Beyond The Campfire was created to encourage readers to explore the great outdoors and to look at it more closely. Get out and take a hike, go fishing or canoeing, or simply stretch out on a blanket under a summer sky...and take your camera along. We'll talk about combining outdoor activities with photography. We'll look at everything from improving your understanding of the basics to more advanced techniques including things like how to see photographically and capturing the light. We'll explore the night sky, location shoots, using off camera speedlights along with nature and landscape. Grab your camera...strap on your hiking boots...and join me. I think you will enjoy the adventure.

Backroads

Backroads
Kentucky Backroads Wheat Stubble

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Return to the Prairie

It stormed most of the night...typical Oklahoma storm in late April with boomers and rain...then more rain and more boomers.  By the time I arrived at the Tallgrass Prairie the next morning most of the stormy weather had moved on, but enough of it lingered in the area to provide an occasional flash of lightning and some light rain.  The overcast skies hung low and I knew the sunrise was going to be a non-event this morning...one of those that just slowly transitioned from very dark to dark gray without any real noticeable event indicating when the sun actually rose above the horizon.

I stopped at the wide spot where I on previous trips I had hiked a ways into the prairie...debated for a while whether to risk it.  To the north the storm clouds were still quite dark and the occasional bolt of lightning still ripped the air...seemed to take a full minutes for the rumble of thunder to reach where I was.  The rain was sporadic by this time...so I grabbed my gear and made the short hike to the rocky outcropping that overlooked the shallow canyon that cut into a deeper part of the landscape.  Not much drama in the sky nor across the land because of the nature of the light...but I set up camera and tripod and made at least a token attempt to capture the moment.

As I rushed around lining up one shot after another...it dawned on me that I was doing exactly the opposite of what I really wanted to do...just sit for while and enjoy the prairie morning.  So I turned off the camera and found a soft rock to sit on and did just that.  For the next few minutes I let the sounds of the prairie come to me...the fresh rain flavored breeze rushed across the terrain and swirled around me...the morning air was filled with the songs of prairie birds...and a light mist fell from the sky.  The storm clouds that swept across this landscape through the night were by now beginning to soften and smooth and the morning became a little brighter.  Even so, the calmness of that moment lasted but a short time as another flash of lightning cut the air and the corresponding boom it generated rumbled and reverberated across the rolling sea of grass signalling that it was time for a hasty retreat back to the Jeep.

My return to the prairie after two years was short lived.  That last bolt of lightning ushered in another round of rain and even darker clouds making photography difficult at best.  By mid-morning I found myself heading back knowing that more than likely, it would be another two maybe three years before I would be able to once again sit on that rocky outcropping and watch for another prairie morning come to life.  Even so, those few moments of once again feeling the life of the prairie greet a new morning seemed to lift my spirits as I was feeling rather low having experienced the loss of loved one earlier that week.

Even the darkness of an Oklahoma storm cannot dampen the refreshing nature of experiencing first light on the prairie...in many ways, it actually adds to the unique flavor of the experience.  As many times as I have sat on that rocky point and watched the prairie come to life...all of them have been unique and I remember each of them as separate moments of discovery on this amazing landscape.

Keith

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