Come enjoy a journey with me through my collection of favorite photographs from the
When it comes to turtles there is not a lot of physical action to photograph so I was excited to catch this young one gaping at me — I’m sprawled prone on the ground and the behavior only lasted a few seconds. This is an ornate box turtle, which is an Illinois-state threatened species, so I do not have a chance to see them very often. I observed and photographed this young turtle at the preserve where I am a volunteer land steward.
This delicate little grass is about to bloom. I chose this particular plant to photograph because I love the positioning of the three flower buds, each balanced on a fragile-looking stem. I thought the bright all-green background overwhelmed my little grass subject so I decided to make the image sepia-toned.
As a land steward I was removing invasive weeds when this male Dickcissel began to loudly defend his prairie territory. He was so close and my presence did not seem to deter him, so I grabbed my camera from the UTV and began photographing. Being one of my favorite grassland birds I was so excited to photograph him in mid-song. This bird is named for the sound of his song, “Dick-Dick-cissel, Dick-Dick-cissel”.
I’m excited to see how this shallow wetland will change over time, so I want to photograph the area as often as possible. This sunset view is one of my favorite images. I set my camera aperture very small (f/18) in order to create the sun star. This wet area was part of an agricultural field, and in 2017, the area surrounding it was planted to prairie and the low areas were seeded with wetland plants.
The night was pitch dark and as I approached the mercury vapor light I was so thrilled to see all the insects drawn to the survey sheet. I was there in the woodland with two surveyors who were documenting moth species. The shadows created one of my favorite images, due to the bluish-green tint cast by the mercury-vapor light.
The complimentary orange and blue sunset colors drew my eye. I carefully positioned myself so that I could capture the fine wispy detail of the grass seed, yet at the same time, create a soft dreamy and ethereal look to the nearby vegetation.
The soft quality of the late afternoon light touching the woodpecker’s breast and head is what drew me to take this photo. After a couple trips to this same location I was finally rewarded with a nice pose.
The green and orangey-red color contrast makes this photo one of my favorites. It is the first week of May and new green shoots are just emerging up through some unburned grass. I positioned myself to create an interesting picture composition; the tall grass from the previous year makes a nice visual zigzag through the field.
Few people have a chance to see this gentle creature, a Blanding’s turtle, because it is an Illinois state-endangered species. I was so fortunate this summer to see two Blanding’s in their natural habitat. I was searching for these turtles alongside researchers; they were determining the Blanding’s turtle population status and I was able to verify the sightings with my photographs.
To capture this image I waded through thick, shoulder-height plants and in the process I became covered from head to foot in a pesky seed. However, I found the inconveniences to be worth it as I discovered this uncommon plant in bloom. Amongst the other vegetation, the white turtlehead (Chelone glabra) was quite spectacular! Notice the shape of the blooms — they look like little turtle heads.
Mama red-winged blackbird was very busy feeding her young some grubs. I hunkered down for over an hour and watched in fascination as she few back and forth to the nest. I kept wondering where she found her grub supply for time and time again she quickly came back with her beak full. She grabbed the cattail stem, searched around for enemies, and then dropped out of sight into the nest. The male stood guard in a nearby tree.
The branches of this oak tree twist and turn in unusual ways, drawing attention as an extraordinary sight. I love the golden light hitting the oak’s bark and I worked very quickly to set my camera up on a tripod to capture this moment.
It took 3 years, but I finally photographed this short green milkweed (Asclepias viridiflora) when it was in bloom. For the past two years I’ve search for this milkweed too late in the summer and the plant was always brown and dried up. As far as I know there is only one plant on the entire preserve. In my life this is the only one of this species that I’ve ever seen because it is more rare than the other milkweeds.
This summer was my first season as a dragonfly and damselfly monitor. Although this is not my best damselfly image, it is my favorite from the season because it documents a new species for Nachusa Grasslands. The exciting news is that it was discovered in a 2-year-old wetland; a restoration planting.