Photos of the Week – September 6, 2019

I frequently hear that people like living in forests and/or the mountains, but it’s pretty tough to see the sunrise when you’re surrounded by all those visual obstructions. I feel badly for people who have never seen a prairie sunrise, especially in a landscape of horizon-to-horizon grassland. Having said all that, I rarely photograph sunrises these days. That’s not because I don’t appreciate them – I certainly do. It’s just that I’m usually pointing my camera away from the sun, trying to capture the prairie and its organisms as they are bathed in the gorgeous warm light of early morning.

I broke pattern this week, though, at the Niobrara Valley Preserve. I meandered out early on Wednesday morning and saw a hazy horizon with an orange/pink glow where the sun was about to pop up. I climbed a big hill in the east bison pasture and captured photos of the sun as it peered over the horizon for the first time. I stayed on that hill for a few minutes, watching and photographing the sun as it climbed higher. After a while, I went looking for some subjects to put between me and the sun before it got too bright.

With all the rain we’ve had this year, indiangrass is blooming prolifically in the Sandhills prairie. Morning light coming through indiangrass flowers is pretty hard to resist. I found a few different ways to frame the indiangrass/sun combination.

After a while, I started looking for other foreground subject matter and enjoyed the linear nature of a two-track driving trail and the south fenceline of the bison pasture. I played around with that theme for a little while, but I had other work to do, so I eventually moved on. Don’t feel too badly for me, though – my next project was to find the bison and get some aerial photos of them with the drone. Mine is not such a bad job, all things considered…

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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.

11 thoughts on “Photos of the Week – September 6, 2019

  1. These pictures immediately conjured to mind the cover of my well-worn copy of The Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold (a Google images search will show you the one I mean). Thank you for sharing your photography!

  2. Chris – I love your blog posts and your amazing photography. I am working on some interpretive signs about native pollinators that will be placed in several of our natural areas along our trail system. Would it be possible to use some of your photos? I need pretty high resolution as these signs will be 2×3 and therefore images need to be made larger to fit that format. Would you want to be credited on the images?

    Thank you for your consideration.


    Karen Scopel
    Environmental Planner | Natural Areas & Trails Division
    Culture | Parks | Recreation Department
    321 N 16th Avenue
    O: 970-350-9279
    C: 970-301-0970
    Office hours: M-F 7:00 – 3:30

    This grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never all dried at once; a shower is forever falling; vapor ever rising.
    John Muir, naturalist, writer, conservationist

  3. Chris,

    I just have to say that your posts lighten my day. I am a professional horticulturist, professor, and garden designer in Saint Louis and I find all of your photos to be inspiring. Please don’t stop what you are doing.

    Victoria Hatfield
    wallflowerdesign, llc.


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