Photo of the Week – March 9, 2018

If you’ll indulge me, I’d like to dedicate this post to a friend of mine who’s going through a difficult time right now.  Ernie Ochsner is an extraordinarily talented artist from here in Aurora whose paintings and photographs have inspired me for years.  More importantly, talking to Ernie always makes me feel better about the world.  He is incessantly curious, thoughtful and kind.  I’ve seen very little of him in recent years – my fault, not his – and I’ve missed his energy and conversation.

Whenever I see a sky like this, I think of Ernie and his artwork.

Ernie is a first rate explorer of both landscapes and philosophy; he chases skies and truths.  Some of the most thought-provoking discussions of my life have been with Ernie, largely because his explorations have given him an expansive view of life and spirituality, and he is excited to share what he’s discovered.  However, many of our conversations have started by him asking, “Did you see that sky last night?”   Every time I look out my window and see gorgeous clouds and light above town, I assume Ernie is out with his camera, trying to find a foreground to put in front of that sky (and he usually is).  His landscape photographs are wonderful, and his paintings are sublime.  There’s no mistaking an Ernie Ochsner painting – he has a distinctive and beautiful style, characterized by colors that jump off the canvas.

I tend to look down, rather than up, as I walk prairies with a camera.  However, when a sky is striking enough that it causes me to lift my head and gaze at it, I often think of Ernie.  Today’s post includes photos of some of those skies.  I hope they give both Ernie and you some joy.

Niobrara Valley Preserve in the spring.
Bison, sandhills, and sky.
Early morning light at Konza Prairie in Kansas.
Showy evening primroses in the Platte River Prairies.
Plains sunflowers along a fenceline in the Nebraska Sandhills.
Gjerloff Prairie, one of Ernie’s frequent haunts – owned and managed by Prairie Plains Resource Institute, which Ernie has been part of from the beginning.

Photo of the Week – March 17, 2016

We burned a portion of a prairie yesterday.  As the fire was winding down, a small strip of grass near the edge was burning itself out and I walked over to play around (safely) with some photography.  I’ve always found fire to be beautiful, dating back to my days as a Boy Scout, when I’d get up well before everyone else, get a campfire going, and stare at the flames until the sun came up.  Now that I’m a burn boss, I don’t get to appreciate the aesthetic aspects of our fires very often, except during that small window at the end of operations when everything is secure and the fire is coming to a graceful end.  Most of my feelings about fire today are related to concerns with conducting safe burns, an incredible respect for both the destructive and constructive abilities of fire, and an appreciation for the way prairies respond after a fire.  However, now and then, I am grateful for an opportunity to just pause and enjoy the beauty.

Here are some of the photos I took with my phone yesterday.