Pic of the Week
“Blazing Star, Yellow Sulphur, and Mt Scott”
Location: Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, OK
Date taken: 9/16/18
Blazing Star, Yellow Sulfur, and Mt Scott
© Ben Jacobi
I did something this past weekend that I haven’t done in months: I hiked in the Wichita Mountains. Friend and fellow photographer, Ashlee Madden joined me for a hike and photoshoot in the Wichita Mountains. I always enjoy taking people out to these places and sharing with them my love for nature photography and the Wichita Mountains have played an important role. Now I have been there dozens if not scores of times and what keeps me coming back is the constant change in the landscape. The prairie land can be harsh and desolate, but also lush and vibrant. A recent 3” of rain had me interested in checking out Post Oak falls in the Charon Gardens. After a good rain the falls can get flowing pretty well. The weather was going to be perfect with highs in the low 80’s it was a welcomed change to the persistent summer temperatures. Ashlee had never been to the Charon Gardens or Post Oak falls and I was excited to share it with her.
Our hike started like so many of the other hikes I’ve made in the Charon Gardens we pulled into the Treasure Lake parking lot and mapped out the hike. This was Ashlee’s introduction to the Charon Gardens so my idea was to hike the Charon Gardens trail and take a short detour to the falls and boulder caves. We spent the morning hiking the trails and enjoying the sights. We scrambled up slick granite boulders and hopped across several creek crossings, but after our hike It was time to get some lunch. We left the Treasure Lake parking lot and made our way through the refuge. Along the way, we saw a small herd of elk and several bison. We made a quick stop to the visitor center so I could introduce her to Randy. Who is one of the nicest people I have ever met, by the way.
After spending some time in the visitor center, we started off towards our next destination Medicine Park, OK. But before we left the refuge, I wanted to show her the cedar plantings on the north side. This area is also referred to as the Parallel Forest. Before we reached the forest, I saw this incredible patch of Blazing Star flowers in the field along the side of the road. I urged Ashlee to stop and pull over so we might photograph it. The recent rains had caused several of these patches to sprout up in the field. Their saturated magenta/pink color contrasted nicely against the vivid green. We watched as intermittent light danced along the face of Mt Scott and the prairie below. What I was most surprised by was the amount of life in those flowers. I don’t think I have ever seen that many bugs, bees, and butterflies in the Wichita Mountains.
If you look closely you can see a few Yellow Sulphur butterflies throughout the photo. It seems every time I took a step butterflies, bees, and grasshoppers were shooting out around the flowers. We sat there waiting for the light to change on the mountains and watching all the insects dart around the flowers. I wasn’t all that happy with my composition and began to search for something a little more pleasing. I came across these tall and healthy-looking stalks with no flowers in front of them. This added a lot more depth to the photo and helped separate the flowers from the grass even more. Due to the close proximity of the flowers to my lens I had to focus stack to keep the entire scene in sharp focus. During this time, I would look for butterflies in the foreground and snap some shots, then carefully watch the light on the mountains in the background. Finally, I found the perfect balance and captured this shot. I still wish the light would have been better on the mountains, but I was still quite pleased with the result. The extra work took more time, but it was really important to see those finer details in the foreground, more specifically the yellow butterflies. It’s truly remarkable what a little bit of rain can do to the prairie. In the matter of a day you can be transported right back to Spring in this ever-changing wilderness.