During our annual holiday break visit to the Niobrara Valley Preserve, Kim and I spent some pleasant time together. We cooked, watched movies, hiked around, and just hung out. In addition, we spent time apart while she was doing some long training runs and/or working on a quilt project and I was out chasing light with my camera. That light was a little less accommodating than I would have liked for most of our visit (overcast and dark) but there were some (ahem) bright spots too.
One of those nice windows came on the morning of December 30, which was also the day we were planning to head home. I got up early enough to be halfway up the ridge north of the river before the sun rose. It was the weather I’d been hoping for all trip – sunny, light winds, and frosty, on top of snow that was still present, though much reduced from several days earlier. I started out with my wide angle lens, watching the sun slowly rise above the distant horizon. You can see below how quickly the landscape changed color from a bluish cast to brighter and warmer tones within a very short time.
Once the sun was up, I switched to my macro lens and started exploring the frosty landscape for little jewels. Blue grama seed heads were sticking up through the snow all around me, so they were easy targets. However, EVERYTHING was covered in frost, so narrowing my choices was one my biggest challenge.
I took a quick break to send the drone into the air. I’d packed it on the 4-wheeler with me when I left the cabin and felt like I should fly it a little to justify bringing it along. Plus, the river had some great patterns of ice, frost, and open water that were worth capturing from above.
It was a quick flight, though, because I was aware of the increasingly bright light and knew I had a lot more frost to photograph before the light became too intense. I started working uphill, figuring that would both take me to some new close-up opportunities and maybe give me a better vantage point for potential landscape scenics. Unfortunately, the higher I climbed, the less frost I found, so I retreated downhill and (mostly) gave up on scenics in favor of frosty macro photos.
When I finally broke out of my frosty reverie, I looked at the time and more than two hours had passed since I’d left our cabin. Knowing we needed to get on the road, I hiked back down to my ATV and headed back to help Kim clean up and pack everything for the trip home. The morning had been a perfect punctuation on a quiet, restful trip to a beautiful place. It was also a great way to end the year.