Monday, June 10, 2013

In The Right Light

In the Right Light - Glencoe, MN
Canon 5D Mark iii & Canon 300mm f2.8L IS 
A dark roast is the only thing that looks good at 3:30 a.m.; so when I left my home for Schaefer Prairie twenty-minutes later, a strong cup of joe was my most valued traveling companion. On this Saturday morning, I was breaking with tradition. It was “the day after,” but I wasn’t sleeping in. The academic year ended on Friday, and the day after is reserved for mindlessness. Foolishly, I accepted an assignment to photograph the “Birds and Blooms” event at Schaefer Prairie Preserve, and I wasn’t about to let mental fatigue stand in the way. I pointed the Cooper due west and drove  one hundred and twenty miles in a sleepless stupor.

I committed to the project because I love a prairie sunrise. The sea of grass reminds me of safaris in Africa and feeds my imagined conception of pre-settlement North America. The American prairie is one of many threatened ecosystems. Fragmented by farms and urban development, less than three percent of indigenous grasslands remain. On this morning I chose to document a restored habitat instead of sleep. So, it is with great irony that I post this image of Taraxacum, the dandelion.

Pest to lawn-lovers across United States, the dandelion is a perfect model of evolutionary success. Adapted to disturbed habitats, the forb blooms fast, and can produce from 54 to 172 seeds per flower head. One estimate suggests that as many as 240,000,000 seeds are produced per acre of dandelion ( It was during the final stretch of my drive to Schaefer Prairie that I began to feel the photographer’s panic. The light was brilliant and I wasn’t on site. I was listening to the pings of gravel striking the undercarriage of the Mini, when I decided to slam on the breaks. This wasn’t the prairie, but the light was too good to pass up... I ran with the lens mounted to the tripod, lied prone on the edge of a farm field and shot into the dawn’s haze. In the end I seemed to have confirmed an oft uttered statement in photography, “almost anything looks good in the right light.”

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