Time again to cull through my images of 2011 and choose 10 top favorites. I’m going to let you in on a little secret, when I began to do this I didn’t spend a whole lot of time picking and choosing mainly because like most photographers, I can pick way more than 10 that have special meaning to me. I did ponder over several more that deserve to be in this list but it would have just been like changing 4 quarters for a dollar bill, not much difference in the end.
This exercise of going through images I find not only enjoyable but beneficial as well. Already I have come upon a half dozen or so that need to be processed and added to my website, this will happen very soon so I hope you will look for some new offerings there. I have no regrets in the 10 that have been chosen here and need to keep in mind how lucky I am to be able to get out into nature on a regular basis to enjoy all it’s glory, with camera or not. There are times when I happen upon a scene that I would love to photograph but for one reason or another am not able too. As the years pass by like drops of rain from the spring clouds I have begun to realize the importance of the experiences and memories of specific times and places. I would always love to be able to photograph all that I see but as long as I stand true to my believes I will always hold the memories much more closer than the photographs. So with that, in no particular order I present you with my favorite 10 images from 2011.
Guarding The Flames – The experience I had the evening of April 16th is one I will not forget and plan on experiencing again every year I can. Living among the prairies of Kansas one knows about the annual ritual of the spring burns. Not only fascinating to see but of vital important to the continued health of such lands. Seeing from a distance can be exciting enough but being able participate directly amongst the fire is exhilarating to say the least. I was fortunate the weather was great as the excitement filled the air in anticipation of seeing thousands of acres of flint hill prairie lite up with fire as the sun set. Many images were taken that afternoon and evening and it wasn’t until back at the computer I looked at this image closely. There is no doubt in my mind from my experience, this image belongs here.
Juvenile Meadowlark – My photography focus has always been on landscapes and wild places, I am a wildlife photographer by opportunity. If the opportunity is there I will not pass it up, such was the case one morning while hiking the Bottomland Trail on the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve. The grasses were in all their splendor along with the blooming wildflowers. A short distance up the trail that I was meandering at an opossums pace I could hear the singing of a meadowlark. Stopping to hone in on the source it didn’t take long to spot, 20 yards off the trail this juvenile was making their presence very well known. A quick change to a longer lens (which when wanting a bird to stay put is risky) 3 images where quickly taken trying to capture the boastful singing of this beautiful young bird, which still had a few pin feathers showing on it’s back. It was by far the best image of the hike and one I felt lucky to not only have captured but witnessed as well.
Evening Shrimp Boat – A week in South Carolina with my beautiful young bride produced more that just quality time together. We had the great opportunity to take 2 quite lengthy boat rides in the Georgetown area. One being a private excursion with Captain Rod in his personal boat and the other on one of his tour boats. After a late afternoon exploring of Shell Island the trip back to the mainland was slow, quiet and peaceful. Heading north I had the good fortune of being seated on the west side of the boat to witness what was arguably one of the most beautiful sunsets I had ever seen. As if choreographed by the fisherman that evening this shrimp boat had slowed down to a crawl seemingly to let us go by. 5 minutes either direction would not have produced this image with the same results. It could be chalked up to luck but you know what they say, when opportunity meets preparation. Obviously my camera was glued to my hand the whole time.
Butterfly Milkweed On Konza – Even though I am not a vast world traveler I have no doubt whatsoever that Konza Prairie will always be at the top of my list of favorite places in the world. There are many reasons for this, it is the place I developed a deep loving appreciation for nature. A place where I could feel like the only person left on earth, and a place I began to learn through their docent training program the true importance of nature conservation. If you want to see nature in all her glory, spring, summer, fall or winter you need look no further than this 8,600-acre native tallgrass prairie preserve owned by The Nature Conservancy and Kansas State University and operated as a field research station by the K-State Division of Biology.
Stepping Stone Sunset – Not only is this an image from Konza Prairie as well, it was taken the same evening the previous Butterfly Milkweed image was. As I hiked my way back along one of the main trials I noticed the wonderful colors beginning to form on the western horizon. The trail you see here looking west, tops along a high ridge where great views of the prairie can be seen. I quickly hurried to this high vantage point as the sun slipped below the horizon. This is when knowing the controls of your camera by memory comes in handy, I knew I had to setup and make a few images quickly without fumbling around in the low light. I was very pleased with this final result of the last image of the day from one of my favorite places.
