Photos of the Week – December 24, 2022

I took a quick trip to the Niobrara Valley Preserve earlier this week. I needed to talk with staff about some research plans and I hoped to also get out and scout some sites for those projects. I accomplished half of that plan.

There was a lot of snow on the ground, which was a nice bonus. We’d been without snow down south along the Platte River and I’d been hankering for a little snow photography. I’d arrived plenty early, so I stopped before I got to headquarters and walked around a little with my camera. It was cloudy, but I tried to do what I could with the available light.

The sign near the south edge of the Preserve along the road. The snow was a lot deeper than it appears in this photo.

I tried a few landscape photos but, as usually happens, I was more drawn to little subjects. In particular, there were little bits of color emerging from the snow here and there. A few smooth sumac leaves were still holding their autumn red color. Even better, I wandered into a big patch of prairie wild rose with bright scarlet hips (fruits) that hadn’t yet dried out and lost their vibrance.

Smooth sumac and snow.
Rose hips.

I also played with the simple, nearly monochromatic patterns of grasses and shrubs against a muted white background. Snow loses a lot of its texture in the absence of direct sunlight. When darker clouds moved in front of the sun, I concentrated on those simple patterns. During brief periods of brighter light when the snow texture was more evident, I used my macro lens to photograph rose hips and sumac leaves. Before I knew it, I’d spent a very pleasant hour getting covered in snow.

Sumac stems and snow
Ponderosa pine, sumac, and snowy prairie
Sumac leaves holding on to their last bits of color.
A rose hip peeking through the snow.
Snowy smooth sumac.
Hairy goldaster (Heterotheca villosa) and snow.
Rose hip peeking through the snow.
More rose hips.

Later in the day, after our research meeting, I ventured back out to scout for potential research sites. While I was doing that, the sun suddenly popped through the clouds. I decided to take a quick break and try to use that light. As I drove the road along the edge of one of our bison pastures, a few bison were grazing just a few hundred yards into the pasture. Despite the deep snow, the trail road toward the bison looked pretty accessible.

It wasn’t. I buried the truck pretty quickly and had to shamefacedly radio for help. In addition to having to pull other staff away from actual work to pull me out, I also wasted that gorgeous light trying to dig myself out of a situation I shouldn’t have gotten into. Not my finest hour. As a result, all the photos shown here are from earlier in the day when I’d parked safely on the road and WALKED into the snowy prairie like a reasonable person.

Stiff sunflower (Helianthus pauciflorus).
Smooth sumac hanging around in the snow.
Rose hip and snow (again).
I think this was my favorite of the day.

Happy Holidays, everyone! I wish you all peace and happiness. Thanks, as always, for your participation in and kind comments about this blog.

Also, try not to get stuck in the snow…

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.

9 thoughts on “Photos of the Week – December 24, 2022

  1. Thank you for your (as usual) thought-provoking, educational post with the beautiful photos of things many of us might have missed or overlooked. You and your work are one of the things that make our state special. I feel better about the world and its future after reading your posts. All the best for 2023.

  2. “Also, try not to get stuck in the snow…” Or the sandy mud on the shoulder of a Brazoria County road. Thank goodness for passing guys in their lovely F250. Now, I carry a tow strap. Merry Christmas, and merry exploring, to us all!

  3. THANK YOU, Chris. Your photos ground me even when I can’t /don’t walk out into nature myself.
    You write and photograph with a genuine, thoughtful voice –
    I never tire from reading it.

  4. Happy Holidays to you and your family, Chris! I always look forward to your blog.

    Jennifer Pospichal
    20915 Laurie Plaza
    Elkhorn, NE 68022

  5. This post totally reminded me of a time my dad took us out for a drive on a gravel road in South Dakota after a snowstorm. He wanted to turn around so pulled onto a field access “road” and got stuck. This was before cell phones existed but a pick-up truck went by not too long after we got stuck and helped us out. Lots of adventures when looking at nature in the snow!


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