Photo of the Week – June 29, 2017

Monday night, I spent some time exploring the east bison pasture at the Niobrara Valley Preserve as the sun was going down.  The bison have been concentrating their grazing on the east end of the pasture that was burned in March.  Within that patch, most of the grasses have been grazed, along with the wildflowers they like best.  The sky was pretty spectacular, so I spent time photographing the vibrant green landscape and the bright wispy clouds above it.  When the sun was nearly down, however, I noticed the light illuminating patches of woolly plantain (Plantago patagonica), an annual plant that had just finished its flowering season.  I dropped down to the ground and photographed the backlit plants until the sun finally disappeared.

I ended up with two favorite images from those few minutes.  I like them both for different reasons, so I decided to share them both.

Woolly plantain is not a plant most people would call regal or beautiful, though it certainly has its charm.  Because it’s often overlooked, I like that these photos feature it so prominently.  Woolly plantain is a space-filler, a plant that can’t handle competition.  It grows and flowers only when other plants are weakened enough that it can find spaces between them.  A burned patch of sandy prairie grazed by bison creates perfect habitat for woolly plantain, and these photos celebrate the plantain, the prairie, and all of the processes that link them all together.

…Plus, it was pretty dang cool to be lying on my stomach, watching the sun go down over a huge prairie landscape while a big herd of bison grazed in the distance…

Photo of the Week – December 10, 2015

Earlier this week, I mentioned the hike I took at the Niobrara Valley Preserve Monday afternoon and evening.  I carried my camera on the walk but waited in vain for decent photography light.  The heavy clouds started to thin as sunset time neared, but the sun dropped below the horizon before ever popping through.  However, a short time later, as the clouds continued to thin, they suddenly lit up with beautiful pink and purple color.

Tree skeletons in post sunset glow in the 2012 wildfire area at TNC's Niobrara Valley Preserve, Nebraska.

This tree apparently supported a fallen tree or branch for quite a few years – long enough to have molded itself around it.

Tree skeletons in post sunset glow in the 2012 wildfire area at TNC's Niobrara Valley Preserve, Nebraska.

Tree silhouettes against the post-sunset sky.

Not long after the color faded from the sky, the first stars started to appear and the clouds continued to disperse.  By the time I reached the car, most of the sky was clear and the stars were strikingly bright in the sky.  It was only about 7:30 pm, so I decided to extend my hike a little and found a few trees to put in front of the stars.

stars

Starry sky along the Niobrara River.  This pine tree is the same one I featured a few posts ago as I compared three years of photos showing fire recovery.

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stars

At the time, I thought the glow on the horizon was the nearby town of Valentine, but now I wonder if it was actually the very last of the glow from the sun.

Listening to coyotes and great horned owls while admiring more stars than anyone could count in a lifetime of lifetimes was a pretty great way to end the day.