Monday, January 25, 2010


Prairie Autumn Stream No.27X14" Prismacolor (color pencil drawing)

I finally finished another autumn color pencil piece I started way back before Christmas. I'm glad it's over; it wrestled me most of the way. I will offer this piece for sale as all originals I do...just have to set up a page on my business website for it the meantime, if you are interested just email me and I can give you the particulars.

As in my mid November post, this image also came from the same trip Georgie and I made down into Sac County, Iowa while working on the Watchable Wildlife project. The day was horribly windy and very little came out of the trip as publishable photographs but it was beautiful and I used the image files to draw from to try and recapture that valley along the Raccoon River.

Back lit scenes are a favorite of mine, but I'm going to take a rest from them for a bit and try to get onto some other images burned into some lost corner of my brain.

This is what it currently looks like in the back grove today, we're in a blizzard warning and all county plows have been pulled off the roads till later tonight. We can't even see the mail box down the hill as I write.

So, this is where I'm staying at the time being...where I should be I guess! Looking for warm weather images to conjure up!

Stay safe...stay inside!!!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Ignore It...Maybe It'll Go Away

Valley Summer Sky

Been working on some image processing with Watchable Wildlife website work and a photo workshop coming up in the next month. I came across this file of the valley out in front of the studio here at Prairie Hill Farm and thought - I remember when it used to look like that!

What a mixed bag we've had this month! 32 below zero (fahrenheit) to mid 30's above this past week...over 60 degrees difference! Whoa! The heavy snow cover has shrunk some with "rainfall" yesterday, but I still sink up above my knees!

Now the 100 yard uphill driveway is frozen ice...I like the idea of the image at this blog's header - ignore it, maybe it'll go away!!!

(Stay warm and upright!)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Winter in January

Winter near Bluebird Creek

Winter is a time I find I speed up in "multitasking"...a word I never grew to feel akin to. It is not an endearing thing watching jobs speed by without satisfying reflection, but when winter forces more work be undertaken indoors - you take advantage of the opportunity and charge ahead as best you can.

Widow Skimmer - Libellula luctuosa (female dorsal)
Taken at Center Lake, Dickinson County, Iowa
(from the Watchable Wildlife Project)

I've been forging on with the expansion of the Watchable Wildlife in northwest Iowa website work. I've only just recently completed editing 70+ short site videos and now am in the process of putting together over 70 page templates and processing images for them. These updated changes will not be reflected in the web site until later this spring and has been enjoyable working through. I'm finding myself thinking of all the sites I need to revisit again for more prolonged time and exploration. Another side adventure going through this process is rediscovering things we came across during the summer and some of the video footage and photographs taken. When going back through months later I also see images I'd like to paint from, images that trigger ideas I had not been aware of at the time.

In February a public workshop titled "Midwinter Thaw", is being sponsored by Iowa Lakes Resource Conservation & Development (RC&D), Palo Alto County Conservation Board, O'Brien County Conservation Board and Clay County Conservation Board. This is a workshop open to the public and it's goal is to encourage more people to get outside and become involved in nature during the winter.

The announcement for this winter photography workshop reads in-part that
there is a dramatic upswing in wildlife and nature viewing locally and throughout the country, and that nature photography is often the next step for many people as they become interested in our natural resources.

The number of people interested in learning about taking good nature photos is growing. Topics like picking out the right camera equipment and its proper use; and marketing and selling your work will all be covered in the Nature Photography Workshop.

There will be four professional photographers presenting at the workshop:

Don Poggensee of Ida Grove, Stan Buman from Carroll, Dan Ruf from Spririt Lake, and myself - Bruce Morrison from rural Hartley. All are from the northwest Iowa area and each have had much experience in this field. These photographers will provide insight into how they achieve success in nature photography.

The program is also highlighting the Watchable Wildlife website and project that will eventually include 13 counties in NW Iowa.

The workshop will be held at the Emmetsburg Iowa Lakes Community College campus on Saturday, February 20th. There will be a $20 registration fee to cover presenter expenses and lunch. Registration is required so plans can be made for food and materials.

To register or ask questions about the workshop contact the Iowa Lakes RC&D office at 712-262-2083.

My part in the workshop will be to emphasize the beginning aspects, equipment and field techniques. Something to think about or check out in February!

