Photos of the Week – September 17, 2021

On Wednesday morning, I was out at the Platte River Prairies early to harvest seed, but all the vegetation wet enough I decided to hold off until the sun got a little higher and dried things out. I had to fill time somehow, so I grabbed my camera and wandered a little. You know – just to fill time. Here are some of the photos from that walk. Have a great weekend, everyone!

Big bluestem silhouetted against the rising sun. Nikon 18-300mm lens @300mm. ISO 500, f/9, 1/8000 sec.

As the sun started to rise, I played around with silhouettes of big bluestem flowers in front of it. After taking the above photo, I found a scene I liked and tried out versions of the image from slightly different angles and with various amounts of depth of field. That always seems like a good idea at the time, but I pay for it later when I have to try to decide which I like best. In this case, I could only narrow the field to three, and decided to keep and share all three.

The first of three photos of the same group of big bluestem flowers. Nikon 18-300mm lens @100mm. ISO 500, f/9, 1/4000 sec. Shadows opened up with Photoshop.
A second photo of the same big bluestem, but with the camera pointed down to keep the sun out of the photo. Nikon 18-300mm lens @100mm. ISO 500, f/11, 1/80 sec.
The third version, this time with less depth of field because of a different aperture setting. Nikon 18-300mm lens @100mm. ISO 500, f/7, 1/200 sec.

Once the sun was higher and brighter, I stopped playing with backlit grasses and put my macro lens on. The plains sunflowers (Helianthus petiolaris) were loaded with caterpillars, as they often are, including some that were the exact yellow color of the ray flowers. I also spent way too much time face to face with a robber fly that seemed cold and wet enough to tolerate my presence as the sun rose behind it. Then, as I wandered back to the truck to start harvesting seed I got distracted several more times and gave in to temptation. I did eventually get a bunch of seed harvested too…

A pretty striking color match between a sunflower (Helianthus petiolaris) and a caterpillar that feeds on it. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 500, f/14, 1/200 sec.
A big robber fly on its overnight perch on a stiff sunflower. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 800, f/16, 1/80 sec.
A backlit grasshopper. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 500, f/14, 1/125 sec.
A tree cricket silhouetted on a plains sunflower. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 500, f/14, 1/125 sec.
A tiny leaf beetle nestled between flower petals. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 500, f/14, 1/250 sec.
Leaf beetles mating on sunflower petals. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 500, f/14, 1/250 sec.

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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.

4 thoughts on “Photos of the Week – September 17, 2021

  1. Hello Chris, As Vice-President and Program Director for the Omaha Camera Club, I’d like to invite you to be the Guest Speaker for our March 1, 2022 meeting. Nikki McDonald shared your Prairie Ecologist newsletter, recommending you. Your prairie photography is beautiful and inspiring.

    We are currently meeting in person at Nebraska Methodist College as well as on Zoom. Meetings are from 6:30pm-8:30pm.

    Please let me know if you have any questions. I look forward to hearing from you.


    Dorothy Sansom Omaha Camera Club

    Sent from my iPhone



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