Photo of the Week – March 9, 2018

If you’ll indulge me, I’d like to dedicate this post to a friend of mine who’s going through a difficult time right now.  Ernie Ochsner is an extraordinarily talented artist from here in Aurora whose paintings and photographs have inspired me for years.  More importantly, talking to Ernie always makes me feel better about the world.  He is incessantly curious, thoughtful and kind.  I’ve seen very little of him in recent years – my fault, not his – and I’ve missed his energy and conversation.

Whenever I see a sky like this, I think of Ernie and his artwork.

Ernie is a first rate explorer of both landscapes and philosophy; he chases skies and truths.  Some of the most thought-provoking discussions of my life have been with Ernie, largely because his explorations have given him an expansive view of life and spirituality, and he is excited to share what he’s discovered.  However, many of our conversations have started by him asking, “Did you see that sky last night?”   Every time I look out my window and see gorgeous clouds and light above town, I assume Ernie is out with his camera, trying to find a foreground to put in front of that sky (and he usually is).  His landscape photographs are wonderful, and his paintings are sublime.  There’s no mistaking an Ernie Ochsner painting – he has a distinctive and beautiful style, characterized by colors that jump off the canvas.

I tend to look down, rather than up, as I walk prairies with a camera.  However, when a sky is striking enough that it causes me to lift my head and gaze at it, I often think of Ernie.  Today’s post includes photos of some of those skies.  I hope they give both Ernie and you some joy.

Niobrara Valley Preserve in the spring.

Bison, sandhills, and sky.

Early morning light at Konza Prairie in Kansas.

Showy evening primroses in the Platte River Prairies.

Plains sunflowers along a fenceline in the Nebraska Sandhills.

Gjerloff Prairie, one of Ernie’s frequent haunts – owned and managed by Prairie Plains Resource Institute, which Ernie has been part of from the beginning.

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.

19 thoughts on “Photo of the Week – March 9, 2018

  1. These images are lovely, Chris. You and Ernie are fortunate to live out there where the sky is big. As much beauty as there is around here in eastern Missouri, we never get that majesty of sky like out on the open prairie.

  2. You are absolutely Right, but the best views of the storms or skies are from the open habitats. Check out Michael Olbinski’s MONSOON which is a time lapse of thunderstorms with music. Most of it is from the deserts of southern arizona and the mountains. Stunning video of storms with the music. this is what you are talking about in your story today

  3. Gee Chris I’m a bit embarrassed by the hoopla and humbled by it also. Thanks for the encouraging words. The troubles are just old man illness creeping round my door and hopefully soon he’ll lose the way. I too miss the long rambling talks about beauty and life which mostly are the same thing. You know where I live my friend.

  4. I love your sky pictures and your tribute to Ernie, I do hope it lifts his spirits with the kind of inspiration that they gave me.

  5. Beautiful skies. So many days lately we have had dark clouds. It is nice to see the sun out and awesome clouds.

  6. Pingback: Inspired by Skies | The Prairie Ecologist


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