Photos of the Week – December 22, 2021

Over the weekend, I went out to our family prairie to see if the high winds from the previous week had caused any damage. Everything looked fine from that standpoint, so I wandered down to the pond to see if there was any fun ice to photograph. The main pond had a thin skin of ice across it, but not much for patterns. Along the edges, though, there were some small pockets of ice that had some interesting lines and texture so I explored those for a little while.

Ice pattern near the pond edge. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 800, f/16, 1/200 sec.
Ice pattern near the pond edge. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 800, f/20, 1/125 sec.
Ice pattern near the pond edge. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 800, f/20, 1/125 sec.

After I checked out all the ice possibilities, I decided to play with the texture of wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) and the late day sun. To be honest, I was challenging myself to find beauty in the winter prairie. I recently wrote a magazine article about winter hiking aimed at convincing people to venture out in the cold. Despite that, I’ve been pretty bad about getting outside myself over the last couple weeks. I felt like I needed to follow my own advice.

Wild bergamot seed heads at the Helzer Prairie. Nikon 10.5mm fisheye lens. ISO 800, f/22, 1/400 sec.
Wild bergamot seed heads at the Helzer Prairie. Nikon 10.5mm fisheye lens. ISO 800, f/22, 1/250 sec.

I’ve always found bergamot seed heads fascinating and worthy of photographing. The numerous tubes packed together make for beautiful abstracts up close. On this particular day, though, the light and wind made it seem more sensible to eschew the macro lens and try some other perspectives. I started with a fisheye lens, with which I stuck my lens within an inch of the closest seedhead and tried to deal with the sun right in my face. After that, I backed up and used a long telephoto to condense the heads together. Both were fun to play with as I tried to capture the golden highlights framing each of the seed heads.

Wild bergamot seed heads at the Helzer Prairie. Tamron 100-400mm @400mm. ISO 800, f/22, 1/160 sec.
Wild bergamot seed heads at the Helzer Prairie. Tamron 100-400mm @400mm. ISO 800, f/10, 1/500 sec.

Once I flipped the switch and started really looking at was around me, I found plenty to enjoy. In addition to what I photographed, I followed tracks of several different animals, watched a gaggle of tree sparrows bounce from shrub to shrub, and looked (fruitlessly this time) for frogs beneath the thin ice. And, of course, I enjoyed the fresh air and stretched my legs. The temperature was below freezing, but my spirits were high by the time I headed home.

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.

6 thoughts on “Photos of the Week – December 22, 2021

  1. Nice post. I love the ice pics! One of my favorite things to take pics of, though it’s tough to find ice in Houston. The last time I was able to photograph any ice was Christmas 2020 at my in-law’s farm in KY.

    Happy New Year!

    Brent E. Moon
    HORTICULTURE MANAGER
    Chair, Horticulture, Greenhouse, Facilities Community-APGA
    Houston Botanic Garden
    brent@hbg.org
    713.715.9675 ext.142

    [http://hbg.org/images/assets/siglogo.png]

    Enriching life through discovery, education, and the conservation of plants and the natural environment.

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