It’s been a crazy and busy summer, and after having been traveling most of July and booked solid most of August, I’m finally able to catch up on the blog. Here is a post-mortem on our very fun annual Midwest Summer Prairie photography workshop.

We had a great group of photographers converge on Marietta Sand Prairie in rural Marshall County Iowa, June 15, for this. Thanks to a fabulous group of photographers for joining us for a fun day in the sun! This was a very “different” kind of day for this particular workshop, but it was a very productive day.

Why “different?” Well, in 2012, I’d scheduled this annual workshop at its “usual” time in late-July – the same time I’ve held it most years. This is a time that the prairies of the upper Midwest are ablaze in color and there is a great variety of flora to photograph. However, in 2012 we were in the midst of a really bad drought, and late-July saw many prairie specimens past their peak and in decline. Plus, the week of this workshop in 2012 saw 100-degree-plus daily temperatures – it had been brutal out there in the prairie last year.

So this year, largely since the drought we’ve seen here in the upper Midwest was forecast to be even worse in 2013 than 2012, I moved this workshop up to mid-June. That’s about the time prairie flora was peaking in color around here last year. But in her ever-unpredictable manner, Mother Nature had other plans: spring snow – and LOTS of it – clear into May! And an end to the drought, brought about by a very large abundance of spring and summer rains. In fact, it had been so rainy in the days leading up to this workshop, I was sure we’d be out shooting in a downpour for this workshop. As a result of the late winter and heavy early-summer rains, not only were the prairie flowers we normally photograph at this workshop not peaking by June 15 as hoped, many of the plants were just barely sprouting altogether – the prairie was several weeks behind its normal blossom timeframe.

So while we weren’t able to photograph the oft-looked-forward-to purple coneflowers, grey-headed coneflowers, prairie blazing stars, and other favorites, we found a solid variety of other prairie flora to photograph. In fact, it was a challenge getting the group to move to different locations at times – most of the photographers in the group were thoroughly engaged. In fact, if it wasn’t for the threat of a late-morning thunderstorm (that looked ominous but ended up missing us), we may not have even broken for lunch until mid-afternoon.

All in all, though “different” than what we expected in terms of the shots we came home with (and that is just part of “the nature of nature photography,” it was an excellent day of nature photography on the open prairie, and participant feedback has been very positive.

Here are some behind-the-scenes images of our participants at work:

And some of the photographs they created during the day. Congrats on some great images, everyone!

Thanks again to everyone who participated. I’m looking forward to our next field workshop – our Autumn Color Photography workshop coming up October 12 at Ledges State Park in lovely Boone County, Iowa.

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August 24, 2013

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Image © Mark S. Peterson Photography