I have been very fortunate the past two summers to do research at the Tarfala Research Station, Stockholm University managed facility in the arctic-alpine landscape of northern Sweden. This year, between two phases of research, I was able to take a few days and wander in to wilderness that surrounds the station. I found myself here, on this little plateau above a valley filled with millions of ripe blueberries, stalking – and being stalked by – a small herd of reindeer, and absolutely, utterly alone. It is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been.
Some 1250 km from the Manitoba tallgrass of the Red River Valley, the great prairies come to an spectacularly abrupt end at the foot of the Rockies. The grizzly bear, once an apex predator of the prairies but pushed back into the mountains for more than a century, is making a gradual return to its ancestral home in protected places like this. This is one of several Nature Conservancy of Canada preserves in southern Alberta where conservationist ranchers are committed to preserving this magnificent landscape.
The forecast called for a healthy weekend snowstorm in early March, so I spent much of preceding week daydreaming about some fantastic image I could make that captured the essence of winter on the prairie. I made my way to one of The Nature Conservancy’s preserves a few hours west of the Twin Cities, where the hardwood forests start grading into prairie savanna. It was snowing hard and windy, and while I had great visions of amazing compositions in my mind, I really struggled to capture something good given the conditions. I ended up with this one, and while I wasn’t very excited about it at first, it has really grown on me.
Minnesota’s Itasca State Park may be famous for being the headwaters of the Mississippi River, but its old growth red and white pine are the real treasures in my eyes. Here, the warmth of the setting sun belies just how cold it was on this February afternoon.