Photo of the Week – January 26, 2018

Leftovers.  When we cook a big meal and don’t eat it all, we bundle the rest up and save it for later.  We might not feed it to company, but there’s a distinct pleasure (at least for me) in coming back later to dig back into the remains of a great meal.

In a funny way, the idea of leftovers applies to many of my photography excursions as well.  Often, I’ll get out in the field and a theme of sorts will start to emerge as I wander around with my camera.  I usually notice something interesting and then look for other aspects or examples of that.  Sometimes, it’s a particular plant species, and the variety of pollinators or other insects using that same plant.  Other times, the theme is a little more broad – having to do with the impacts of some prairie management strategy or a recent weather event.  As a result, when I get home with a batch of photos, many of them can be strung together into a story I use for blog posts and/or presentations.  Scattered among those photos, however, are the leftovers.  The leftovers are the photos that I really like, but that don’t fit into a particular theme or story.

During the winter, when I’m not as active as a photographer, I have time to dig back into the remains of those earlier photo excursions.  While it’s not necessarily polite to share leftovers with company, I’m going to break that rule today and share some of mine from last summer.

Wild licorice (Glycyrrhiza lepidota). This is one of the better portraits I’ve managed to get of this great plant.

American germander (Teucrium canadense) is fairly uncommon in our Platte River Prairies, but when it does occur, it often grows in large patches. It’s always been a difficult flower for me to photograph because it sticks out in all different directions, and it’s hard to figure out what to focus on. As I walked past this plant one morning last summer, my brain saw something that might work, and I ended up with a photo I liked.

Getting sharp photos of spiders on their webs is always an accomplishment. Even the slightest breeze pushes them around substantially, making it really hard to get a photo that freezes that motion.  During a pleasant morning walk at the Niobrara Valley Preserve last summer, I spotted this spider and managed to get at least one sharp image as it swayed gently in the wind.

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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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10 Responses to Photo of the Week – January 26, 2018

  1. Mary says:

    I love leftovers, thanks for sharing them. My uncle always called leftovers ” drag-outs”. That kind of fits here too. Again, thanks for sharing!
    Mary Grey

  2. Robert Dana says:

    The “Canada milkvetch (Astrag. canadensis)” looks like Wild licorice (Glycyrrhiza lepidota). The banner petal is much more sharply pointed than the milkvetch, and the leaflets are also.

    • Chris Helzer says:

      Robert!! You’re absolutely right. The label on the actual photo is correct, but when I was going through photos, I didn’t look closely enough and mislabeled it in the blog post. It’s particularly embarrassing because the two species always confuse my technicians and I work with them to see the differences… Thanks for pointing out the error, and I’ve fixed the post.

    • James C. Trager says:

      Pointy, ovate leafletsalso point to (if you will) Glycirrhiza lepidota, rather than more ovoid/elliptic leaflets of A. canadensis.

  3. Caitlin Mroz says:

    is that a cat-faced spider? aka orb-weaver aka jewel spider?

  4. Jamie Vesay says:

    “Leftovers make you feel good twice. First, when you put it away, you feel thrifty and intelligent: ‘I’m saving food!’ Then a month later when blue hair is growing out of the ham, and you throw it away, you feel really intelligent: ‘I’m saving my life!'” – George Carlin, comedian

  5. Linda Chafin says:

    Your photos brightened a dreary winter day, thanks!l

  6. Dick Kahoe says:

    I know little about prairies, but I’m enjoying the learning–your photos and essays are wonderful. I hope to come visit your prairies someday.

    I had the opportunity to photograph a prescribed burn at the Turkeyfoot Prairie here in Warrensburg, MO. Here’s a link to the video https://youtu.be/8f4rQfmJ9e4

  7. Oh those licorice plants. They are the bane of long-haired hunting dogs and their owners on the prairie. They tighten their way right to the skin as the dogs move. We garb our dogs in orange cloth jackets that have short ‘sleeves’ to keep those burs out of their front armpits. I was surprised the first time I saw licorice in flower – they’re attractive enough to let me forgive them a teensy bit.

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