Photo of the Week – January 5, 2018

Three brief items today:

First, if you’re from here in Nebraska, you might be interested in a free photo workshop I’m leading next Saturday (Jan 13) from 9:30 am to 2 pm.  The workshop is designed for people who don’t have a lot of photography experience and want to learn how to better use whatever camera they have (from a phone to a digital SLR camera).  You can see more information about the workshop here.

Second, thanks to everyone who played the Plant Game this week.  The names I made up were Eggs-and-toast, Starry Flipwick, and Jasper Penny.  I won the first two (at least one real plant name got more votes than my fake one) but over half of you figured out that Jasper Penny isn’t a real plant.  The mystery photo was Pyrrhopappus grandiflorus (Tuberuos false dandelion).  I actually posted the same photo back in May 2016.  It is common in the southern U.S. but only known from one location in Nebraska.

Third, here is this week’s photo.  I went to a nearby frozen wetland yesterday, looking for photo opportunities.  I wasn’t finding much of interest until I started looking at the edges of where snow had melted away from protruding plants.  There, I found some interesting patterns among the ice crystals, often with dark shadows beneath them.  This was my favorite shot of the day.  I think I see Bambi the fawn (left side, facing to the right).  What do you see?

What do you see in this image of melting snow?

Snow and Light

We finally got our first measurable snowfall (4-5 inches?) of the year here in east central Nebraska.  I took my camera for a walk at our family prairie yesterday evening, enjoying the way a little snow really transforms a landscape.  I found and followed tracks of coyotes, mice, birds, and deer, and flushed flocks of meadowlarks and tree sparrows.  As the sun started to drop quickly toward the horizon, I wandered through one of the areas we grazed particularly hard last summer, enjoying the broad expanse of whiteness, punctuated by scattered plants poking up through the snow.

Heath aster (Aster ericoides) protrudes from a tiny mound of snow.

I spent the next half hour mainly lying prone on the snow, tripod legs splayed flat to the ground, photographing heath aster and sideoats grama plants, and having a great time.  As you look through these photos, you’ll be able to see how the quality and color of the light changed as the sun approached the horizon.  Shadows became much less stark and more blue in color, and the plants and snow both reflected increasingly golden-orange light from the setting sun.

Sideoats grama (Bouteloua curtipendula)
More sideoats
More heath aster
Final sideoats photo, as the sun was right at the horizon.

The opportunity to watch sunrises and sunsets is a big perk of living on the Plains, where we get an unobstructed view of the sun from horizon to horizon, without pesky trees or mountains in the way.   On many nights, the combination of a low sun angle, expansive sky, and scattered clouds can provide spectacular views.  Other times, however, the best way to appreciate a setting sun is to turn and look in the opposite direction at the changing colors of light and shadows.

Merry Christmas everyone!