Frosty Morning Walk

We got our first real snow of the season last week.  Early Friday morning, I braved the icy roads and made it to our Platte River Prairies in time for a sunrise walk.  It was a beautiful morning.  The temperature was about 10 degrees Fahrenheit, but there was only a very slight breeze, so it didn’t feel cold – especially after walking through 2 foot snow drifts for a while.

Snowy prairie in the pre-dawn light.  The Nature Conservancy's Platte River Prairies, Nebraska.

Snowy prairie in the pre-dawn light. The Nature Conservancy’s Platte River Prairies, Nebraska.

I walked across snow-covered prairie to one of our restored wetlands, where a dozen or so ducks flushed off a small bit of open water.  A real duck biologist would have been able to identify them by their calls, but their silhouettes against the pink horizon didn’t give me enough to go on.

Not much else was moving around.  I didn’t even see many tracks in the snow, apart from those of a few small birds that had been feeding on fallen seeds from sunflowers and prairie cordgrass.  I walked around the wetland as the sun came up, enjoying the quiet and taking some photos of frosty wetland plants.

Frost-covered wetland plants stick out from the ice on a frigid but pleasant winter morning.  The Nature Conservancy's Platte River Prairies, Nebraska.

Frost-covered wetland plants stick out from the ice on a frigid but pleasant winter morning. The Nature Conservancy’s Platte River Prairies, Nebraska.

As I walked back to my vehicle, I thought I heard sandhill cranes calling in the distance, but I might have been imagining things.  There have been a few thousand cranes hanging around this winter, but I haven’t seen them for the last week or so.  An immature eagle flew overhead, flapping steadily as though it had somewhere to be and didn’t want to be late.  Just a few feet away, a meadowlark flushed out of the snow and flew about 30 yards to a short perch in the grass.  I bent down to see where it had come from and found a meadowlark-sized hole.  The hole led into a “den” formed by an air pocket in the snow beneath a clump of tall grass.  I took my glove off and put my hand down into the still-warm hiding place.

Eventually, I reached my parking place, shucked off my snow-crusted coveralls, and picked up my cell phone to join a conference call – only a few minutes late.  It was time to get back to work.

Here are a few more photos from the frozen wetland.










Photo of the Week – November 29, 2012

Yes, you’ve seen this photo before…

This is the same photo I used for the Photo of the Week back on November 16.

When I get back from a photography venture, I usually try to sort through and process photos within a day or so.  I hate getting behind, and I like to get photos worked up before I get tied up in other things and forget about them.  However, it can sometimes pay to wait a little while.  Now and then I’ll go back and look at photos I took weeks or months earlier and decide that the images I liked best at the time are no longer my favorites.

Two weeks ago, I used the above wetland photo as my Photo of the Week.  I took the photo the day before I posted it, and at the time it was my clear favorite from the day.  The other day, I happened across it, looked at it, and thought, “Meh.”

So I went back and looked at the rest of the same batch and found some other images I liked just as much, or maybe even more.  I’m not saying any of them are life changing images – landscapes are not really my forte – but I like them… and I didn’t think much of them two weeks ago.  In fact, this first one (below) didn’t even make the first cut.  I didn’t enter any metadata into the file or work it up in PhotoShop; I just left it with all the others I didn’t think were worth spending any time on.

This image was a throw-away two weeks ago. Now I kind of like it.

This next photo was one that I really liked when I was in the field, but liked less when I got it back home.  There was too much of the photo that seemed extraneous.  This week, as I looked through the images again, I saw a way to cut out some of what I didn’t like as much and emphasize what I did.

I like this photo much better after cropping it a little from my original composition. Basically, I just nipped off a little on the left side that didn’t really add anything to the image. Two weeks ago, I thought it was mediocre. Now I think it’s a pretty nice image, and – at this moment – it’s my favorite from that day. (A month from now I’ll probably hate it)

This final image (below) is almost completely contained in the image above, but shot from a slightly different location.  The way it’s cropped now, however, changes the whole feel of the photo.  Instead of a photo of a wetland with an interesting cloud above it, it’s now a photo of an interesting sky with a little bit of wetland below it.  The shorter height makes it look wider, which fits the way the scene felt in real life.

When I went back and looked at this photo, I saw potential for an interesting panoramic format, so I cropped off a good chunk from the bottom and liked the result. I think it does a good job of representing the very wide open feel of the landscape.

…Speaking of not being able to choose the best of my photos, I’ve decided it might be fun to go back through photos I’ve taken this year and try to select a few for a kind of Year in Review Photo Show for a December blog post.  (Isn’t that what websites like this are supposed to do at the end of the year?)

I’ve got it narrowed down to about 50 photos, which is about 40 too many…  I’m going to keep winnowing them down, but if you have any favorites you think should definitely make the cut, feel free to cast your vote by leaving a comment below.  You can browse through 2012 posts to see if any really stick out, but be warned that only photos I actually took this year are eligible (my blog, my rules).  Or you can just wait to see what I pick out myself.