Photos of the Week – July 22, 2022

Earlier this week, I posted vacation photos from the backpacking trip I took with my son in the Flat Tops Wilderness of Colorado. That post included mostly wide-angle landscape images that helped illustrate our surroundings. Today’s post is filled with some closer-up views from the trip. I drug all my camera gear along on the trip and carried it during our day hikes. I also took several lenses in my backpack and used my tripod as a walking stick, which was a poor idea from a weight perspective, but really handy once we got out there.

Butterfly on larkspur at sunset. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 800, f/8, 1/100 sec.
Scarlet gilia (Ipomopsis aggregata). Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 400, f/10, 1/400 sec.
Ant tending aphids. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 400, f/14, 1/160 sec.

The three photos above were taken during the day hiking phase of our trip. The butterfly was the last thing I saw one night while photographing wildflowers close to our campground. As I walked back toward the tent in the post-sunset light, I noticed an incongruity in the shape of a spike of larkspur flowers and, upon closer inspection, saw the butterfly. The bluish/purplish light made the gray-white butterfly blend in really well with the flowers and I photographed it from multiple angles. The photo above is my favorite from the batch.

The ant and aphids photo depicts a scene I saw many times during our trip. I usually saw it as we were hiking someplace, and didn’t feel like I could stop to photograph it. This photo also came from a day hike, but we were close to the point of turning around to head back and Daniel wanted to go a little further than I did. That worked out great for me. I sat down and photographed these little critters while Daniel explored up around the bend and then came back.

The remainder of these photos were taken during our backpacking trip. We built the trip to give us plenty of flexible time and that allowed me to take advantage of good lighting when it occurred. I often had to wave mosquitos away from the front of my lens as I took these, but still ended up with a number of shots that had insect blurs in front of the subject. Sometimes, I just included mosquitos in the shot on purpose, as in the penstemon shot below.

Fleabane (?) growing out of a rock. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 320, f/14, 1/160 sec.
Dusky penstemon (Penstemon whippleanus) and mosquito. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 320, f/16, 1/400 sec.
Hover fly (Syrphidae) on old-man-of-the-mountain (Hymenoxys grandiflora) on Trapper’s Peak. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 320, f/20, 1/100 sec.
Elephantears lousewort (Pedicularis groenlandica). Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 320, f/13, 1/320 sec.

I’ve got hundreds more close-up wildflower photos from the trip but tried to pick out a few representative ones to share here. In addition to my macro lens, though, I also took my longer telephoto zoom (18-300mm lens). I used it for some of the scenics in the last blog post, but also as a way to photograph clusters of wildflowers. In the photos below, the first was taken with my 105mm macro lens, using it more like a short telephoto. The remaining three were taken with the longer telephoto, zooming into patches of backlit flowers. I had a lot of fun playing with that perspective, which helps compress groups of flowers together.

Wasp on American bistort (Polygonum bistortoides) in front of Trapper’s Peak. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 320, f/29, 1/60 sec.
Backlit wildflowers (Bistort and ragwort). Nikon 18-300mm lens @270mm. ISO 320, f/10, 1/200 sec.
Backlit flowers. Nikon 18-300mm lens @105mm. ISO 320, f/11, 1/80 sec.
More backlit flowers. Nikon 18-300mm lens @100mm. ISO 320, f/9, 1/100 sec.

Returning from the cool high elevation grasslands of the Flat Tops Wilderness to 100 degree humid days was a pretty good shock to my system. On the other hand, it was really nice to get back to familiar plants and animals. In the mountains, I saw a lot of things that I recognized as likely relatives of familiar species (flowers, butterflies, etc.) but it was weird not to be able to name what I was seeing.

Also, brief single visits to a site don’t tell you much about what’s really happening there and I’ve realized that tracking change and trying to understand it is a major component of why I enjoy wandering my local prairies. Either way, it was a great trip and I hope to go back.

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.

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