More Favorite Images of 2021

I’ve been mostly (and blissfully) disconnected from work over the last couple weeks. I have a number of topics I’m looking forward to exploring with you during the upcoming year. I’ve also managed to do a little winter photography during my break and have some photos to share soon. However, coming out of my break, I want to start by wrapping up 2021. Today’s post is pretty simple – I’m just posting the rest of my favorite photos from last year. I shared some others earlier, which covered the first several months of 2021. This batch covers the rest of the year. I hope the images bring you some joy and, potentially, inspiration as we start 2022 together.

Also, I want to once again share my gratitude for the community of people involved with this blog. A blog already feels like an outdated medium in a lot of ways, but the format still works well for what I’m specifically trying to accomplish here. I want this to be a platform that provides resources and ideas that help others appreciate and conserve prairies. Writing posts forces me to learn and reflect, and to adapt my thinking about prairie ecology, management, restoration, and communication, all of which helps me stay energized and inspired. In some cases, I’m sharing facts, but often, I’m just hoping my thoughts will help spark others to think differently about their own engagement with prairies and conservation.

In that respect, I really appreciate all the comments you provide, including those that are simply expressing thanks or admiring images, but also those that challenge my statements, correct errors, and express contrary or supplementary ideas. With very rare exception, the comments on this blog are polite, thoughtful, and productive. I can’t say thank you enough for that. All of my thoughts and ideas are fluid and your input helps frame those better for the larger group. They also help me continue to evolve and adapt my own thinking. Thank you.

Ok, enough of that. Here are some of my favorite prairie photos from last year. Happy New Year, everyone. Be well.

Crab spider and captured fly inside shell leaf penstemon (Penstemon grandiflorus). Platte River Prairies. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 400, f/18, 1/100 sec.
Seeds of goatsbeard, aka salsify (Tragopogon dubius). Platte River Prairies. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 400, f/20, 1/50 sec.
Wild garlic (Allium canadense). Platte River Prairies. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 400, f/10, 1/800 sec.
Green lacewing. Helzer family prairie. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 640, f/14, 1/250 sec.
Common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca). Helzer family prairie. Tokina 11-20mm lens @11mm. ISo 400, f/14, 1/160 sec.
Lynx spider. Platte River Prairies. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 500, f/16, 1/250 sec.
Bush katydid. Niobrara Valley Preserve. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 320, f/14, 1/125 sec.
Restored wetland and sunrise. Platte River Prairies. Nikon 10.5mm fisheye lens. ISO 400, f/22, 1/125 sec.
Camouflaged looper (Synchlora aerata). Niobrara Valley Preserve. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 500, f/13, 1/500 sec.
Bison at The Niobrara Valley Preserve. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 500, f/8, 1/640 sec.
False sunflower (Heliopsis helianthoides). Lincoln Creek Prairie. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 500, f/13, 1/80 sec.
Cow. Helzer family prairie. Tokina 11-20mm lens @11mm. ISO 320, f/14, 1/160 sec.
Fruit fly (Paracantha gentilis). Lincoln Creek Prairie. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 200, f/11, 1/200 sec.
Variegated meadowhawk dragonfly at sunrise. Platte River Prairies. Nikon 10.5mm fisheye lens. ISO 800, f/22, 1/400 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.

20 thoughts on “More Favorite Images of 2021

  1. Thank you for sharing. The photo of the crab spider inside the penstemon is exceptional! Truly a beautiful and unexpected image. Is there a beetle or fly inside one of the flowers on the wild garlic inflorescence? It looks like there might be something else there. Thank you again.

    • Thanks. I’m not sure – I don’t see anything I can identify as an insect… There’s a tiny little red bump on the OUTSIDE of one that might be a mite. Or a tiny piece of something that just got stuck.

  2. All creatures, great & small, staring back at you into the camera. Love your photos,and the few extra minutes of peace & happiness each blog installment brings. Please continue & Happy New Year, Chris!

  3. I am glad you wrote the description of the first photo. I thought I was going to have to stand on my head and look at it to figure out what was happening to what. ;) Your photos, ideas and encouragement are most appreciated. I am thrilled that you aren’t giving up your blog anytime soon. Glad you had a revitalizing time off. I am sending you best wishes for the New Year.

  4. I always appreciate your photos and attached information. Cow #32 might be the only one I’ve loved and had a big smile again. This is an example of a part of prairie we very rarely experience.

  5. Gorgeous photos as always! I especially loved the crab spider – I had two in my garden last summer, but they never caught anything while I was around to see it. My ambush bugs did a good job at catching flies, and I suspect I sill see more of them as time goes on. I had a camouflage looper too and loved watching it. Mine was dressed in pink echinacea petals.

    • Thanks Kathy. That spider photo was shot from the outside of the penstemon flower with a 105mm lens, which makes it look a little closer than it actually was. I was just glad it was willing to sit still long enough to get the photo!

  6. I laughed when I got to #32 — every time I visit the Attwater Prairie Chicken Preserve, I end up going nose to nose with the cattle roaming there. I learned early on that one benefit of their grazing is the creation of ‘roads’ that ground-dwelling birds can travel in safety. Then, I found your blog and your various posts about ranch management for wildlife, began to make even more sense of other practices I’ve come across. You’ve built up an archive here that’s of immense value; I’m eager to see what you add to it in the coming year.

  7. I just love your photos! We have so much growth and building where I live (have lived here for 24 years), it is sad to see so much open space being built on. We see wild animals in our neighborhoods more and more.
    My favorite is your last photo of the dragonfly. I have become especially fond of dragonflies since COVID hit. They are so fascinating!

  8. The Camouflaged Looper was my best “learn” in 2021! When I saw your photos I knew what was spending time on our backyard Purple Coneflower.

  9. I really enjoy your Beautiful photos and the captions.
    If I’m reincarnated I want to come back as a Variegated Meadowhawk!!

  10. Brought tears to my eyes son thanks these are so good! You do wonderful work never let them beat you down. the resource demands that of us Love YOUR work


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