The Nature Photographers Network declared October 4 as “Nature Appreciation Day” and requested its members go out and shoot photos, post them to a special gallery, and explain why nature and nature photography helps to ease the stress of everyday living and enrich their lives.

Fellow NPN member Scott Bean had taken Wayne Rhodus and I on a great tour of the Tuttle Creek Dam area on Sat. and I found some areas I wanted to revisit for sunrise the next morning.  So for a second day in a row, I arose while it was still dark and headed toward Manhattan.  The moon was huge and beautiful, and I kept hoping I could get a shot while it was still up.  I did make it to my destination before it went behind the clouds, but without a good big lens to magnify the moon, it appears as a tiny, white, undetailed ball in the sky in the upper right corner of the frame.  I really would like to learn how to shoot the moon successfully.

Tuttle Moonset copy

After the sun topped the horizon, I found a spot where I could frame the hilly prairie with the beautiful, vibrant sumac.  I can’t think of a year when the sumac has been so colorful, and the hillsides around Tuttle contained huge patches of the stuff.  The combination of green leaves, warm golden grasses and sizzling sumac were almost more than the senses could bear!

Prairie Fall copy

I then explored a dirt road we hadn’t been down the day before, and found a small waterfall near a low water crossing. It was on private land so had to be careful not to cross the fence and couldn’t get as close as I would have liked.  The stream was one of those beautiful rock-bottom Flint Hills creeks, running clean and clear over the rocks.

Otter Creek Cascade copy

Next I was off to explore Wildcat Park near Manhattan at Scott’s suggestions. What a pretty little place! Found lots of creeper vines (and poison ivy) so didn’t bushwhack.  I did make my way down the bank to the creek bed and shot a number of fall foliage images. 

Wildcat Creek 1 copy

Wildcat Creek 2 copy

My favorite shot of the day, however, was not a grand scenic.  It’s the image of submerged leaves in the creek, spotlighted by a shaft of light.

Leaves Down Under copy

I had only encountered one other person earlier, and I had the entire area to myself. I breathed deeply of the air, listening to the gurgling and bubbling creek moving along. I was at peace, as I always am while enjoying nature’s beauty. If I didn’t have the means to get out and enjoy these moments, I honestly think I would go insane.

This is what Nature Appreciation Day meant to me.

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