Photos of the Week – December 16, 2022

I have two quick, but exciting announcements before I talk about this week’s photos. If you’re not looking for a job or research funding, feel free to scroll down to the first image.

First, the Nebraska Chapter has three job openings at the moment. Three! Two are seasonal positions and one is a regular full time job. The full time position is the Agriculture Projects lead, who will manage conservation projects within our row crop agriculture program – recruiting and supporting farmers, providing technical assistance and collecting data on conservation projects. They’ll also help with field days and other outreach events around those row crop conservation projects.

Of the two season positions, one is a nine-month fire technician position that will assist with prescribed fire planning and implementation on private lands, as well as Conservancy land. They’ll also work on other stewardship projects and are based at our Niobrara Valley Preserve. The second position is a science and stewardship technician position supervised by me. That person will help me design and carry out research and evaluation projects related to grassland ecology and stewardship. They’ll also assist with land management and restoration work, primarily at our Platte River Prairies. It’s a seven month position. Both those technician positions have full benefits and housing provided.

You can learn more about all three positions at nature.org/careers by searching for ‘Nebraska’. Applications for all three are due on January 17.

SECOND, we are inviting proposals from graduate students for our J.E. Weaver small grants program. This program provides up to five $1500 grants to graduate students working on research related to Great Plains conservation issues. You can see the full request for proposals at this link.

Ok, on to photos. Remember, you can always click on an image to see a better version of it. And if you get this via email, clicking on the post’s title at the top will take you to the website, where you’ll get a much nicer reading/viewing experience of all the content.

Thin ice covering a restored wetland at sunrise. The Nature Conservancy’s Platte River Prairies. Nikon 18-300mm lens. ISO 500, f/13, 1/1000 sec.

We’re still waiting for our first measurable snow here in east-central Nebraska. Much of the western part of the state got dumped on this week and is experiencing blizzard conditions that are shutting down schools and work and making life really difficult for ranchers and their livestock. That’s rough, but at least once the wind calms down a little, at least they’ll be able to do some snow photography. Hooray? If the roads are good enough on Monday, I’m hoping to make my way up to the Niobrara Valley Preserve. In addition to some actual work, I might try to do a little photography myself since they got about a foot of snow up there.

In the meantime, I’ve had to make do with ice and frost, in terms of weather factors that accent photography subjects. I shouldn’t make it sound bad – it’s been really fun to get out and search for little photography treasures. During the last week or two, I’ve managed to get back out to my favorite restored wetland at our Platte River Prairies, my favorite across-town prairie along Lincoln Creek, and our family prairie. All three held plenty of photography subject matter.

Frost crystals on wetland plants on the frozen surface of a wetland. The Nature Conservancy’s Platte River Prairies. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 500, f/16, 1/200 sec.
Frost crystals on wetland plants on the frozen surface of a wetland. The Nature Conservancy’s Platte River Prairies. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 500, f/16, 1/200 sec.
Frost crystals on wetland plants on the frozen surface of a wetland. The Nature Conservancy’s Platte River Prairies. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 500, f/16, 1/200 sec.
Ice and rushes on a frozen wetland. The Nature Conservancy’s Platte River Prairies.Nikon 10.5mm fisheye lens. ISO 500, f/16, 1/125 sec.

The morning I went to Lincoln Creek Prairie, I nearly didn’t. There was just barely any frost and I woke up a little later than I’d planned. I was drowsy and it looked cold out and I wasn’t sure I wanted to do. I waited around a little while and then finally decided it would be good for me to get out and wander. Of course, once I arrived, I slipped quickly into discovery mode and had a great time finding interesting photo compositions, even though the light was getting a little brighter than ideal. I didn’t come home with as many photos as I sometimes do, but given the lost time from dithering, I still felt good about the morning’s total – and I absolutely felt better for getting out.

Lead plant leaves (Amorpha canescens) and frost. Lincoln Creek Prairie, Aurora, Nebraska. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 500, f/16, 1/250 sec.
Sensitive briar seed pods (Mimosa quadrivalvus) and frost. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 500, f/11, 1/800 sec.
Sensitive briar seed pods (Mimosa quadrivalvus) and frost. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 500, f/13, 1/400 sec.
Backlit goldenrod and frost. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 500, f/16, 1/400 sec.

On the morning my friends met me at our family prairie to go hunting (see my last post), I arrived early and caught the sunrise light. This time, I really struggled to find anything I wanted to photograph and spent nearly an hour in enjoyable ambling (but without any photos to show for it) before I finally found inspiration. I came across a dotted gayfeather plant that had retained some of its seeds, which were now glowing in the morning light. Then I settled down to photograph one of my old reliable winter subjects – sideoats grama. I have hundreds of photos of this grass in frost, snow, ice, and other conditions, but I always get drawn back in by its delicate, dangling seeds and long slender stems.

Dotted gayfeather (Liatris punctata) seeds and frost. Helzer family prairie. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 500, f/16, 1/100 sec.
Sideoats grama (Bouteloua curtipendula) and frost. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 500, f/14, 1/400 sec.
Sideoats grama (Bouteloua curtipendula) and frost. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 500, f/14, 1/400 sec.
Sideoats grama (Bouteloua curtipendula) and frost. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 500, f/14, 1/400 sec.

I’d planned to cut some cedar trees between photography and hunting, but by the time I stopped photographing frosty sideoats, people were starting to show up, so I just switched lenses and started walking the prairie again, this time looking for very different quarry. Have a terrific weekend, everyone. If there’s a prairie near you, check it out – there’s always something worth finding!

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.

2 thoughts on “Photos of the Week – December 16, 2022

  1. Our first hard freeze of the year’s predicted for the coming week — along with a casual mention of a possibility of snow. Granted, it’s only a 10% chance, but your photos are a lovely reminder of how beautiful those conditions could be. The sideoats grama details are so pretty.

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