Prairie Goldenrod – Driving another of my favorite stretches of country road that winds through the flint hills I stopped when spotting this stretch of goldenrod last fall. I walked the fence line looking for a composition that would take advantage of the wonderful autumn prairie scene. It was early afternoon and for the most part the light was strong almost on the harsh side. As I walked down the sloping fence line I soon spotted this composition which to me seemed perfect, slightly slopping land and this small tree standing out amongst the wild flora. This shot is looking north and for the most part the southern skies still did not have much cloud cover. I remember when taking this shot the glare was so strong on my lcd screen I couldn’t see what I had just taken a picture of. Relying on the exposure meter and histogram the few shots I took looked like they should turn out OK. Not until viewing this back on the computer did I realize the brightness of the land exposed perfectly with the bright cloudy skies to the north. What made me chose this particular image was not the land or the sky but the detail that came through in both. Who says you can’t make a good picture in bright light!
Wheat Field & Barn – Chase County Kansas nestled in the rolling flint hills, there is almost no bad place to go in search of typical Kansas scenery. I was coming back from a specific trip to a very small town to photograph an old mill along the Cottonwood river. There was no need to hurry my trip back as I had planned to explore some new back road areas. Heading back along a paved county road that had train tracks paralleling it I spotted this wheat field that may have been 100 yards from the road. It looked to be a good opportunity to get something of this nature with the flint hills in the background. I slowed when spotting a pull off where I could safely park and walk to the edges of the field. When I pulled in and looked directly across the golden wheat to my surprise the top of this red barn came into view. Needless to say I spent some quality time here making sure I didn’t miss this great opportunity to capture a rural Kansas scene at this specific time of year.
Looking Up The Mighty Oak – I had a plan, I typically don’t make such specific plans when heading out with the camera, it’s just to hard to estimate what you may encounter so I try to approach most outings with a very open mind. But this particular late fall afternoon I knew I wanted to try something. That something was to put to use the swivel lcd screen on the Canon 60D I purchased recently. I played around with shots like this last year but couldn’t come away with what I wanted. The problem is putting the camera on a tripod and setting it as close to the ground as possible looking up, almost straight up. A little hard to focus through the viewfinder when your camera is 6 inches off the ground looking up. Walking a local park full of beautiful oaks didn’t take me long to find this specimen with branches starting 15-20 feet up. The swivel viewfinder with live view is really the only way I could have made this image. The unique perspective along with it’s beautiful colors and stark trunk features is what allowed it make this list.
Beauty In The Green Light – As I have mentioned most of my photography happens when I allow myself to be open to my surroundings and this is a perfect example. I had been hiking the grassland areas one afternoon without much in the way of capturing my eye. The light was bright and the landscape seemed rather uneventful. Many times like this I will simply just stop and stand in one spot telling myself there has to be a picture here somewhere and if I am worth my weight in salt I can find it. Peering over the vast open landscape I was struggling to do that. If I could give anyone in such a similar situation one piece of advice it would be, stop looking at the big picture and instead look at what is the closes to you. In this case I was surrounded by native grasses, big and little bluestem, Indian grass and this particular specie gamagrass starting to go to seed. I knew the light was very bright and honestly wasn’t sure doing something like this was even worth the time but my love of our grasslands forced me to try something. This image is a direct result of bright light and the willingness to be open to new ideas. Not only did the beauty of the dominant green light come through but the unique play of lines and form capture my attention still.
The Campsite – I intentionally saved this image for the last, unlike the previous 9 it doesn’t pose some of the attributes that allowed the others to make this list. It poses much more, a memory of a time when I felt lucky to be alive, healthy and have loved ones in my life. It represents my commitment to nature and to be willing to live among the life that makes this world great. I can not control nature, man can not control nature the best we can hope for is to except that we are part of a bigger picture and must not attempt to change forces beyond our control but learn to live within them without harm and destruction so all future generations may have the same opportunities as us. OK, I won’t climb on a soapbox here but when we as people allow ourselves to be part of nature we learn from it, we learn that we are only a small part of the big picture. It was those feelings I came away with one October day while living and sleeping among the life that makes this planet great. If those feelings can be captured in a photograph we have accomplished something wonderful. It is in viewing this image my mind goes back to those days of humble feelings, appreciation of what I have and respect for all life around me that I knew, I could very well be the luckiest person on earth.
All the images presented here are available as fine art prints at my website. Please take some time and enjoy browsing the varieties of nature photography galleries. You can also search for each image using the image ID#. Thank you for allowing me to share my thoughts and feelings with you over the years, I look forward to more wonderful adventures.
Happy New Years!