The Beauty of Prairies in 2020 – May

Here’s the third installment of prairie photos from 2020. I’m finding the process of revisiting the photos I took this year to be energizing, and I hope you get something positive from it as well. Amongst the stress and anxiety created by the year’s events, reminding myself how much beauty and life there is in the world is really helpful. Exploring or viewing images of nature doesn’t reduce the amount of work to be done or fix the big issues we face, but it provides a refuge I can use to recharge before engaging with those challenges again.

As a quick reminder, I’m posting some of my favorite prairie photos from 2020 and asking for your help in selecting the ones I’ll use for a project that I hope will both celebrate prairies and share the aforementioned solace with as many people as possible. Today, I’m sharing photos from May. You can vote on your favorites by sharing the photo numbers you like best in the comments section of this post. I’ve remembered this time (I don’t always) to set up the photos so you can click on each of them to see a larger version, if you want.

Thanks to everyone who voted on the March/April photos from last week. The top vote getter – by far – was the backlit pasqueflower scene from the Niobrara Valley Preserve. I’m glad people like it. I waited a long time that day for the sun to finally pop out just long enough to get that shot. The other photos receiving high numbers of votes, in order of popularity, were #’s 10, 2, 6, 16, 6, 11, and 12.

1.) Small male carpenter bee (Ceratina) probably waiting for a female to return to her nest in the hollow step of an ironweed plant (Vernonia baldwinii). Helzer backyard prairie garden. Nikon D7200 with Nikon 150mm macro lens. ISO 400, f/13, 1/500 sec.
2.) Fringed puccoon (Lithospermum incisum) in late day light. Helzer family prairie. Nikon D7200 with Nikon 150mm macro lens. ISO 400, f/11, 1/1000 sec.
3.) Ground plum, aka buffalo pea (Astragalus crassicarpus). Helzer family prairie. Nikon D7200 with Nikon 10.5mm fish eye lens. ISO 400, f/11, 1/160 sec.
4.) Woolly locoweed (Oxytropis lambertii) at Gjerloff Prairie (Prairie Plains Resource Institute). Nikon D7200 with Nikon 10.5mm fish eye. ISO 640, f/22, 1/200 sec.
5.) Buffalo currant (Ribes odorata). Helzer backyard. Nikon D7200 with Nikon 150mm macro lens. ISO 640, f/18, 1/400 sec.
6.) Pussytoes (Antennaria neglecta) at Gjerloff Prairie (Prairie Plains Resource Institute). Nikon D7200 with Tokina 12-28mm wide angle lens. ISO 640, f/22, 1/160 sec.
7.) Showy vetchling (Lathyrus polymorphus) at Gjerloff Prairie (Prairie Plains Resource Institute). Nikon D7200 with Nikon 150mm macro lens. ISO 640, f/10, 1/1250 sec.
8.) Spiderwort (Tradescantia) leaf and water droplets. Helzer prairie garden. (Shadows in background went black because of contrast between brightness of leaf and darkness of shadows.) Nikon D7200 with Nikon 150mm macro lens. ISO 320, f/16, 1/160 sec.
9.) Crab spider spiderling and dandelion (Taraxacum officinale). Helzer family prairie. Nikon D7200 with Nikon 150mm macro lens. ISO 320, f/10, 1/320 sec.
10.) Harvestman, aka daddy longlegs. Helzer prairie garden. Nikon D7200 with Nikon 150mm macro lens. ISO 320, f/13, 1/200 sec.
11.) Seed head of pasqueflower (Pulsatilla patens). Niobrara Valley Preserve. Nikon D7200 with Nikon 150mm macro lens. ISO 320, f/14, 1/320 sec.
12.) Prairie spiderwort (Tradescantia occidentale) in sand blowout. Niobrara Valley Preserve. Nikon D7200 with Tokina 12-28mm wide angle lens. ISO 320, f/16, 1/400 sec.
13.) Tent caterpillars. Niobrara Valley Preserve. Nikon D7200 with Nikon 150mm macro lens. ISO 320, f/18, 1/100 sec.
14.) Sandhills prairie and trail road. Niobrara Valley Preserve. Nikon D7200 with Tokina 12-28mm lens. ISO 320, f/14, 1/500 sec.
15.) Katydid nymph on blue-eyed grass (Sisyrhinchium campestre). Helzer family prairie. Nikon D7200 with Nikon 150mm macro lens. ISO 640, f/13, 1/1000 sec.

I’m really grateful for the feedback on these photos. I know which are my personal favorites, and that won’t change because of votes from others, but it’s also helpful to see which images most resonate with others. If I’m going to try to convince the larger public that prairies are special, valuable, and full of beauty, I want to use the photos most likely to capture their interest. So, thank you for your help.

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.

45 thoughts on “The Beauty of Prairies in 2020 – May

  1. The detail is incredible- I like to enlarge all the way until every hair is visible. You look at each photo and can appreciate it as completely organic in form, then when you enlarge you can see the breakdown of individual shapes and elements that are sooo ordered, mathematical! The engineering of the connections, the direction the finest hairs grow, the tiny light reflective planes of matter. And it all adds up to a living, growing, tiny being. Seeing these photos will make me stop and appreciate more the insects that live all around us every day. They are little visual miracles. I vote for #13 the tent caterpillars. Because the patterns their overlapping bodies create are beautiful in contrast and shape.

  2. 4, 6, 5, 8, 2

    I don’t see Buffalo Currant much in southern MI but have one on my pre 1850s farmstead. My mother always called it a forsythia but botany courses and a biology degree later I found that it was this. Thanks for your posts!

  3. Number 14 is my first choice, running a close tie with number 7

    On Mon, Dec 7, 2020 at 10:29 AM The Prairie Ecologist wrote:

    > Chris Helzer posted: ” Here’s the third installment of prairie photos from > 2020. I’m finding the process of revisiting the photos I took this year to > be energizing, and I hope you get something positive from it as well. > Amongst the stress and anxiety created by the year’s ev” >

  4. So hard to choose a favorite, but 9 is my top one. 3 Took my breath away when enlarged to full screen view! 11, 1, 15, 14 also marvelous : )
    Once again, an amazing array!

  5. As usual, glorious photos that remind me, weekly, why I love living in Nebraska. Thank you. Hard to pick a favorite, but the pasqueflower seed head one is magnificent. Also love those with the beautiful big blue sky with clouds.

  6. Chris, Sandhills prairie and trail road, Niobrara Valley Preserve #14 is my all-time favorite. I stared at it for a long while the first time you posted it and was looking for it when you first asked us for feedback. I would gladly buy a canvas print so that I could contemplate those clouds meeting the earth often. Maybe a fundraiser opportunity for TNC funds or your own prairie conservation and restoration efforts?

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