Photo of the Week – July 27, 2018

When I was up at the Niobrara Valley Preserve last week, I flew our drone a few times when the light was nice.  It’s really hard to show the scale of this landscape by taking photos from the ground, and I’m having a great time experimenting with aerial photography in order to better illustrate that scale.  Here are a few images from last week, taken right around the headquarters of NVP.  I’m also amassing still and video footage of bison, but I’ll share some of that at another time.

This photo was taken in the evening, with late day light accenting the texture of the landscape. This photo looks east (downriver) and you can see both some piles of recently-cleared eastern red cedars in the foreground and our headquarters buildings on the right side of the image.
This image was taken right above the headquarters, looking to the east as the sun was breaking above the horizon. The skiff of fog didn’t last long once the sun came up, but made for some nice highlights while it lasted.
This image looks south. It shows where the northern portion of the Nebraska Sandhills (a 12 million acre grassland landscape) terminates at the wooded breaks of the Niobrara River. The woodland shown here went through the big 2012 wildfire, but many of the trees were protected from fire by the cool, moist north-facing slopes. Those same factors help support tree species (including paper birch) that don’t otherwise seem like they have any right to be in the hot and arid west.  Many of the trees in the upper reaches of the draws are bur oaks, along with a few ponderosa pine and eastern red cedar trees that survived the big fire.
This image was taken just a few minutes after the foggy sunrise photo above, but is facing the opposite direction (upstream) and shows the day’s first light hitting the river bank.

Niobrara Valley Preserve From The Air

We arrived at the Niobrara Valley Preserve yesterday in pouring rain.  The road in from the south was nearly impassable and our data collection plans were scrapped for the day.  As evening neared, though, the rain started to let off, and just as the sun was nearing the horizon, it popped out from behind the clouds.  Suddenly, the entire Niobrara Valley was bathed in gorgeous golden light.  I scrambled to get the drone up into the air.

Looking downriver with the sun behind. Can you see Alex on the sandbar?
Facing the sun as it drops below the horizon.
The Nebraska Sandhills extend nearly forever south of the river (12 million acres of contiguous prairie). You can’t even see the entire 12,000 east bison pasture in this photo. The scale is just immense.
The Niobrara Valley Preserve headquarters is nestled between the Sandhills and the river. The campus now includes a couple new buildings, which will greatly help us improve visitor access and experiences.

The Niobrara Valley Preserve is already magical, but when you add that kind of evening light, it just becomes absolutely spectacular.  Below is a 30 second video showing more of a panorama view of just one small part of the 56,000 acre property.

Thank you to everyone who supports our conservation work, both at the Niobrara Valley Preserve and elsewhere around the state, country, and world.

Special thank you to the Nebraska Environmental Trust for funding this effort through a PIE (Public Information and Education) minigrant, administered through the Nebraska Academy of Sciences.

Photo of the Week – February 12, 2015

Last week, Jasmine (one of our two Hubbard Fellows) and I spent a morning at the Derr Wetland Restoration here in the Platte River Prairies.  We wanted to get some photos and video of the site before the latest snow melted.

…Ok, to be honest, we were mostly hoping to test out the capabilities of our new drone (UAV).  Two of our Nebraska board members, Jim and Nancy Armitage, donated the funds to purchase the drone as a way to help us better capture our sites and the work we’re doing here in the state.  We’re just starting to figure out the potential for drone photography, but I sure like what I see so far!

Here is a short 3 minute video of footage shot from the drone, followed by some still photos from the same morning.  Both the aerial video and still photos provide powerful images, but the video certainly captures the context of the site in a way that’s not possible for me as I walk along the ground with my camera.  I think the drone is going to be an awesome complement to the other ways we photograph and monitor our sites – it’s going to be exciting to keep exploring the possibilities.  Stay tuned for future videos!

Click here to see the video on YouTube.

 

Tracks of a river otter sliding across the ice/snow.  No, I didn't see the otter.  Thanks for asking.
Tracks of a river otter sliding across the ice/snow. No, I didn’t see the otter. Thanks for asking.
Canada goose tracks were all over the site, along with coyote, mink, rabbit, and many others.
Canada goose tracks were all over the site, along with coyote, mink, rabbit, and many others.
Photographing from the surface of the ice provides a neat perspective of the wetland, but a very different one from the drone's aerial view.
Photographing from the surface of the ice provides a neat perspective of the wetland, but a very different one from the drone’s aerial view.
A final ice-level photo.
A final ice-level photo.