Georgie and I were able to get out yesterday morning and do a little trekking around the hills and river valley south of us. The frost was beautiful and the sky was amazing combination for winter landscapes and photography. The Bluebird Creek area photo at the top of this blog is a great example of Little Sioux River valley landscapes in the winter.

It's actually very nice out there this weekend with temps in the 20's and 30's instead of 30+ below zero! You might need some skis or snow shoes if you wander off the roads though - either way enjoy and get out there!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Carrying On...

Eastern Red Cedar now covers what was once prairie for hundreds of years.

Not meaning to make this another "weather" blog, but I learned from listening to the state climatologist yesterday that this is the first year in perhaps 20-25 years that the arctic polar front is now south of Des Moines, Iowa. If you're as old as I am you'll remember winters just like this one! We've been more than 20 below zero each night since last week. We may be dancing with this weather the rest of the winter! Another note...this polar front cycle usually lasts 10-15 years. Nice to know we may have a lot to look forward to next winter too doesn't it...hmmm.

I had to get out of the studio yesterday afternoon...getting stir crazy. I sauntered down into the Waterman Prairie complex south of here and tried to garner some images from this frozen place. My hands don't work as well as they used to in this temperature but I tried my best.

Subadult Male Bald Eagle

The first thing I happened across was a subadult Bald Eagle that was sitting in a dead snag along the northern edge of the prairie. Unfortunately the bird was sitting at such an angle from the vehicle that I could not get a good base under the camera and telephoto lens for a "sharp" image. I could have stepped out of the truck with a tripod but the bird would have flown immediately.

I've found the vehicle to be your best blind for birds of prey "as a rule"...there are always exceptions. To leave the vehicle for a steadier shot in this case looked hopeless...I was just too close for the bird's comfort. The bird was also situated in such a way that the only shot I had was twisting to my left and shooting over my shoulder...that seldom works...what to do?

I sharpened the image some for this blog and you may not be able to tell from this image but the bird is "not quite there" as far as adult plumage is concerned. This male (judging by it's smaller stature) Bald Eagle is a tad off from it's ultimate adult plumage with some mottling and brownish tinge in the head and tail plumage...I'm guessing maybe it's a 4 year old? Hope to see him again next year...maybe he'll pose for a tripod shot! (Oh, he did fly after I took a handful of photos from inside the truck.)

Near the Waterman Prairie Valley Complex

I wandered down along the valley near the Little Sioux River and tried to capture a sense of the sky as it turned darker to the north with a nice herringbone effect in the clouds. The only thing around to put in the image's foreground were some bales that didn't make it out of the field before the last snow storm. It was late afternoon with only 15-20 minutes of sun left yet the temperature was still way below zero...the only thing in my favor was the absence of wind - thankfully! My fingers still went numb and my batteries failed...replaced them and tried again...uh...I much prefer spring, summer and fall!

The hills off to the left in the far background became part of the greater Waterman Prairie complex this past year! I'm really looking forward to getting to explore it in the years ahead.

The image at the top of the blog is a privately owned piece of property near the Waterman Complex that was once tallgrass priairie. It has been allowed to turn into a monoculture of Eastern Red Cedar trees. Looks very dramatic in it's winter garb but unfortunately does not support a fraction of the diversity that the original prairie would have. It does give winter refuge to a lot of White-tailed Deer, Wild Turkeys, and even a few species of songbirds such as Cedar Waxwings, American Robins and Eastern Bluebirds.

More snow on the horizon here - batten down the hatches!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Oh My...

Window Frost

32 below zero isn't so unusual two or three hundred miles north of here. The first winter Georgie and I spent in NW Ontario, we were in the minus thirties more than once; our coldest morning was 36 below zero. That was in the good old days when they never talked about "wind chill".

I remember thinking how unusual it was that the single digits in Iowa felt colder than way below zero in Canada. The difference was the humidity I guess...but exposure to skin was much more significant in those colder temps!

We actually hit 32 below zero here this morning at the studio, according to the weather channel. Our poor house window thermometer only goes to minus 30 and it was "Blank"! I went out to do some chores and fill the feeders around the yard...I felt fortunate there was little wind but still noticed the bitter cold in very short time.

Inside is where to be today...keep warm!