Leftovers. When we cook a big meal and don’t eat it all, we bundle the rest up and save it for later. We might not feed it to company, but there’s a distinct pleasure (at least for me) in coming back later to dig back into the remains of a great meal.
In a funny way, the idea of leftovers applies to many of my photography excursions as well. Often, I’ll get out in the field and a theme of sorts will start to emerge as I wander around with my camera. I usually notice something interesting and then look for other aspects or examples of that. Sometimes, it’s a particular plant species, and the variety of pollinators or other insects using that same plant. Other times, the theme is a little more broad – having to do with the impacts of some prairie management strategy or a recent weather event. As a result, when I get home with a batch of photos, many of them can be strung together into a story I use for blog posts and/or presentations. Scattered among those photos, however, are the leftovers. The leftovers are the photos that I really like, but that don’t fit into a particular theme or story.
During the winter, when I’m not as active as a photographer, I have time to dig back into the remains of those earlier photo excursions. While it’s not necessarily polite to share leftovers with company, I’m going to break that rule today and share some of mine from last summer.
I spend most of my summers in the field, wandering around in prairies collecting data, making observations, and taking photos. Lots and lots of photos. So many photos that I only have time and space to post a small percentage of my favorites here on this blog.
This week, I’ve been going through my 2017 photos, trying to select a manageable number for my annual “Best Photos of” feature, which will be coming in the next week or two. While doing that, I came across quite a few photos I really liked but haven’t posted yet. Here is a batch of previously unposted images from the Niobrara Valley Preserve from this summer, along with some brief natural history notes.
As I prepare for the “Best Photos of” post coming up, please let me know if you have a favorite photo or two from the year. It’s awfully hard for me narrow them down…
My favorite photos tend to be those I’ve taken most recently. I imagine that’s true of most everyone who does any kind of creative work. I have a tab at the top of the home page for this blog called “Prairie Photos” where you can see some of my favorite photos. The other day, I looked through them and realized it had been way too long since I’d updated that page, so I remedied that. Now you can click on that tab (or just click here) and see a batch of some of the photos I’m most proud of. Here are a few examples…
Most of the photos included in that collection were taken within the last couple of years, but there are a few older ones that I still like. Often, those older photos captured a particular moment of serendipity that still evokes strong emotions for me. Other times, they were the the final result of a lot of trial and error, and my pride in the image comes as much from that effort as from the quality of the photo.
One of my biggest aspirations for my photography is to help people see the beauty of prairies. If you have friends or colleagues who aren’t yet aware of that beauty, maybe you can send them the link to these photos to show them a few examples.
Do it quick, though, before I get tired of these photos and replace them with newer ones!
As promised, here are some my favorite photos from 2013. It was really tough to narrow these down to 22 (it was going to be 21, but see below) out of the roughly 1,800 images that were “keepers” from my various photography jaunts this year.
Of course, many of you joined in the winnowing process by helping me decide between two similar bison photos last week. Or at least that’s what was supposed to happen. Since the vote was nearly evenly split (and a lot of people voted “both”) I decided to include both photos. You’ll see them displayed back to back below.
I hope you enjoy the photos. If you let the slideshow run on its own, it’ll take a little under two minutes to cycle through. You can speed up the process, if you like, by clicking on the arrows within the frame.
If I had to choose a single favorite from the year, it would probably be the one below. It tells a great story without having to use any words at all.
I shot quite a few images of crab spider silhouettes that morning, trying to get one that was just right. I got some pretty nice ones, but none that were as striking as I’d hoped – until I was photo bombed by this ant. That’s often the way photography goes. Equipment and technique are both important, but you really just have to be in the right place at the right time.
I’m looking forward to being in lots of right places in 2014.
I’m putting together a collection of my favorite photos from 2013 for a “best photos of the year” post similar to the one I did last year about this time. It’s been a tough task, especially when there are two photos that are only slightly different from each other. I’ve gotten through most of them, but am stuck on one pair of photos. Since I can’t seem to make a decision, I’ve decided it might be fun to just put it to a vote.
I’ve put both options below. If you have a preference between the two, let me know by replying in the comments section below.
The image that gets the most votes will be part of the photo collection next week.
Thanks for your help!
Photo A: (you’ve seen this one before)
Photo B: (taken just a few seconds after the first)
You can click on each photo to see a larger and sharper image of it. Please vote – and thanks for your help!
It’s been a very mild winter in Nebraska. We took advantage of the warm weather on Tuesday to burn a small island in the middle of a stream/wetland restoration project area. The day was sunny, and it was 55 degrees F with light winds when we started the fire. (Quite a contrast with Wednesday, which was in the 30’s with winds gusting to 40 mph.)
The objectives for the fire included clearing most of the vegetation from the island to create feeding and roosting habitat for migratory cranes, shorebirds, and other species in the early spring. We also wanted to burn through the willow trees that were establishing on the island and set them back before they started to crowd out the grasses, sedges, and other herbaceous wetland plants beneath them. The fire worked out just right, removing most, but not all, of the vegetation.
It’s not often we can get a burn done in January. Even when it’s warm enough, the days are too short. By the time the day warms up enough to dry out the grass and support good fire behavior, it’s usually after lunch – and by mid-afternoon, the sun has dropped low enough that fire stops burning well and smoke stops lifting. Most of our burn units are big enough that it’s difficult to complete them during that short window of time. The island we burned this week, however, was less than an acre in size and we didn’t have to do anything but light it and let it go. A great way to do prescribed fire!
Our family went on vacation last week (sorry for the delayed responses to your comments while I was gone…) We rented a cabin in the Rocky Mountains west of Denver, Colorado. It was a really nice week, especially considering that the temperatures ranged from 40-80 degrees F – with low humidities – in the mountains while temperatures at home were in the high 90’s!
While I enjoy short trips to the mountains very much, I think I’d have a hard time living there year-round. For one thing, I’m too used to seeing big skies. In the prairies, you can watch thunderstorms from many miles away, and gauge whether or not they’re heading for you or not. In the mountains, storms sneak up and pounce over the nearest ridge before you have time to react. And, of course, there are the winters. I enjoy snow as much as the next person, but winter driving in flat land is enough adventure for me…
Regardless of my fondness for plains and prairies, I did find plenty to photograph in the mountains as well. Its easy to see why mountains and water dominate so many nature calenders and posters. Appreciation of prairie landscapes tends to be an acquired taste – one that grows as a person becomes more familiar with the intricacies of prarie life. In contrast, anyone can appreciate the dramatic landscapes of the mountains without even working at it! (…and where’s the fun in that?)
This wasn’t a photo trip, it was a family vacation, so I really didn’t spend much time taking photos. Most were snapped during brief breaks on family hikes, or while my family patiently (?) waited in the car while I jumped out to take yet another photo of the same mountain… However, I got a few, and thought you might enjoy seeing mountains throught the eyes of a prairie ecologist and photographer.