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.

Anybody Want A Job? Or A Grant?

Pardon the bulletin board nature of this post. I did include a couple prairie photos from yesterday to compensate you for suffering through a couple announcements that will be irrelevant to most of you. If you’re not looking for either a job or a grant (and you don’t know anyone else who might be) you can just scroll down to the photos. However, I’d sure appreciate you forwarding this to anyone who might be interested in either the job(s) or grant.

The Job:

I mentioned this job in an earlier post, but we’ve just extended the deadline to apply for our Science and Stewardship Technician position at The Nature Conservancy’s Platte River Prairies. It’s a seven-month position, but includes housing and full benefits (including health insurance). The technician will be housed at the Platte River Prairies south of Wood River, Nebraska, but will spend much of their time at the Niobrara Valley Preserve as well. The job runs from April 24 – December 1, 2023.

The Science and Stewarsdship technician will assist me with several field research projects this year. They will also work on grassland stewardship and restoration projects, including invasive species control, seed harvest, prescribed fire (weather permitting), and basic preserve infrastructure work. Read the full job description and learn how to apply by going to nature.org/careers. Click on ‘current job opportunities’ and then search for ‘Nebraska’ to find this and other open positions. The deadline for application is January 27, 2023.

While you’re there, check out the other jobs available at TNC Nebraska, including a seasonal prescribed fire technician position at the Niobrara Valley Preserve, an agricultural projects lead, and a finance director position. We’ve got a lot going on right now!

A couple sensitive briar (Mimosa quadrivalvus) seeds clinging to the open, dried, spiky seed pods. Or maybe the pods are clinging to the seeds? That’s probably more accurate.

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The Grant:

The second piece of news is that we’re still accepting proposals for our J.E. Weaver grant program. The program awards $1,500 grants to graduate students working on research related to conservation needs in the Great Plains of North America. It’s an easy application to fill out and money will be awarded in early April of this year. Applications are due March 3, 2023. Information can be found here.

Prairie Stuff:

I took a long walk yesterday at Lincoln Creek Prairie, here in Aurora. The high thin clouds overhead created beautiful diffused light, making photography really enjoyable. I spent most of my time admiring seed heads in the prairie and ice bubbles along the creek. Today’s post includes three of the seed head photos I came home with.

Stiff sunflower (Helianthus pauciflorus) seed head showing, I think, tiny exit holes where insects emerged last fall.
Entire-leaf rosinweed seed head (Silphium integrifolium). Silphium seeds are some of my favorite. They are large, flat and shaped like fingernails. These reminded me a couple windmill heads.