Photo of the Week – December 7, 2017

A couple quick comments before I share this week’s photos…

First, a brief celebration.  This little prairie blog surpassed 1,000,000 hits a few months ago, which is both shocking and humbling.  In addition, more than 3,500 people now subscribe to the blog via email and/or Twitter.  Most gratifying to me, however, is that as of today, there have been 10,000 comments in response to posts and photos on this blog.  I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the discourse that occurs here.  Out of those 10,000 comments, there have been only a handful that weren’t respectful, constructive, and/or informative.  While I don’t reply to all comments, please be assured that I read every single one, and aside from that aforementioned handful, I appreciate them all very much.  Whether you’re expressing your appreciation for a photo or thought, asking questions about topics we’re exploring, or sharing additional information, the comments are my favorite thing about writing this blog.  Please keep sending them!

Second, thanks to Brandon Timm, biology teacher at Aurora High School (Nebraska), I can now say I’ve appeared on a podcast!  Mr. Timm has a podcast, called My Science Story, in which he interviews a variety of scientists, discussing both their work and the path they followed to get where they are.  His main objective is to inspire students to see themselves as potential scientists, but the podcast is also a great way to catch up on what some fascinating scientists are up to these days.  If you’re interested, you can listen to the episode I appear on HERE, but please also check out his other episodes.  I think you’ll be impressed.

Ok, now the photos:

A hybrid of sandsage and sandhills prairie in Garden County, Nebraska.

While I tend to turn my camera toward small insects and flowers, I often find myself in some pretty extraordinary landscapes, especially the Nebraska Sandhills, where I am surrounded by nothing but open grassland as far as I can see in every direction.  Using photography to capture the sense of immensity and pleasant isolation I feel in those landscapes has turned out to be a big challenge for me.  Even with a wide angle lens, it’s really hard to portray the expanse of grassland and sky around me.  In the above photo, for example, there is nothing but grassland between me and the horizon at the top of the photo (several miles away), but while it’s a nice image, it doesn’t do justice to what I was seeing.

Wetland, dunes, and sky. Cherry County, Nebraska.

In this second photo, I wanted to show both the foreground vegetation as context for the wetland and vegetated sand dunes behind it, and the clouds gave me a great sky to work with as well.  However, the photo seems about three times too narrow to portray what I saw as I stood near the edge of the clear water.  Sure, I could have stitched multiple images together in a panorama, but when I try that, I’m usually disappointed by the result.  I can show more of the landscape, but the scene seems to become somehow smaller rather than larger.  I’m not sure I can verbalize why that is.

Sandhills prairie. Cherry County, Nebraska.

This last photo comes about as close as I’ve gotten to showing off the expansiveness of the Sandhills.  Ironically, it was shot with a zoom lens set at about 54 mm, which is far from a wide angle.  However, I was able to get up high, include a vehicle in the foreground for some context, and include an awful lot of landscape between me and the distant horizon.  It’s the depth of the image, rather than the width, that makes it work for me.  But even this image is a poor representation of reality.

I guess you’ll just have to go look for yourself.

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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.
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11 Responses to Photo of the Week – December 7, 2017

  1. Pat says:

    Those wide open landscapes just don’t fit in a photo. I’ve taken pictures all over this country and prairies have to be the toughest. It’s kind of like trying to take pictures of the ocean! Having said that, you take some really fine photos. You’re just dealing with one of the toughest subjects out there.

  2. shoreacres says:

    First, thanks for sharing some of the statistics about your blog. It’s encouraging to know so many people are interested. And thanks, too, for your comments about the difficulties you’ve had in capturing some of these landscapes photographically. I’m often dissatisfied with my ability to capture the wide-open spaces of the grasslands and prairies, and it’s nice to know others feel the same from time to time.

  3. msjeanneq says:

    Thank you for your commitment to the prairie and your readers.

  4. Gene Buzzard says:

    I live in Tulsa, near the Tallgrass Praire in Osage County, Oklahoma. I have also tried to capture the magnificent scope of the prairie and have failed often. It is very difficult because there is no natural frames as there are in forests, mountains or shores. I really enjoy your blog. Your writing and photography do a great job of conveying your passion for the land. Please keep it up.

  5. Jane Papsdorf says:

    I feel your third photo helped me see the depth of the Sandhills. Thank you for exposing us to these wide open spaces to people that live with lots of trees.

  6. Karen kader says:

    Hi,
    just wanted to let you know, even though your last photo was taken with a zoom, I was still able to get a feel for how the Sandhills truly are. I’ve driven through them many times and your photo does ok! Yes, a wide angle would showcase more but you worked with what you had. ☺ Getting a high vista sure helped here.
    The clouds in another photo are great with the grasses. As you well know, clouds add so much to landscape photography. Nice photos.
    Now I want to take another trip out west lol!
    Thank you,
    Karen Kader

  7. Katie Heithoff says:

    Every time I see a prairieecologist email I know I’m going to be treated to something wonderful !

  8. Ed May says:

    Congratulations on 1 million hits Chris! You obviously are putting out information people are interested in and can use. Have a great weekend. >

  9. Kathy Olson says:

    I would love to visit and move in. Are any homes for sale??? Or maybe even a dung house like little house on the prairie.

  10. marianwhit says:

    Love your work, you deserve all the credit you get….on the last photo, I wonder if the owner of the vehicle cleans his tires and wheel wells often! We have ATV trails going in everywhere into our wild areas, and I shudder to think of the dispersal of non-native seeds that is happening…trying to teach, but am looked on as a bit of a “crazy”.

  11. N.P.Helzer says:

    :)
    nph

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