Photos of the Week – January 21, 2023

We finally got measurable snow at the Platte River Prairies! It’s been a long brown winter so far and it was great to see those big flakes coming down and transforming the landscape earlier this week. After a very busy work week, I went out Friday morning to tromp through the snow with my camera and see what I could find.

On the way to the prairie, I had to stop and photograph some Canada geese relaxing on the ice along open channels of the Platte River. Most of the geese were sleeping – or close – while standing on ice or in very shallow icy water. Others were keeping an eye on the situation. With the frosted trees in the background, it was a scene I couldn’t pass up.

Canada geese on the Central Platte River. Sigma 100-400mm lens @100mm. ISO 320, f/4.5, 1/4000 sec.

Once in the prairie, I trudged uphill through snow that was 6-10″ deep, depending on where I stepped. I was a little late to the party because I had to finish up some other work before I left, but the frost on all the prairie plants was still hanging on, despite the sun getting higher. Everything, everywhere was gorgeous and it was really hard to decide where to point my camera and what lens to use. I spent most of my time lying down or getting up – all while trying to keep snow off the front of my lens.

Canada wildrye (Elymus canadensis) with frost in snowy prairie. Nikon 10.5mm fisheye lens. ISO 400, f/22, 1/320 sec.
Canada wildrye (Elymus canadensis) with frost in snowy prairie. Nikon 10.5mm fisheye lens. ISO 400, f/22, 1/500 sec.

Canada wildrye covered in frost seemed like an easy first subject, so I stuck a fisheye lens on and got right up next to the seed heads, which were waving around in a gentle breeze. Because they were moving, I had to take a lot of photos to get a few sharp ones. It was yet another reminder of how digital photography has changed the game. I never would have been able to afford those risky shots when I was shooting slides.

(For those of you youngsters out there, slides were film that, when developed through a magical and expensive process and put into little white frames, turned into tiny photographs. Once you got a bunch of them, you could put them in a machine that shone light through them onto a big screen in a darkened room. People largely used slides to put their relatives to sleep by showing them lots of photos of recent vacations.)

Sand lovegrass (Eragrostis trichodes) and snow. The bottom ‘branch’ of the seed head was touching the front of my lens. Nikon 10.5 fisheye lens. ISO 400, f/22, 1/500 sec.
Sand lovegrass (Eragrostis trichodes) and frost. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 400, f/13, 1/1600 sec.
Green sage (Artemisia campestre) with snow piled up behind it. Nikon 10.5mm fisheye lens. ISO 400, f/22, 1/500 sec.
Cell phone photo of my camera/tripod setup for the below photo.

I walked around for an hour or so before light started getting too bright to do much with. Before I walked back to the truck, though, I put my macro lens on and clipped a magnifier to the front of it. I wanted to photograph the individual frost crystals that were everywhere. I concentrated on the little ridges created by wind on the snow’s surface because the crystals had accumulated on the ridge and there were shadows behind the to create contrast. I got some nice images, including the one below.

Frost on snow. Nikon 105mm macro lens with Raynox 250 magnifier. ISO 400, f/22, 1/500 sec.

I’m not sure how long this snow will stick around – it started melting shortly after I left the prairie yesterday. We had the chance for a few flurries today, but nothing much materialized. I’m really glad I took the chance to go out when I could!

If you like snow, I hope you’ve gotten some recently. If you don’t like snow, I get that too, but I’d respectfully suggest trying out a snowy prairie to see if that changes your mind.

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.

6 thoughts on “Photos of the Week – January 21, 2023

  1. Hello Chris,

    I appreciate your skill with a camera and the final results. Would it be possible to get permission to occasionally use one of your photos as the banner photo on my Facebook profile? I would definitely include your photo credit on the post. — Joe Chase

  2. so much to see and enjoy out there on the pairie in the still of winter, no bleakness there;thanks for sharing your beautiful photography

  3. Thanks Chris, I’m up in Minnesota and this year’s ‘wet snow / frost ‘ events have been absolutely stunning. Can’t see those photo events if you ‘flee down to Arizona or Florida!


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