...

We got to climb high enough to see the melting snow that was feeding all those streams.  It was fun to think about the fact that the snow melt we were looking at would be flowing right past us in the Platte River when we got home.  Hell’s Hole Trail.


Boys and I climbed up a ridge one evening.

One evening, the boys and I climbed up a ridge near our cabin just because it was there.


John thinks he's funny

John thought it was funny to pretend he was clinging to the edge of a cliff.  (His feet are solidly on the rocks below.)


Favorite part of mountains are above the tree line.

My favorite parts of the mountains are above treeline where I don’t feel so closed in.  Chief Mountain.


Dan also likes

Daniel (and his brother) lobbied hard to climb Chief Mountain, even though we’d done the same hike only a year before.  The scenery WAS very nice…


Bristlecone pine

Bristlecone pines are found only at very high elevations.  Both the live and dead ones are very picturesque.


Summit lake near Mount Evans.

One cool evening, we dodged some light showers and took a short uphill hike from Summit lake near Mount Evans.  The scenery was enough to take your breath away – though the 13,000 foot elevation helped with that as well…  


Mount Evans and Summit Lake.

A  panoramic view of Mount Evans and Summit Lake from the trail.


Douglas fir cone.

Of course, despite the gorgeous scenery, many of my  favorite photos from the trip were close-ups.  Just as in prairies, close-up photography helps me see details I would otherwise have missed.  For example, did you know Douglas fir cone had these funny little trident-like appendages on them?


Colorado spruce

A close-up of Colorado spruce needles.


Venus's slipper orchid, aka Fairly slipper orchid (Calypso bulbosa).

Venus’s slipper orchid, aka Fairly slipper orchid (Calypso bulbosa).  My wife found several of these near our cabin.  After I photographed one, I looked it up in one of the field guides in the cabin.  My favorite quote from the guide was: “Although one of our smallest orchids, Venus’s slipper is the most exquisite, as well as the most elusive.”

It was great to spend a week in cooler weather and see some different landscapes, and I really enjoyed the concentrated time with my family.  Pine and spruce woodlands are very pretty, though the alpine meadows above them were certainly my favorites.  I can see how some people really enjoy living in the mountains.  However, while I like short trips to the mountains, I am always glad to get back home to the wide open landscape of the Nebraska prairie.

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About Chris Helzer

Chris Helzer is the Director of Science for The Nature Conservancy in Nebraska. His main role is to evaluate and capture lessons from the Conservancy’s land management and restoration work and then share those lessons with other landowners – both private and public. In addition, Chris works to raise awareness about the importance of prairies and their conservation through his writing, photography, and presentations to various groups. Chris is also the author of "The Ecology and Management of Prairies in the Central United States", published by the University of Iowa Press. He lives in Aurora, Nebraska with his wife Kim and their children.

15 thoughts on “Photo of the Week – June 27, 2014

  1. Nice pictures, but there are a whole bunch of trees and mountains in the way! I feel sorry for all those people forced to live in the Rockies. You can’t see anything. I’m glad I’m from the prairie.

  2. I agree with most of what you said, except the part about spending too much time using the slo-mo on the creeks. :) It’s funny. I was born and raised in Chicago and freaked out by the lack of trees when we moved here. My Gramma’s Pierce farm had lots of trees. It wasn’t until college when I took a course on Plains Lit from Fran (rats, I can’t think of her last name!) that I was able to appreciate the plains and now I also get claustrophobic in the woods!

  3. Douglas Fir cones are called “rat trap cones” because the trident appendages resemble the back end of a rat caught in a trap.

  4. How about savanna, a little of both. I got tired of fuzzy water and switched to a faster speed. I like the blobs better. ;)

  5. Hi, Thanks for all your wonderful photos. I am a Nebraskan living in Colorado. It’s beautiful here, but you know, I miss the four seasons, the birds, having a big garden, and of course, the nice people of Nebraska.


  6. Oh, that makes me miss my mountains… I plan to climb Mt. Evans in Sept. I’ve already done Bierdstat. I have to agree that the alpine meadow is one of my favorite parts of the mountains, mostly because you are up high and can see…. Great Photos!

  7. Mmmmm, yummy photos! You capture the heart & soul of the land in your lens–both the big views and the close-ups. Makes me miss those peaks! And I’m glad you got to see the Calypso orchid. I’ve found them in CA and CO, and it is my mission now to find them in northern NM, where I recently moved. Here’s a post on a beautiful community of them near Boulder: And did you know they were a favorite of John Muir? Here, with sources, is the story:


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