With summer just a few days away, I wanted to take a look back on the most beautiful spring season I have ever seen on the plains. Since there were frequent snows through the winter and unusually abundant rainfall the last few months, the prairie has turned green and blossomed like I never could have imagined! As a result, I've been enjoying the unique opportunity to capture this moment that may not happen again for the better part of a decade. Much of this beauty was found right on the plains of northeast Colorado, but I did also take a trip through Wyoming and the Badlands area of South Dakota.
I've always considered the wild purple mustard to be the first sign of spring in the area. It comes out in April as soon as the first bits of grass turn green, but it is usually only seen along roadsides and in small patches of disturbed land. I knew this spring was going to be special when I saw it blooming in fields covering acres!
The grass started getting green very early on and from there the fields just became more lush and vibrant. Incredible sunrises that are common on the plains helped with the scenery.
I found myself going out as often as I could for sunrise, especially on mornings after a thunderstorm. The cool, moist air often results in outstanding displays of thin fog at sunrise that makes for some very special light. The simple scenes of the plains really transform into something else in the right light.
The endless fields of wheat show wonderful subtleties in the fog. I returned to this location many times before there was a perfect morning. The thin fog still reveals the overlaying hues of sunrise, but softens them to a level that isn't often seen. This was a spring to connect with the plains, to let them reveal their true beauty. There is much wonder in the open views they inspire, and after residing here for several years I'm not sure I'd want to live anywhere else.
Much of my loop trip to the Badlands was centered around severe weather. Storms crossed my path on the way up and soaked my tent overnight while camping. This particular storm had an impressive structure and was intensely dark, made even more apparent by the brief moment of bright light on the grass.
When I arrived at the Badlands, I found the open prairie around them to be as verdant as possible. This made an interesting contrast to the towering rock formations.
I wanted to explore some of the Sage Creek Wilderness while I was there. It's the largest patch of grassland wilderness in the country and is seldom visited. It's also a land without any trails, just miles of badlands formations surrounded by prairie. I decided to head to an area called Deer Haven to spend the night. It's a rare wooded section of the Badlands, and ended up having a view almost resembling a scene from the mountains. I didn't see a single other human up here, just me and the true wilderness experience. Overnight and morning severe storms made this a rushed trip out after sunrise, but I'm glad I had the chance to see this area.
Here's another photo from the Badlands for now. I'm still working on some of the images from this trip, so expect to see more from me soon!
When I returned to Colorado, I found we were in the middle of the most incredible spring blossom I've ever seen! Endless fields of wild primrose was covering the hills, almost looking like snow drifts in the distance. It was truly an unbelievable sight to see and something that certainly doesn't happen like this every year.
For years, I've been looking for the perfect sunrise image at the Pawnee Buttes. I've been very happy with ones I have from sunset, but the experience of sunrise it totally different and really comes through in the photos. It's also tricky to photograph the Buttes during a summer sunrise because the sun is behind them. This spring had one final treat for me this week and brought a sunrise with a very unusual quality of light that brightened everything much more evenly. The small bush of wild primrose made the perfect finishing touch. All in all, it's been a fantastic spring, I can't wait to see what lies ahead for the summer! Now I'll be spending a lot more time in the mountains...
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