Often referred to as “flyover country” this nation’s midsection is a rare destination for travelers, adventurers and photographers. The Rockies, Sierras, and Appalachians compete with the coasts for nature enthusiasts, and should anyone be interested in visiting the middle, they are likely to search for a good fishing hole or forest trail. Unlike the allure of the African savanna, North America’s grasslands are the ignored step child to the ecotourist.
Eye of the Storm - Lac Qui Parle State Park, MN
Canon 5D Mark iii + Canon 17-40L
Maybe it’s due to proximity or a nostalgic reflection on my research with monarch butterflies, but I seem to be drawn to the prairies of middle America. A frequent visitor to North and South Dakota’s Badlands and lover of road-trips to nowhere, I have been quietly documenting grassland species and landscapes between Minnesota and Montana. This unplanned personal project now represents a significant percent of my image-portfolio, and continues to be an important photographic subject. Representing less than three percent of its original distribution throughout the midwest, North America’s grasslands are an endangered ecosystem.
Photographing a sea of grass can be a challenge to the most accomplished photographer. More than any other location, the prairie requires a deliberate study of composition and light prior to squeezing the shutter. To make the mundane interesting, try to leverage the turbulent weather of spring and summer, the contrasting lines between habitat and farms, or the pastels of dawn and dusk in your photographs. To make the infinite intimate, seek converging lines and search for a focal point to anchor the viewer.
The formula, (Being There + Serendipity = Art) has served me well in the past, however I can not claim that this accurately describes my efforts on the prairie. Here, repetition and forethought are essential components for generating compelling images. For each picture presented in this post, I scouted the location and planned to be present in the “right” light. While I doubt that any one image was truly previsualized, I knew that if I put myself in the right place at the right time, I’d increase the chance of making a keeper.
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