When we moved to Colorado in late August last year, one thing I knew I would miss in Kansas was the beautiful Flint Hills.  I loved it in the spring when the ranchers burned off the grasses – the smell always signalled spring to me.  A short time after the burns, the grass comes up and covers the hills with a velvet covering.  A few weeks after that, and wildflowers spring forth everywhere.  Last June, in one day, I identified over 30 different species in bloom near Alma, Kansas.  That was a day I won’t soon forget.  By mid-June, the grasses are getting lush and tall, swaying in the ever-present winds.  Fall brings brightly colored sumac, brilliant blue skies, dried grasses in every shade of rust, brown and amber you can dream of, and golden cottonwood leaves in the washes and near waterways. By far, though, my favorite time was early June: wildflower season.  I lamented that I would likely not see such displays of blooms ever again.

I didn’t expect the high desert around Grand Junction to yield much in the way of wildflowers.  Yes, we had been here in late May and there were signs of a few wildflowers, but I certainly wasn’t anticipating multitudes of blooms.

My eyes have been opened!

The high desert has tons of wildflowers.  Sometimes they are harder to see, but they are here.

In very late March and early April, a couple of short hikes up in the Monument (that’s Colorado National Monument to you non-locals) revealed at least a dozen varieties:  wooly milkvetch, wild alyssum, bladderpod, elegant thelopody, indian paintbrush, golden corydalis, yellow-eye cryptantha, bur buttercup, fendler’s spring parsley, western wallflower, and a couple I still haven’t identified.  On April 16 I took another short hike in the Monument and saw long-leaf phlox, yellow-eye cryptantha, wooly milkvetch, yellow cryptantha, indian paintbrush, puccoon, globe mallow, easter daisy, western tansy mustard, western wallflower, and another couple I couldn’t figure out.  My May 8 hike found sand verbena (smells SO good!), indian paintbrush, claret cup cacti, peppergrass, evening primrose, dwarf primrose, desert phlox, perky Sue, yellow-eye cryptanth, desert phacelia, fendler’s spring parsley, larkspur and western tansy mustard.  During the wildflower walk I attended on Saturday, we saw fendler’s spring parsley, sand aster, spreading fleabane, perky Sue, cryptantha (yellow AND white, but no yellow-eye), prince’s plume, claret cup cacti, twin bladderpod, peppergrass, sego lilly, crescent milkvetch, large-flowered breadroot, globe mallow, sand verbena, evening primrose, desert phlox, cushion wild buckwheat, bladderstem, indian paintbrush, and bluestem penstemon. Later that day while hiking in Rough Canyon, I also saw scarlet gillia.

Anyone who says the desert is lifeless has obviously not been here at the right time.

I’m going to resurrect my “Wild Thing” posts soon, since I have so many beautiful wildflowers to share.  Problem is, I’m having so much fun hiking, finding, and identifying them, it doesn’t leave me much time in front of the computer to write! Keep checking back to learn about the “Desert in Bloom.”

Last year I posted my 10 personal favorite images of 2009, followed by some photographic goals.  I guess it’s only fair to review those goals and see if I achieved any of them.  Unfortunately, I didn’t do so hot…

I did try to work on my technique so my photos are sharper, with some success, but I need to keep at it.  I did try to find markets for my work, with minimal success.  Largely due to our move to Colorado (and the accompanying extra work and stress), I was not able to sit down and spend time learning Lightroom and Photoshop, and definitely did not have time to get through my digital library and delete the bad images and catalog the good ones.  One goal I did achieve was shooting more flowers.  I shot hundreds of images of wildflowers, in addition to all the great tulip shots I got during Topeka’s Tulip Time.  I had a total BLAST shooting wildflowers in the Flint Hills in early June.  The wet winter we had created phenomenal blooming conditions, and I enjoyed every minute of it.  As with all goals, I’ll just have to keep trying.

Here are my personal favorites of 2010.  It was very hard to narrow them down to 10, so I have 10 plus 2 “bonus” images.  Even getting it down to 12 was extremely difficult:

#12 - Divine Dallas Divide

For two days in early October, I attended a photography workshop near Ouray, Colorado.  I was treated to some insane fall color!  Since this was the first year I’ve been in Colorado in the fall, my eyeballs kept falling out of my head with all the color I was witnessing.  It was the most gorgeous spectacle I had ever seen!  This photo was shot on the last morning of the workshop at the oft-photographed Dallas Divide area.  I used my 70-200 mm lens to try and isolate some more intimate scenes in the grand landscape and loved how this little “island” of bare aspens was framed by vibrant bushes and brush. 

#11 - Prairie Rose

I spent a great afternoon in the Kansas Flint Hills while my husband was mountain biking.  The skies were overcast, and a shower had moved through shortly before we started. It was almost perfect for shooting wildflowers because the light was diffused and eliminated harsh shadows and saturated the colors.  I found this wild prairie rose along the roadside, dappled with raindrops.

