Fall in the Flint Hills

There are a lot of things to like about fall, the cooler weather, the change in wildlife as bird migrations take place, the anticipation of Thanksgiving and Christmas just around the corner, and of course the changing colors of the world.

I live on the northern end of the Flint Hills, the last large continuous area of tall grass prairie left in North America. The tall grass prairie used to stretch from Oklahoma up into Canada, but only around 4% still remains. Living in a prairie region, the fall colors around me aren’t the spectacular reds of the northeast or the vibrant golds and yellows of the mountain aspens. There are some vibrant yellows on the trees in my part of Kansas, which can be really striking.  A more subtle source of fall color though, are the grasses out on the prairie. When the grasses first change to their fall colors, there is a luster to them that I find really beautiful. The different hues and shades of colors you can find in the grasses if you spend time looking can be surprisingly varied and beautiful.

Wildflowers blooming in early fall in the Flint Hills
Late Bloom

(click on any photo to enlarge)

This year I made several trips out to take in the fall. I made the photo above on Sept 17th in Pottawatomie County. Although not yet technically fall, it was close enough that I included the photo in this post anyway. The late wildflowers were still blooming strong at this point, but the green of the prairie grasses was starting to fade and a hint of fall colors are starting to appear on the hillsides.

Fall Moonrise over the Prairie
Fall Moonrise over the Prairie

This photo of moonrise was made a bit later in the fall on October 14th in Pottawatomie County. The last light of sunset had cast beautiful light and shadows on the Flint Hills and the warm tones of days last light highlighted the fall colors well. I really enjoy being out to watch and photograph the moonrise – normally a day or so ahead of the peak of the full moon when the light is just right to allow the landscape and the moon to be photographed with one exposure.

Fall arrives
Fall arrives

Jump forward to Nov 4th and now the green has disappeared from the prairie and the beautiful fall colors have arrived.

Country Road through the Flint Hills
Country Road

The morning of November 11th found me in Wabaunsee County out for drive through the country with my wife and our dog (and on the way to Alma to pick up some cinnamon rolls from the Alma bakery!). The low angle of the morning light again created some fantastic light and shadows on the Flint Hills showing their texture and shapes. Just like in the evening, the warm tones of early morning light really brought out the fall colors. A telephoto lens helped compress the elements in this scene and the road running off into the frame created a nice sense of depth. I’ve photographed this road several times from this location, but this is my favorite so far.

Fall Afternoon on the Prairie
Fall Afternoon on the Prairie

The late afternoon of November 11th found me again on the way to Teter Rock. My Dad and I were wandering our way to McPherson for the Great Plains Nature Photographers annual meeting. The above photo was made somewhere in either Chase or Greenwood County. The fall colors of the prairie are in full view in this photo.

Just Grass
Just Grass

 

Grass at Sunset
Grass at Sunset

I tend to focus on the wide-open views of the prairie. I find the openness of the prairie to be relaxing. It is the landscape I grew up with and have lived in all my life, so of course that familiarity is comforting to me. I’m not so good at noticing the more intimate scenes that can be found on the prairie. There is a lot of detail and color to explore up close on the prairie. Something I want to work on in the future is getting better at looking down around my feet instead of always off to the horizon.

I do my best to take each season as it comes, but I’ll grumble a bit by the end of winter and I’ll also be grumbling a bit about the heat by the end of summer. Of course I really enjoy spring and the return of the vibrant greens and the colorful flowers to the world. By the end of spring I’ll be grumbling a bit (not too much though) about the return of ticks, mosquitoes, and chiggers (especially chiggers, I really don’t like chiggers). Come fall though and there isn’t much I’ll complain about…except maybe that it doesn’t last as long as I would like.

If you would like to see more of photos I’ve made on the tall grass prairie, please stop by and browse my galleries of Flint Hills Photos, The Flint Hills – wide view , The Flint Hills – the Intimate View, and The Flint Hills – Panoramic Views. If you would like to be notified of new blog posts, shows, print sales, etc. you can sign up for my email list here.

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