This past weekend was filled with photography opportunities for me. I started the weekend off with a drive through the Flint Hills outside of Manhattan to empty a busy week’s worth of information (it was a good week, but seemed very full of stuff). Saturday morning I was up at a nearby lake for sunrise and then Saturday evening found my wife and me at the Maxwell Wildlife Refuge near Canton, Kansas. Since my wife had never visited there, we made a trip down so she could see the elk and the bison. It was a great trip and the tour was fantastic.
Sunday morning I was up at 4:00 am to meet a good friend of mine, Wayne Rhodus, for a sunrise shoot at Teter Rock. I’ve visited Teter Rock a handful of times now and always enjoy going there. The views of the Flint Hills are fantastic there, and it is fun to look for the wild horses in the area. I’ve been there at many different times of day, even to photograph the Milky Way, but this was my first sunrise shoot.
The weather forecast for Sunday morning was for clear skies, so I wasn’t expecting really great conditions…and both Wayne and I had second thoughts about the early morning drive down. It is a good thing we didn’t listen to those thoughts though. We arrived on location before sunrise and were greeted with the crescent moon hanging in the sky above Teter Rock. There were also some nice clouds and the pre-sunrise color was looking promising.
As sunrise approached, the color in the sky was really intensifying. I had moved down the hill a bit from Teter Rock and was using a wide angle lens to make some compositions including Teter Rock and that gorgeous sky.
I also took the chance to grab some action shots of Wayne setting up and photographing the scene. It is always fun to see how other photographers “see” the area when shooting at the same place. Everyone experiences things differently and focuses on different aspects of a scene and this will naturally show up in their photographs. Almost always when I see the work another photographer created when we were shooting together I’m amazed at the things they experienced that I didn’t. It is a great learning experience.
I really enjoy creating panoramic photographs so, while I was in this location, I worked on a few different panos. I think the one above was my favorite. This pano was stitched together from 4 vertical frames. Panos give a unique perspective that sometimes just reflects better what I want to show in a photo than a single image can. A lot of time what I really want to convey in a photo is an expansive feel and panos can be great for that. In this case, I really wanted to create a photo that included Teter rock, the fantastic clouds, the view of the Flint Hills sweeping away from Teter and the crescent moon. This pano above was almost 180 degrees so there is some distortion in the clouds, but I liked the effect that distortion created.
As the sun came up over the horizon, I moved back up the hill and closer to the rock. At this point we were losing some of the color in the sky, but the clouds were still providing some nice visual interest in the sky. You might notice the foreground looks like it has been burned…in fact it has. This pasture must have just recently been burned as part of the spring controlled burns. These burns are a vital management tool for preserving the Flint Hills and I’ll be out trying to photograph some in the coming weeks.
One of my last photos of the morning was the one above. For this photograph, I wanted to create something different than any of my previous photographs of Teter Rock. I noticed that the sun was in the right spot that I could line it up between the 2 large rocks. I stopped my lens down to f/13 to create a nice ‘starburst’ effect with the sun. I kept the exposure a bit dark for this photograph and I thought it turned out pretty good.
There were some ponds off in the distance that had fog coming off them and the fog was reflecting the light of the rising sun…this was creating a very interesting look. I was curious how this might photograph so I switched to my telephoto lens and isolated this pond. Lens flare was a bit of an issue as I was shooting right at the sun (the sun is just off to the left a bit in the above photo), but I thought this turned out pretty good too. I almost passed on making this photo and I’m very glad I didn’t. The fog looks a bit like smoke.
After the sunrise, we drove around the area and spent some time photographing the wild horses in the area. I enjoy seeing them and am still amazed at seeing so many horses in one area.
We wandered around the area for awhile photographing birds and made our way back to Matfield Green and did some scouting for future trips. I plan on being in this part of the state a few times this spring. You can’t beat the views of the Flint Hills around Matfield Green and Cassoday.
On another note, I would like to point out that, while Teter Rock is open to the public it is private property. If you visit, please respect that and don’t damage the area or the rocks. We are very fortunate that landowners allow the public to visit places like this, they don’t need the added hassle of cleaning up after people or repairing damages.
If you would like to browse some more of my photographs of the Flint Hills, please stop by these galleries: