Photos of the Week – December 3, 2021

I haven’t done as much photography as I’d like lately. Some of that is because it’s been mostly warm and there’s been a distinct lack of frost, ice, or snow. Over the last couple weeks, though, I’ve managed to get out a couple times. Here are some of the results.

Frosty prairie wild rose hips. Deep Well Wildlife Management Area. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 800, f/14, 1/200 sec.
Frosty prairie wild rose hips. Deep Well Wildlife Management Area. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 800, f/14, 1/200 sec.

I spent a nice morning at Deep Well Wildlife Management Area last weekend. There was some frost that morning, which provided a little extra incentive for photography. I wandered around the wetland portion of the site for a while, but ended up in the restored prairie pretty quickly. The bright red fruits of wild rose were an immediate draw. I also noticed how many cattail seeds were stuck on prairie plants – even 1/4 mile or more from the wetland. They made nice photos, but as an ecologist, I wasn’t happy to be reminded of the effectiveness with which that invader can spread.

Cattail seed and sunflower head. Deep Well Wildlife Management Area. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 800, f/13, 1/125 sec.
Cattail seed and sunflower head. Deep Well Wildlife Management Area. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 800, f/11, 1/800 sec.

On my way back to the truck I finally noticed the small group of trumpeter swans hanging out in the middle of the wetland. I managed a photo to document their presence, but it wasn’t anything besides that. It was fun to see them – I don’t usually see them outside the Sandhills this time of year.

There was a culvert under the road that splits the wetland into two pieces. On the downstream end of that culvert, I came across a pile of aquatic snails just beneath the thin layer of ice on top of the water. I wasn’t sure if they were dead or alive, but at least some of them definitely weren’t empty. The snails covered an area about the size of a king sized bed and were several layers deep. I’m not sure how to interpret what was happening there, but it was certainly interesting. I might have to go back when it’s warmer and see if I can learn more.

Snails under ice. Deep Well Wildlife Management Area. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 800, f/16, 1/60 sec.

Two weekends ago, I did some work at our family prairie. I was using a spade to reshape the banks of an ephemeral stream (though that makes it sound like more than it really is). Some historic headcutting created some steep banks and I was trying to slope those out a little. As I was digging around, I kept finding big beetles that had buried themselves for the winter. I stopped and photographed one of them. Anyone recognize it? It looks to me like some kind of June beetle, but I’m hesitant even to say that. I tried to rebury all the ones I found – I hope they can return to their winter rest.

Scarab beetle in its winter hiding place. Helzer family prairie. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 640, f/13, 1/50 sec.
The same beetle after I’d rousted it out of its hole for a photo. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 640, f/13, 1/50 sec.

I appreciate the warm days we’ve had, but I’m also looking forward to having some snow, ice, or frost to accent the dull browns that dominate the landscape right now. When that happens, I’ll feel more motivated to get out and explore. But that’s also bad attitude on my part. When I force myself to go out, even when there aren’t any icy highlights around, I always find something interesting – just like I always preach to others. I should probably listen to myself a little more…

Down feather stuck to a sunflower stem. Deep Well Wildlife Management Area. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 800, f/10, 1/400 sec.

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.

5 thoughts on “Photos of the Week – December 3, 2021

  1. Chris:
    Early on in learning and doing a lot of reading about photography, I ran into an article that made the point–brown is one of the most difficult colors to capture for a pleasing photo. Well, that seemed to be a challenge for me. Browns are NOT easy and making a pleasing image with brown as a dominate color remains one of my goals. I’ve made a few and am still looking for the next opportunity to excel in that part of the palette. So, yes, I’m throwing the gauntlet down for you.

  2. It is always interesting to dig up beetles or grubs of some sort. That nest of snails is something I haven’t seen before.

  3. Appreciate the moments of stillness and pause these photos and posts brought to my Inbox, Chris. My world slowed down as I savored the brilliant red rose hips, the filaments of cattail seeds, and the glossy shellacked bodies of a beetle against cold crumbly soil. The sounds and textures come through my screen for a few minutes’ rest. Then the spell breaks and I go back to a busy world.
    Keep bringing those small things to our attention. And thank you.

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