Best of 2018 – Part 2

This is the second half of my annual “best of” celebration of the past year’s photography and writing. If you missed Part 1, you can find it here. This post includes the remainder of my favorite photos from this year and links to some of the posts I’m most proud of from 2018. At the bottom, you’ll find a YouTube video that includes all of the photos from both Parts 1 and 2 of this “best of” series. Depending upon your internet speed, the sharpness of the images may or might not come through on that video…

Spider in early light – Platte River Prairies

As I’ve said many times, I’m sincerely grateful for all the people who follow this blog (more than 4,000 subscribers now!) and support prairie conservation in one way or another. Writing this blog keeps me energized and inquisitive about the world around me. People ask me if I ever have a hard time coming up with two posts a week and the honest answer is no. Well, rarely, at least. There’s always something new to discover in prairies, so I never tire of exploring them. Knowing that someone else cares about what I find makes it even more fun. Thank you.

Cattail seed on ice – Platte River Prairies
Snow and wetland – Helzer Family Prairie

I’ve been thinking a lot about ecological resilience and climate change in recent years. In general, I’m optimistic about the fate of prairies in the coming years – assuming we can keep people interested enough in them to actively manage them. I wrote a couple posts on the topic this year, including one on how the diversity of life in prairies provides redundancy and resilience and another on the “bench strength” of prairies in the face of climate change.

Sandhill cranes and fog – Platte River Prairies
Ironweed leaf – Helzer Family Prairie

Two of my favorite natural history stories of the year included big populations of wildflowers. On the very last day of April, 2018, things were definitely going my way. I had planned almost a year earlier to photograph a large population of pasque flowers at the Niobara Valley Preserve and everything actually worked out just perfectly. The next day, I broke my ankle, which messed up much of my summer, but that’s another story… Later in the summer, (still in a boot) I discovered something new and sinister about Illinois tickclover.

Pasque flowers – Niobrara Valley Preserve
Sunset and Niobara River – Niobrara Valley Preserve

People frequently ask me for photography advice and I’m not always sure how to help. However, there is one point I think is important for people to understand, which is that your camera doesn’t see the world the way you do. I wrote about that this year, hoping that it would help others improve their photography skills. Somewhat related to that, I wrote about how the way we portray prescribed fire through photography can be important. We tend to show people images of big scary flames without including the appropriate context – namely that those flames usually come after a couple of laborious hours of work to prepare safe containment for that fire. I suggested we should be more cautious to present the full story and not just the scary images.

Fourpoint evening primrose and restored sand prairie – Platte River Prairies
Damselfly nymph – Platte River Prairies
Crab spider on hoary verbena – Helzer Family Prairie

To be really honest, I can’t come up with a theme that encompasses the last three posts I wanted to highlight, so I’ll just lump them awkwardly into this paragraph. I really enjoyed learning more about South African grasslands, and I plan to dig deeper into that subject in 2019. I finally got fed up with hearing ridiculous stories about “how bison used to graze in the old days” and wrote a response. And, one of my favorite posts of the year was one that readers wrote for me – the first annual (if I remember next year) Prairie Limerick Challenge!

Sideoats grama – Lincoln Creek Prairie
Bush katydid – Helzer Family Prairie
Stiff sunflower with highlights – Lincoln Creek Prairie
Inchworm – Lincoln Creek Prairie
Skipper butterfly on ironweed – Helzer family prairie
Goatsbeard seeds – Helzer Family Prairie
Plant hopper on lead plant – Lincoln Creek Prairie
Bumblebee on stiff sunflower – Lincoln Creek Prairie
Giant milkweed bug nymphs – Lincoln Creek Prairie
Wilting sunflower leaf – Lincoln Creek Prairie
Bison in late day light – Niobrara Valley Preserve
Cope’s gray tree frog – Helzer family prairie
Monarch butterfly – Lincoln Creek Prairie
Butterfly milkweed seed and sky – Lincoln Creek Prairie
Bison calf in rain – Broken Kettle Grasslands
Smooth sumac leaves – Lincoln Creek Prairie
Leaves in a stream – Niobrara Valley Preserve
Ice on wetland plants – Platte River Prairies

Here’s the YouTube video I mentioned earlier, which includes all of my favorite photos from 2018. As I said, the sharpness of the images might depend upon the speed of your internet connection. It’s about 4 minutes long.

Enjoy the rest of 2018, and I wish you all the best for 2019! Thanks again for supporting this little prairie blog.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized 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.

4 thoughts on “Best of 2018 – Part 2

  1. Chris – many thanks for sharing the prairie world through your lens. I’m inspired and my passion for prairies continues to grow. You should come out and visit our shortgrass prairie this year. I’m looking forward to your blog posts in 2019. The Colorado Prairie Girl

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