#10 - Mountain Shack

Another one from my Ouray workshop.  While everyone else’s attention was focused on shooting the fabulous Wilson Peak as the sun prepared to rise, I took a look around behind us and discovered this cool old shack just a short way down the road.  I loved the texture of the wood, and the way the bright aspens framed the shack.  I was the only person in the workshop who shot this structure, and I can’t figure out why no one else even saw it but maybe it’s because I have such a fondness for old run-down buildings like this.

#9 - Mt. Craig

In early March, my husband landed a job interview in Granby, Colorado.  We decided to take a couple extra days and enjoy some mountain scenery while we were there.  We rented some snowshoes in Grand Lake and took an early morning snowshoe trip into Rocky Mountain National Park up the East Inlet Trail.  I was transfixed and almost hypnotized by the beauty of the fresh fallen powder on the evergreens, and couldn’t stop saying “God, this is so beautiful!”  It definitely gave me a better appreciation for winter conditions.  The snow somehow transforms the landscape into something magical.  I made this image of Mt. Craig later in the day when we returned for round 2 (my husband wanted to take a long trip further up the trail, so I shot photos while waiting for him).  Because the scene didn’t have much color anyway, I decided to convert to black and white, and think it turned out rather well.

#8 - Incoming Storm

Another day that I spent in the Kansas Flint Hills presented yet another opportunity – storm clouds!  My husband was again mountain biking, and thankfully it was more clear the direction he was headed.  This old abandoned stone barn on old K-18 Road west of Alma is always an interesting photographic subject, but with the addition of the cattle and the incoming storm, I couldn’t resist shooting – and glad I didn’t!  When we went back home, we had to drive through this storm and it was a doozy – a real “toad strangler” as my dad would say.  The skies opened up and absolutely dumped on us.  I’m glad my husband didn’t get caught in this on his bike.

#7 - Fallen Rock Cottonwoods

After the leaves had fallen from the trees up in the mountains and on the Mesa, I turned my attention to fall color in the Grand Valley.  One day I went up to the Colorado National Monument and spied this scene, with the vibrant cottonwoods in the wash creating a pleasing “S” curve, with the shadow play on the canyon walls.  With most of the tourists already gone from the Monument, it was a peaceful, quiet scene.

#6 - Fall Bouquet

Yet another one from my Ouray workshop.  We stopped on the Silver Pick Rd. at an aspen grove that was beautifully backlit by the late morning sun.  The workshop leader told us to not only look up but to look down as well.  It’s amazing sometimes what can be found literally at your feet.  I always try to do this anyway, and I hit paydirt on this day.  I loved the contrast of the bright red leaf with the golden aspen leaves, and the aspen twig added some nice texture.

#5 - Colorado National Monument

We made our almost annual trek to Grand Junction a little later in the year (late July) and I was treated to some monsoon moisture in the form of clouds!  We went up to the Monument a couple nights during our stay, and I captured this image which highlights the Kissing Couple formation and views of the Book Cliffs off to the north, all with some awesome clouds and lighting.  This was the first time I’d been to the Monument and had good clouds and light, so I was pretty excited to capture this image.

#4 - Three Gossips Sunrise

While staying in Moab in late July, I made myself get up early one day to do a sunrise shoot and chose the Three Gossips area.  I parked in the Courthouse Towers parking lot, and walked across the road and down into the wash.  Using my iFoto Guide: Arches, together with my GPS, I found the spot I wanted with the yuccas in the foreground.  Then I just waited for the sun to come up and do its magic!  It was very peaceful, and afterwards I walked around the wash quite a bit, looking for different perspectives and views of the Gossips.  However, this one was my favorite of the morning.

#3 - Lone Sentinel

The Kansas Flint Hills are one of my favorite places on earth, especially in late May after the annual burns and the new grass comes in like a velvet carpet.  I made several trips into the Hills this spring to take photos of the burns and the new grass, and had quite the adventure on this particular day.  You can read more about it in my prior post: “Lost & Found”.   I love to find solitary cottonwoods with nothing but wide open prairie behind them.  I had some nice puffy clouds to work with on this day, along with some great rocks in the foreground.  I also thought the broken, irregular part of the tree gave it a lot of character.

#2 - Oxeye Daisy

By far, my favorite wildflower shot of the year.  My husband found huge fields of beautiful oxeye daisies in the Kansas Flint Hills this year while he was biking.  I had never seen such prolific fields before.  This wasn’t one of the huge fields, but a small field on old K-18 Road just west of Alma.  I used my 70-200 lens to isolate the blooms.  I had such a blast shooting these wildflowers!  The light was perfect and the wind was light (a rarity).

#1 - Tulip Time!

