Photos of the Week – February 26, 2022

One of the reasons photography is so important to me is that it encourages me to concentrate on finding beauty. When I’m feeling uncertain, anxious, or unhappy, redirecting my brain to search for beauty helps. It provides a distraction while the camera is in my hands, but the effects linger well past the actual experience – like a temporary reprogramming of my brain. Photography doesn’t allow me to escape the world or my obligations, it just allows me to put them in context.

A skinny patch of open water is fringed with frost on the Platte River at The Nature Conservancy’s Platte River Prairies yesterday. Nikon 10.5mm fisheye lens. ISO 400, f/22, 1/800 sec.

Yesterday morning, I spent a couple hours scooting around on the frozen surface of the Platte River, photographing ice, frost, water, and sunlight. The temperature was hovering around zero Fahrenheit, but there were a few tiny slivers of open water to be found on the otherwise solid mass of ice and I was drawn particularly to them. I spent most of my time lying prone and scooting around the edges of the shallow water. I got my elbows wet a couple times when I leaned a little too heavily on the thin margins of those openings, but my coat absorbed the water before it got to my skin.

Most of the river was completely covered in ice, which was seasoned with sand from exposed sand bars, blown about by recent strong winds. Tokina 11-20mm lens @11mm. ISO 400, f/22, 1/320 sec.
Here’s a close-up view of some of the frost on the top of the ice. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 400, f/13, 1/1000 sec.

In addition to the distractions of the ice and frost, I also pondered some mysterious trails in the sand at the bottom of the river. The long tracks were less than 1/2 inch in width and seemed to go in all directions, so they definitely weren’t just caused by objects being pushed by the flow of the river. They reminded me of trails made by freshwater mussels, but they were awfully small and my understanding is that the strongly shifting sediment in the Platte makes it a difficult place for mussels to live. Big snails? Tiny aquatic voles?? I have no idea. Help, anyone?

Mysterious trails in the river sediment. Tokina 11-20mm lens @20mm. ISO 400, f/16 and 1/160 sec.
Frosty reflections. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 400, f/22, 1/320 sec.
More frosty reflections. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 400, f/16, 1/1000 sec.
Hey, look, frosty reflections! Nikon 18-300mm lens @175mm. ISO 400, f/16, 1/1000 sec.
This appears to be some reflections of frost. Nikon 18-300mm lens @125mm. ISO 400, f/16, 1/1000 sec.
Even more reflections. Nikon 18-300mm lens @320mm. ISO 400, f/16, 1/1000 sec.
A tiny ice shelf. Tokina 11-20mm lens @13mm. ISO 400, f/16, 1/1000 sec.
Cottonwood leaf. Nikon 10.5mm fisheye lens. ISO 400, f/22, 1/500 sec.

This weekend’s warm temperatures will melt most of the ice I was sliding on yesterday, but it will also help clear the river for the sandhill cranes that are already starting to arrive. Those cranes, along with ducks, geese, and other water birds, will provide another source of beauty and distraction for the next month or so. As those birds move on northward, green plants will start to poke out and re-start the growing season. There’s a constant, if ever-changing supply of beauty around to help me deal with all the aspects of the world that are less attractive. And I’m very grateful. Be well, everyone.

Frost, ice, water, and sun. Nikon 10.5mm fisheye lens. ISO 400, f/22, 1/800 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.

16 thoughts on “Photos of the Week – February 26, 2022

  1. I love what scale does. Of course you’re using macro lenses, so I know these are tiny features… but they are still powerful, as if logarithmically larger.

  2. Your sentiments are spot on, nature allows us time and place to get out of ourselves and enjoy the world around us and be awe struck. It happens to me when I go out to get wood for the wood stove, sometimes begrudgingly, because of a failure to fill the woodbox. There is always a reward of wonder, this morning an amazing sunrise of color, that would not have been seen otherwise. Thank you for sharing your beautiful photos and your words. Our natural world brings us back to who we are.

  3. So you are interested in frost, are you? :-)
    Seriously, these are calming and enthralling at once.
    You be careful out there on that ice!

  4. Nature has been my solace since early childhood, and remains my supreme comfort many decades later. Thank you for bringing it to me!

  5. The photos are glorious, but I kept thinking: Thin ice? Cold water? Camera lenses? Hypothermia? My first thought was that you’re braver by far than I am, but then I realized you’ve had plenty of time to learn this landscape. People always ask me if I’m not afraid of alligators, but at this point I’ve seen so many, and learned their habits so well, I’m cautious but never fearful. Whether it’s alligators or ice, familiarity breeds the freedom to explore, and these explorations of yours are really wonderful.

    • Thank you. Don’t worry – I was being cautious as well. I was in sight of my truck the whole time and never above more than a foot of water. The open water was only about 4-6 inches deep. Camera lenses were definitely the biggest concern, but I was extra careful (and they’re insured). Honestly, the biggest challenge was to keep from breathing on the viewfinder and covering it with breath frost…

      • Ah, good. I once went into the water at a marina in January, and found myself looking at barnacles on a piling well below the surface. Needless to say, even with a happy outcome, the memory occasionally resurfaces, and your post brought it back. Six inches of winter water beats sixteen feet every time!

  6. What beautiful photos! That bottom one is quite amazing! I’m with you on the photo thing. When I’m out walking with my camera, I forget all the world troubles. At least for the moment. It also helps me remember to be grateful for all I have. Love your photos!

  7. Pingback: Photos of the Week – March 4, 2022 | The Prairie Ecologist


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