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July’s super moon with two farm silos southeast of Garretson.
July’s super moon with two farm silos southeast of Garretson.
Wildflowers in the August sun along a back road north of Dell Rapids.
Wildflowers in the August sun along a back road north of Dell Rapids.
I startled this great egret in a roadside slough in Clark County.
I startled this great egret in a roadside slough in Clark County.
I was being watched while watching a sunset north of Humboldt.
I was being watched while watching a sunset north of Humboldt.
The sunset I was watching with a lone windmill silhouetted against the sky.
The sunset I was watching with a lone windmill silhouetted against the sky.
Thistles in bloom along a county road in eastern Deuel County.
Thistles in bloom along a county road in eastern Deuel County.
A red dragonfly resting in a patch of tall grass in Deuel County.
A red dragonfly resting in a patch of tall grass in Deuel County.
A roadside prairie rose in bloom.
A roadside prairie rose in bloom.
Wild plum in the fading evening light.
Wild plum in the fading evening light.
A male Baltimore oriole eating plums and playing hard to get with the photographer.
A male Baltimore oriole eating plums and playing hard to get with the photographer.
A lone barn and two apple trees are all that remain of this homestead in Clark County.
A lone barn and two apple trees are all that remain of this homestead in Clark County.
An unused barn at sunset along a county road in Hutchinson County.
An unused barn at sunset along a county road in Hutchinson County.
I discovered this hawk having trouble flying along a slough in northwest Minnehaha County. I could not see any sign of injury, so I grabbed a portrait with my telephoto lens and let it be.
I discovered this hawk having trouble flying along a slough in northwest Minnehaha County. I could not see any sign of injury, so I grabbed a portrait with my telephoto lens and let it be.
High corn at sunset just east of Hartford.
High corn at sunset just east of Hartford.
A Monarch butterfly feeding on a patch of wildflowers in the ditch south of Astoria.
A Monarch butterfly feeding on a patch of wildflowers in the ditch south of Astoria.
A common clouded butterfly west of Clear Lake, in the Coteau Hills.
A common clouded butterfly west of Clear Lake, in the Coteau Hills.
Three Monarchs at once in Deuel County.
Three Monarchs at once in Deuel County.
A lone windmill with the stars above west of Watertown.
A lone windmill with the stars above west of Watertown.

Off the Beaten Path

Sep 29, 2014

I’ve been told that my mom’s family often took Sunday afternoon drives together. Many times Grandpa would just pile them into the car and start driving with no particular destination in mind. One such trip led the family to eastern Wyoming with nothing but sagebrush and open sky. When nature called, as it is wont to do on family trips, the only privacy available was behind the largest sagebrush. Well, the story goes that my dear grandmother saw turkey vultures circling while searching for just the right sagebrush, and the ominous birds succeeded in scaring nature’s calling away. Now since that story came from my beloved uncle, who never let the facts get in the way of a good story, I’m not sure I can say this bit of family history is very accurate, but I do believe the part about just getting in the car and going for a drive. Why? Because I suffer from the same urgings — back roads and random drives are simply good medicine after working the day job all week long.

Lately I have taken particular affinity to the back roads — the graveled county roads that criss-cross most of our farm and ranch land. The roads that only the locals know. I’ve often been pleasantly surprised by the beauty I’ve stumbled upon by just turning down one of these roads less traveled. I’ve seen numerous scenic churches and countless abandoned farmsteads. Sometimes I’m lucky enough to enjoy unexpected wildlife encounters. My favorite thing to find is a lone prairie windmill standing out against the sky, especially around sunset.

In late August, I was heading north through Clark County and decided to take an off the beaten path road along the western edge of the Coteau des Prairie. A lone barn with two apple trees out front caught my attention down a lonesome gravel road. Along the other side of the same road was a long tree belt full of plum trees heavily laden with fruit. A light rain began to fall and I was the only one on the road so I stopped, got my long lens and began wondering what kind of wildlife like fresh plum. It wasn’t long until I saw an orange flash of feathers fly through the trees. I drove a bit closer and shut off the engine. About 10 minutes later two Baltimore oriole females and three males made an appearance and began feeding on the plums. I spent an hour watching them and attempting to photograph the scene. The whole time I was there, not another vehicle was seen or heard. It was one of my favorite parts of the whole weekend.

You know that old saying that talks about taking the time to stop and smell the roses? I’ve found the same sentiment to be true for making interesting photographs. Give yourself time to explore unknown roads. Take the time to drive somewhere you’ve never been. Then find the patience to sit still and see what happens. When you do, the photographic gems you may find down South Dakota’s back roads will often surprise you. Happy trails, and watch out for those dang turkey vultures.

Christian Begeman grew up in Isabel and now lives in Sioux Falls. When he's not working at Midcontinent Communications he is often on the road photographing South Dakota’s prettiest spots. Follow Begeman on his blog.

Comments

09:09 am - Tue, September 30 2014
Gary G said:
Awesome pictures! I especially like the one with the apple trees. Could you tell me what model of camera did you use for that photo?
Thanks and be blessed!
10:08 am - Tue, September 30 2014
Brenda L said:
As always, great work Christian!
10:32 am - Tue, September 30 2014
Christian said:
Hello and thanks for the nice comments. The camera used for the apple tree photo was a Canon 70D with a Canon 10-22 wide angle lens. I had it as wide as possible (10mm) with an f-stop of f13 to try to keep the distant barn in focus as well as the apples that were just inches from the lens.
09:51 am - Fri, October 3 2014
Heidi said:
Nice reminder Christian ... a good photo takes time to sit and plan. Thanks for taking that time to share your wonderful photos.
11:20 am - Fri, October 3 2014
Gary Dickson said:
Very nice images, Christian. I particularly enjoyed your blog. I too am blessed with the wandering gene which was passed down to me by my father. Much of my wandering was in the Black Hills and West River as a lad but expanded that eastward into the southeast part of the state, Nebraska and Iowa. When I was younger I usually made sure I took my SLR with me wherever I went, not wanting to miss a single sunset, sunrise, bird, rock, deer or deserted farmstead. Now as I've grown older I don't worry so much about getting that photo . . . and sometimes I purposely don't take my camera along at all when the missus and I go wandering. I find that it's often much more peaceful and relaxing if I don't have to think about capturing images in my camera. We can just walk or sit and watch, listen, feel and smell what nature is offering us.
05:11 pm - Fri, October 10 2014
Mary Taylor said:
I always enjoy your articles and beautiful pictures in South Dakota Magazine. Please e mail me - I am interested in purchasing some prints, and am wondering if it's possible to obtain some of them from previous years shown on your website.
Thank you!

02:24 pm - Sun, October 12 2014
Christian said:
Hello Mary and thanks for your comment. Feel free to email me at christian@sio.midco.net for any photo inquiries. The comment you left does not show me your email address so I won't be able to email you first. Thanks.

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