From the moment I saw them I was in awe! Don’t let the name fool you…the Badlands are far from bad. The peaks and gullies, ancient rock formations and bands of color are mesmerizing and beautiful. Particularly in the golden hour of early morning and late afternoon, when soft low light throws shadows and brings the landscape to life. During those hours the true beauty of the Park reveals itself.
Our trip was in early September and surprisingly the number of tourists and traffic was pretty low. One morning I was up well before sunrise and in the park and to my delight barely saw any other people. I felt like I had the Badlands all to myself, but for the distant howls of a pack of coyotes.
On the first day I felt a bit overwhelmed by what seemed like an endless expanse of ridges, spires, buttes and otherworldly terrain but slowly, as time passed, I began to focus on smaller areas and take in the more subtle aspects of the area and appreciate its detail. We had 3 days…we needed three times that.
In addition to the fascinating landscapes, there is a variety of wildlife in the Badlands. We saw Bison, Bighorn sheep, prairie dogs, jack rabbits and deer, but there are also rattlesnakes, black-footed ferrets and coyotes to name a few, not to mention, many species of birds.
It was a short trip, just 3 days. A good start to many more treks to South Dakota and into the Badlands.
Boreas Pass, elevation 11,481 ft (3,499 m), is a high mountain pass in the Rocky Mountains of central Colorado in the United States. The pass is located on the continental divide, at the crest of the Front Range along the border between Park (south) and Summit counties. The correct pronunciation of the pass name is (Bore-ays).
The pass was formerly known as Breckenridge Pass in the 1860s, when it served as an early route for thousands of prospectors during the Colorado Gold Rush who crossed from South Park to look for gold in the valley of the Blue around Breckenridge.
Contemporary sunflowers trace their ancestry to plants found at archaeological sites dating from 3,000 BC. While they grew abundantly on the Great Plains, sunflowers were first purposely cultivated by Native Americans in the Southwest or Mississippi River valley area as a source of medicine, fiber, seeds, and oil.
When the European settlers arrived, they immediately recognized the value of sunflowers and sent seeds back to Europe. There they found a place in English cottage gardens and even Van Gogh’s paintings. However, it was in Russia that the sunflower became a major agricultural crop. They provided a source of oil that could be eaten without breaking church dietary laws. Early in the 20th Century, Russian growers spearheaded the breeding and selection for disease resistance and high oil content. In the 1960s, the U.S. began sustained commercial production of oil seed cultivars to produce vegetable oil.
Long beloved as part of the rural landscape, sunflowers have been embraced by gardeners as an ornamental plant relatively recently. Responding to this interest, breeders in Germany, Japan and the U.S. have developed types particularly suitable for home gardens. -from Burpee.com
Not far from where I grew up in southwest Iowa, stands a 100 foot tall cottonwood tree. You might be asking yourself, what is so special about a 100 foot tall tree? Well read on and I shall explain. The story goes, that a surveyor, marking the line between Audubon and Cass counties in Iowa, had only a cottonwood sprout on hand to mark the location that the lines intersected. Keep in mind the year was 1850, so apparently official marking sticks were in short supply. The sprout subsequently took root and grew into what is now a very large cottonwood tree. Now what is unique about this story is not that a cottonwood tree grew from a sprout pushed into the soil 164 years ago. It is that the location that these two lines made is now the intersection of two roads, and you guessed it, that big cottonwood tree stands smack dab in the middle of the intersection. The infamous tree in the middle of the road!
This tree was the thing of legends and mysteries to us young and impressionable kids back in the good old days. It is quite an eerie site to see the top of this massive tree emerge above the road ahead of you, especially at night. To top the hill and see a tree where one should not or has never seen one before is a bit disconcerting at midnight out in the country on a dark dirt road. I’m sure many a spooky tale has been told going to or from this spot. It might have been a source of great trepidation for us, had it not on those occasions, been for our liquid courage. I suppose over the years since then, we have not been the only teenagers to make the journey out to see this imposing landmark. If you ever find yourself traveling on I-80 in Southwest Iowa, it is worth your time to pay a visit to the tree in the middle of the road. I think you will be glad you did.
I made this shot just a few minutes before sunrise recently.
Not long ago after seeing some pretty cool pics of sunflowers, I was wishing I had a some near by to give it a try for myself. I guess my wish came true because a few days later I came upon a huge field full of them. Here are a few of the images I shot that day. Each are 3 shot HDRi combined in HDR Efex Pro 2. Hope you enjoy and have a great weekend!
Just when I thought there was nothing left of the sunrise to photograph the other morning….after the colors had all but faded away, and I was back in the car and down the road a way, the sun popped up right behind a row of tall thin trees. I made this abstract image from one of the several shots I took out the car window with my 300 mm telephoto with a 2x teleconverter on it. I hope you like it!