Summer has definitely arrived now. The calendar has shown that summer has already arrived, but recently the thermometer has also been letting us know that summer is here. I really try hard to find the best in each season, but right now I’m really looking forward to fall.
With the increased summer temperatures, I’ve been finding excuses to stay inside. Looking for the silver lining, spending more time inside has given me an excuse to get caught up on some photo editing and organizing, including going through photos I made this spring. We had a beautiful spring this year, mild temperatures and several good rains. The prairie flora apparently really liked these conditions (who didn’t?) and the Flint Hills were really lush and green this year. I was fortunate to get to make several trips across the Flint Hills region this spring and I’ll share some of those photos in this post.
In early May, I made a trip out to visit a waterfall at the outlet of Clinton Lake that I hadn’t visited before. On the way home, the sky was beautiful and made a nice backdrop for stopping at several places and taking in views of the Flint Hills. The photo above was made near Council Grove. It is hard to believe how vibrant the green of the new grass can be on parts of the prairie that were burned off earlier in the spring. It always amazes me how fast the newly burned areas respond with new growth.
On this same trip, I also passed through Wabaunsee County, one of my favorite places to drive through the Flint Hills. I love days like this where the sky is filled with puffy white clouds that are moving fast enough to create ever-changing patterns of light and shadow on the prairie. It is fun to watch the shadows move across the prairie and try to compose different photos as the light changes. Views like this really make me think of the prairie as a “sea of grass” that you often hear people talk about. Later in the year when the grass is taller and the wind is blowing the grass around, you really get a sense of waves rolling across the prairie.
Most of my prairie landscape photos are made with wide angle lenses. I think those types of lenses produce photos that have the wide-open feeling of the prairie that I find so peaceful. I can get in a rut though and sometimes I have to remember to look for other views and compositions. I made the above photo with a short telephoto lens which isolated just a section of the Flint Hills in Pottawatomie county. To me, this photo does not have the feeling of space that wide angle photos do, but this shows the texture and shape of the hills stronger than a wider lens would have. I also like that the shorter telephoto shows the cattle in the photo, which are an important part of the culture of the Flint Hills.
This photo was made in Riley county on a beautiful morning. I had missed the sunrise, but the clouds and light were still really beautiful an hour or so later. I liked how the clouds dipped down near the tree on the right side of this photo. A few weeks earlier I had been at this spot photographing the spring burns and the new grass was coming back with that amazing green color. Nature is pretty amazing. I hope we always remember to keep some “awe” with regards to the world around us. One of the best things photography has done for me is to help me tune into that more.
Of course, spring also means wildflowers. I missed the bloom of several of the spring flowers, but I did make it out to catch several blooming towards the end of spring. The above photo was made in Pottawatomie county and was one of my favorites from this spring. I don’t know what the flowers are in the foreground of this photo, but they were spectacular. I made this photo in an area I visit often and I don’t recall these flowers blooming this well in recent years (not that my memory is that great!).
This Flint Hills is an interesting geographic area and an important ecological one as well. The Flint Hills contains the last large contiguous area of tall grass prairie left in North America…which is only about 4% of what used to exist. The yearly cycles the prairie goes through is really fascinating to me. For most of my life I haven’t made the time to really observe what is happening in the natural world around me. Photography continues to help me do better at that, something I will always be grateful for (and hopefully continue to improve at). Spending time each year watching and photographing the cycles of the prairie is one way I can continue to connect with the world around me and be more mindful. I love the quote by Jim Hoy “The Flint Hills do not take your breath away, they give you a chance to catch your breath.” I need to make more time to “catch my breath” out on the prairie of the Flint Hills. The forecast is calling for cooler temps over the next several days…if that holds I’ll see you out on the prairie!
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