Photo of the Week – November 29, 2018

A few weeks ago, my local newspaper published an article about me and my square meter photography project.  Unfortunately, the article managed (unintentionally, I think) to reduce the project to a dorky guy’s weird little photography obsession.  I don’t think anyone who read the piece got any feel for what I think are the more powerful stories and lessons from the endeavor.  The article even made me question (briefly) the value of the project because of the way it was framed.  I bounced back just fine, but I’ll admit it hurt a little.

Ironically, all my griping about that article precedes a collection of photos from earlier this week that plays right into the depiction of me as a big dork with a camera.  It’s been a hectic last several weeks as I’ve struggled to finish up numerous projects in between work trips.  On Wednesday afternoon this week, I needed a break in the worst way, so I dropped everything and headed out to our family prairie. 

The weather was in the upper 30’s and the previous week’s light snow was melting, leaving scattered patches of white across a golden brown landscape.  I was mostly there for therapy reasons, so I didn’t really care what I photographed as long as I photographed something.  As I started wandering, I noticed a couple flowering stems of sideoats grama (Bouteloua curtipendula) that had drooped over enough that their tops were stuck in the snow.  For some reason, the aesthetics of that little scene appealed to me and I spent most of the next hour and a half finding and photographing various examples of it. 

I am SUCH a dork. 

But I sure felt better afterward…  And I’m not ashamed – here are my favorites from that afternoon therapy session.

This entry was posted in Prairie Photography, Prairie Plants 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.

30 thoughts on “Photo of the Week – November 29, 2018

  1. Chris; don’t be too concerned about the slant that may have come from your meter project. I think it’s a great concept. I have known Norm for many years and may have met you at one of the SCS picnics.

  2. Hey, the real dorks are the ones who haven’t been turned on by nature. You keep doing your thing, and we’ll keep appreciating it (and many of us are out there with you!). You’re awesome, Chris!

  3. Miracles abound even within a square meter. You’re only scratching the surface of all that is there. Thank you for bringing us the wonders within such a small space. It boggles the mind to expand it all to the vast prairie. Thank you so much!

  4. I love your (not so formal) quadrat project Chris and that 4th photo is pure prairie for me – as soon as as saw it I thought Wyeth; it so evokes the essence and raw grace of Andrew Wyeth’s works.

  5. “Be Weird!” ~ Dave Ramsey.

    “The one who follows the crowd will usually get no further than the crowd. Those who walk alone are likely to find themselves in places no one has ever been before.” ~ Albert Einstein

    Stay weird, keep going places no one has ever been, keep up the good work.

  6. It seems to me that it’s a gift to have eyes (and other senses) attuned to the beauty and natural history of things on such a small scale. Maybe “dork” is a badge of honor!

  7. In physics their is always an opposite force pushing back.
    In your story, the newspaper writer, worshiped, “can’t see the forest for the trees” and forgot (didn’t understand) that trees play a role in the forest.
    That is, the prairie has a vast variety of small parts and I love the ‘small parts’ you photograph. There is another saying of mine, “Can’t see the fingers in front of their face”.
    There is a skill in seeing the ‘small stuff’ in nature and too many don’t know how to do that! I grew up in the Sonoran Desert of south central Arizona. I tell my winter traveler friends to check out the desert, but they Never Get Out of Their Cars to look down at the stunning variety of Stuff on the ground. The varieties of unusual plants and animals are not on the highway but away from the roads and they are fascinating. Check out the Boojum Tree, or the Desert Burrowing owl resting under a desert bush!
    You are dead on Chris. The newspaper writer Can’t see the fingers on his hands in front of his face!

  8. Let your freak flag fly. Your posts from the center of the real world are a welcome and anticipated break from my cubical life in the city. Regular dork breaks are an important part of the day.

  9. One newspaper-person’s story can’t stand up against all of us who so enjoy your stunning photographs. I’ve learned a lot since I signed up for your posts, and I hope you continue sharing your photographs and insights!

  10. There is nothing dorky at all about the project. I think it is fascinating and have been enjoying watching it unfold via your blog. Please keep up with it. I’ve been thinking I should try something similar so you are inspiring others.

  11. >> Anyone with an eye like yours, accompanied by such energy and aesthetic sense, is a treasure.<<

    Agree 100%. Do you have a site set up were I could perhaps purchase some of your photos, esp. if they were affordable enough for a large print. You do such a wonderful job of capturing the subtle beauty of our state and its small things.

  12. Count me in as a fellow “dork” or whatever the term would be for female gender.

    Love those pictures! Keep them coming.
    Therapy for each one of us who follows you.

    Plus the sharing of thoughts on conservation, resource management, diversity, ecosystems, etc. adds to the necessity of keeping brains stimulated with scientific knowledge and discussion.

    Thanks!!!!!

  13. Thanks for being such a dork. Your photos and commentary help us all to appreciate the more subtle, but amazing and awe-inspiring details of the phenomenal world we live in. Your plot has also started me thinking about doing something similar on my little plot of land near a wetland. Thank you again.

  14. I know EXACTLY what you mean by getting out just for photography therapy, and what you mean by not caring what you photograph as long as you get something! I like your site because I like nature a lot!

  15. We met once in Nebraska on the prairie, in 2017, after which I subscribed to your inspirational blog. I was artist-in-residence at Homestead National Monument in which I made cyanotypes in response to the prairie.
    This work began at Fermilab National Accelerator Laboratory on the restored tallgrass prairie, where I work as curator of the Fermilab Art Gallery. “Prairie Quadrat Study” is what I called my series of 25 8×8 cyanotype prints of the prairie which is an ongoing and growing project.

    After reading and thinking about your project Square Meter, I thought that I would very much like to digitally photograph the prairie in a similar vein. The similarities end with the vast knowledge of the prairie and photographic skills which you have.

    Keep up the great work you are an inspiration!

    Gratefully,
    Georgia

  16. We met once in Nebraska on the prairie, in 2017, after which I subscribed to your inspirational blog. I was artist-in-residence at Homestead National Monument in which I made cyanotypes in response to the prairie.
    This work began at Fermilab National Accelerator Laboratory on the restored tallgrass prairie, where I work as curator of the Fermilab Art Gallery. “Prairie Quadrat Study” is what I called my series of 25 8×8 cyanotype prints of the prairie which is an ongoing and growing project.

    After reading and thinking about your project Square Meter, I thought that I would very much like to digitally photograph the prairie in a similar vein. The similarities end with the vast knowledge of the prairie and photographic skills which you have.

    Keep up the great work you are such an inspiration!

    Gratefully,
    Georgia

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