scott bean photography

Shooting up the Maxwell Wildlife Refuge, a hilltop castle, and even a church

Sunrise over the Smoky Hills, Kansas
Sunrise over the Smoky Hills, Kansas

I had the great fortune to take a road trip down to the Maxwell Wildlife Refuge this weekend with several fellow photographers.  This outing was organized by photographer Jim Griggs (check out Jim’s work on Flickr or visit his website) and the proceeds all went to benefit the Friends of Maxwell Wildlife Refuge. The refuge is an interesting place and if you haven’t visited I would encourage you to.  The refuge is ~2800 acres and has both elk and bison on it.  Part of the refuge is open to the public (as long as you stay in your vehicle!) and tours can be arranged year round.  The refuge is located in the Smoky Hills region of Kansas which runs from central Kansas into south central Nebraska.  A good place to start exploring this part of Kansas would be the Prairie Trail Scenic Byway.

We arrived just at sunrise (after getting up at 3:30 am!!).  The wildflowers where fantastic, but unfortunately so was the wind.  Even so, it was a great morning and in most cases I was able to find a way to shoot even with the wind blowing things around. A number of different wildflowers where blooming including daisy fleabane, deptford pink, cat’s claw sensitive briar, common spiderwort, lead plant, woolly verbena, and butterfly milkweed.  The butterfly milkweed was fascinating to me…it was the wrong color!  Well at least wrong to what I normally see.  In the Flint Hills near where I live, the flowers are orange to red, but down around Maxwell they were a very distinct yellow.

I thought the shot at the beginning of this post was interesting as it showed the Smoky Hills being “smoky” (actually just haze).  After shooting the sunrise we joined several other photographers for a special tour through the area for more wildflowers.  It was great to finally get a chance to meet several photographers in person who’s work I knew from the internet (always great to put a face with a name.)

An added bonus to all the above was tour through the Small World Gallery and a chance to meet National Geographic Photographer Jim Richardson.  The tour and talk was great, Jim graciously gave us his time and answered a number of questions for the group.  I would highly recommend a stop at his gallery if you are in the area.  His photography is amazing and to see his work in large prints was very inspiring.

On the way back to Manhattan we stopped and took in Coronado Heights, which was built in the 1930’s as part of the WPA.  There are some interesting structures at this park and the views from the hilltop are outstanding.  I would like to be back at this location for some sunrise/sunset photos sometime.  To add to an already outstanding trip, we where treated to an impromptu tour of a beautiful nearby church (while a bridal party was being photographed in it!).

All in all a great trip…who says there is nothing to do in Kansas?

Scott (249)

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