Photo of the Week – October 30, 2014

I’ve always had a difficult time taking pleasing landscape photos in heavy fog.  I love the way prairies and wetlands look on foggy days, but I rarely come away with a scenic photo I’m happy with.  Fortunately, I can (and usually do) fall back on close-up photos…

Water droplets, gerardia and spider silk on a very foggy morning at a Platte River Prairies wetland last week.

Water droplets, false foxglove and spider silk on a very foggy morning.

One foggy morning last week, I waded into the shallow water of a wetland at our Platte River Prairies.  Everything was dripping wet because of the dense fog.  There was a light breeze, but not quite enough to blow the droplets off the plants or spider silk strands.

More gerardia in the fog.

More false foxglove in the fog.

Fog creates a “flat” light.  Flat light can be used for scenic photos, but it’s difficult to portray depth and texture because of the lack of any shadows.  However, that same light can work pretty well for close-ups, especially as the fog thins a little and the ambient light becomes a little brighter.

Droplets on a late-blooming plains coreopsis.

Droplets on a late-blooming plains coreopsis.

There were several patches of sand lovegrass along the sandy edge of the wetland last week.  The plants were bent almost to the ground under the weight of water drops.  Hidden among the sparkles was a cold wet grasshopper…

A grasshopper on a water-bejeweled sand lovegrass flower.

A grasshopper on a water-bejeweled sand lovegrass flower.


Sand lovegrass close-up.

Sand lovegrass close-up.


Sand lovegrass closer up.

Sand lovegrass closer up.

As the fog started to dissipate, the sun popped out periodically, providing a few opportunities for some landscape photos, but by then I was too intent on the little drops of water to pay much attention to the bigger picture.  I did take a few photos of the wetland, but quickly put the wide angle lens back away in favor of my macro lens.

Here's what the wetland looked like as the fog started to lift.

Here’s what the wetland looked like as the fog started to lift…


Water droplets on spider silk.

…but it was the close-ups that continued to catch my eye.  Water droplets on the tip of a grass leaf and spider silk.


This entry was posted in Prairie Photography and tagged , , , , , , , by Chris Helzer. Bookmark the permalink.

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.

20 thoughts on “Photo of the Week – October 30, 2014

  1. So many people would have thought there was no reason to be outside on that clammy day. Thanks for demonstrating once again that we can be “happy as a clam” in the infinite possibilities of every single day in the wilds. We can’t get enough!

  2. Hello Chris, my question to you is how did you decide to use a blog to promote your prairie sites???
    I belong to the Friends of the Namekagon Barrens Wildlife Area, which is also an open brushy habitat maintained by fire. Most of northwestern Wisconsin was this habitat until the fires were suppressed. Our site is quite invisible to most people and way off the beaten path. So, we are trying to create ideas on how to promote the area. We have the website and our manager does an excellent job. We started a facebook, but it has not been very active. Your ‘blog’ might be the ticket for us because it appears to me to be simpler to read than facebook, has an index of earlier posts and you can sign up and get updates to the blog automatically.

    What is your thinking, web sites, vs facebook, vs blog site?????

    thanks for your experience.

    mark nupen

    • Mark,

      The blog format is nice for the reasons you mention, as well as because it catalogues old posts and people can find them while doing web searches for similar topics. It’s also interactive, but moderated – I can choose to approve comments, rather than just letting anyone say what they want (although I rarely have trouble). I write blog posts and then use Facebook to share them with yet another audience, rather than relying on Facebook as the primary vehicle. It works pretty well in my case, but no matter which medium you choose, it’s important to post regularly and to have compelling content (photos and text). Good luck!

  3. Chris, It may be time to just step back from the desire to photograph landscapes and admit that you are an artist with the close-ups. :) From my point of view, they are more representative of the prairie. It’s easy to say, “Oh, that’s a pretty landscape” but it’s more compelling in photography to shrink down the prairie into manageable pieces.

    God bless and thanks for these knock-outs!

    • I grew up surrounded by the sonoran desert of southern arizona. You cannot appreciate the beauty UNTIL you get out of the car and walk around. Walk the dry stream beds and the lands above the stream beds looking down to see what is there. The little stuff is remarkable. You may not see much wildlife when you are there, but, if you look at a spot with a patch of fine sand, you see MANY animal tracks that appear as if you found a freeway of traffic. In the desert or prairies or barrens landscapes look down and you will see much more than you would have imagined. The forests, mountains and waterways are obvious but the drier landscapes have even more variety.


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