I shot so many flower images this year and had an awesome time doing it, so it’s no surprise my personal #1 favorite this year is a flower image.  I spent the better part of two weekends shooting tulips during Topeka’s annual “Tulip Time” festival, which was slightly different from years past.  For many years, Tulip Time was held at the private residence of Gerald Binkley and was the primary annual fundraiser for the Topeka Beautification Association.  However, Mr. Binkley was getting rather elderly and simply could not keep up with the planting and care of all those thousands of tulips.  The city stepped up and planted thousands of tulips at various locations throughout town, and they were able to still do the fundraiser.  I went to the Old Prairie Town, Gage Park and Shawnee Co. Lake sites to take in the tulips, and they didn’t disappoint.  I shot hundreds of images those two weekends.  This one stands out because of the vibrant color combination, and the selective focus on the front row of blooms using my 70-200 mm lens.  The tulips were just incredible to see and loads of fun to shoot!

Now, my goals for 2011:

1.  Sit down and really learn Lightroom and Photoshop.  Yes, it’s a “recycled” goal but a good one.

2.  Get all my images organized and delete the bad ones.  Again, “recycled” but a necessity.

3.  Continue to look for markets for my work.

4.  Figure out how to properly use TPE so I can get great sunrise/sunset shots.

5.  Along with #4, get my lazy butt out of bed to be able to catch great sunrise shots.  I’m such a lazy slug on weekends.

Feel free to share your photographic goals for 2011 here.  I would love to hear what other photographers seek to achieve in the new year.  And you can comment about my photos too, if you want 😉

Wayne Rhodus and Scott Bean, two friends I met through NPN, are conducting a digital photography workshop in Alma, Kansas on Saturday, April 24, 2010.  The workshop is geared toward those who want to learn how to use their digital camera and improve their photography skills. Classroom lecture with handouts is included, and students will also receive hands on instruction on how to set various camera functions to achieve creative control of their images. Lunch is even included at a local restaurant. At the end of the day, participants will have the opportunity to shoot photos in the beautiful Flint Hills surrounding Alma. Since spring is the most beautiful time in the Flint Hills, everyone should come away with some amazing images of the area.

Please visit Scott’s web site for more details about this workshop.

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.

I’m very excited to announce the upcoming publication of my first photography book entitled “Kansas! Its Hidden Gems.” The book will be approximately 30 pages in length, with dimensions of 7″ X 7″ and will have a hardcover with dust jacket. It features beautiful full-color photos of both well-known and not so well-known scenic locations in Kansas. Tentative publication date is July 30.

Please contact me directly for pricing and other questions at niphotobyangela@aol.com.


Wayne Rhodus, moderator of Central States Nature Photographers (regional chapter of Nature Photographers Network), organized a day-long shooting trip into my favorite area – the Flint Hills. We met south of Manhattan at oh dark thirty and WOW! was it a cold one! A cold front had moved through the night before and the wind was howling about 30 mph with temps in the upper teens, making for brutal wind chills. Members braving the chill were Wayne Rhodus, Scott Bean, Dena Sanders, Merle Cook, Ken Bachman, Rob Graham, Jim Walker and Jim Taylor.

Our trek started on Deep Creek Road and on to Old K-18 Road. We saw lots of beautiful auburn colored, grass covered hills. And LOTS of dust!


Then we headed to Pillsbury Crossing southeast of Manhattan. It had been years since I had been here and didn’t remember how beautiful the spot is. I will definitely be coming back here! The water falling over the rocky ledge creates some very picturesque possibilities.

After Pillsbury, we headed back toward Alma, drove a portion of the Skyline-Mill Creek scenic byway and hit Highway 177 headed south to Cottonwood Falls. An added bonus happened when we saw a bald eagle sitting in a tree at Council Grove Lake. We ate lunch at Emma Chase’s Cafe in downtown Cottonwood Falls and visited and got to know each other a little better.

When our bellies were full and our hands thawed out, we took off for the falls at Chase Co. Fishing Lake just west of town. This is another place I had never visited. A series of small waterfalls cascade the outlet flow down the hillside, creating some wonderful spots for photos. Due to our recent dry conditions, the water was not flowing very fast on this day. Am I coming back here when the water is flowing better? You betcha!!!

My last stop of the day was the Clements Stone Arch Bridge, west on Highway 50. It was completed in 1886 and is a beautiful structure, worthy of preservation. They sure don’t make bridges like this anymore!


By this time, my energy level had drained to nothing (thanks to battling a cold) so I called it a day. Several members headed back to previously scouted locations in the Flint Hills to catch sunset shots, but it didn’t look like the Cloud Gods provided anything fun in the skies.

The entire day was a great adventure and a lot of fun, and I’m looking forward to our next NPN adventure (hopefully it will be a little bit warmer)!