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Early pasques found on the edge of Lake Vermillion Recreation Area in mid-March of 2012.
Early pasques found on the edge of Lake Vermillion Recreation Area in mid-March of 2012.
The little purple blossoms are among the earliest flowers to appear each spring.
The little purple blossoms are among the earliest flowers to appear each spring.
A pasqueflower stands tall against a Hanson County sunset.
A pasqueflower stands tall against a Hanson County sunset.
Rocks and cow pies steadied the camera for this shot.
Rocks and cow pies steadied the camera for this shot.
In the Coteau Hills along the border of Codington and Grant counties.
In the Coteau Hills along the border of Codington and Grant counties.
A cluster of pasqueflowers in McCook County.
A cluster of pasqueflowers in McCook County.
Christian suspects that the red dots inside this flower are either tiny ants or some sort of mite.
Christian suspects that the red dots inside this flower are either tiny ants or some sort of mite.
The state flower would appear almost tulip-like if not for the tell-tale leafy green fingers.
The state flower would appear almost tulip-like if not for the tell-tale leafy green fingers.
Insects like this small black beetle are active in the spring weather.
Insects like this small black beetle are active in the spring weather.
Just south of Lake Vermillion on the Vermillion River Hills.
Just south of Lake Vermillion on the Vermillion River Hills.

Cow Pies and Wildflowers

Mar 30, 2012

Time for a confession: I like flowers. Yeah that’s right…wildflowers in particular. I realize this is not a manly thing to admit. I realize that other fellas my age would laugh or at least roll their eyes if I blurted this out while watching basketball together down at the local watering hole. Most guys my age are into sports, hunting, fishing, exercising, cars and/or big farm machinery. I have no problem with any of those things, but what can I say? Photography changes a person. I’ll take a South Dakota wildflower scene at the golden hour with my camera at my side over any of those things in a heartbeat. Crazy? Probably.

This column is dedicated to my most recent obsession with the pasqueflower. Greg Latza’s cover photo of the pasque on South Dakota Magazine’s March/April 2010 issue started it. That issue came out at about the same time as I put my first macro lens on my camera. I knew the pasque was the state flower and I knew they were one of the earliest flowers to appear in early spring, but I had never seen one in the wild before. My macro and I now had a new mission.

Within a week, I found my first pasque patch. I took more close-up shots than I care to count. Not that many of them were that great, but the hunt and the newness was a rush. Last spring, it was more difficult for me to find pasques with the cool weather and late snow storms, but I found a nice patch near Lake Vermillion in McCook County and actually tried some new techniques to shoot the flower. I used my wide angle lens and shot later in the day to add the nice evening light and some of the surrounding scenery.

This year my flower fever set in early with the warm March weather and I was out checking known patches almost every evening. My goal was to photograph the flower in new and unique situations and in creative ways. I wanted to make images of the little beauty that you wouldn’t find if you searched “pasque” on a Google image search. I was lucky to find a scene that a photographer often dreams about in Hanson County on March 20th. The sky promised to be a colorful sunset. About 10 minutes before the western horizon turned golden, I drove up to a wonderful stand of pasque on the south-facing hills of a creek leading to the James River. It was a cow pasture, so the grass had been grazed short. The flowers were dancing in the easy breeze of evening. I happily joined the party. To be honest, I hope no one saw me. At one point I was literally running between my two cameras on the hillside and firing bracketed images as the setting sun lit the clouds on fire. I had to sprawl out on the ground on my belly to make sure the framing was how I wanted it. I failed to bring a steady bag so I was improvising with rocks and even dried cow pies to straighten the cameras. Does that make me crazy? Probably.

Pasque season illustrates perfectly the reason I love photography. Number one; there is joy in the hunt of finding the right scene and subject to photograph. Number two; there is a natural high that is reached at the moment of the perfect light. This “in the moment” delight is what had me running up and down the hill and grabbing for cow pies like a lunatic. Number three; there is the fun of sharing the image after it is all said and done. Bringing a little of the beauty that I experienced to my friends and their friends makes my heart feel good. It is proof that my crazy obsession for capturing and sharing God’s infinite creativity is worth it. To me, it is a crazy good feeling.

 

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 our prettiest spots around the state. Follow Begeman on his blog

Comments

09:40 am - Mon, April 2 2012
Heidi said:
Chad, thank you for being crazy! Thank you so much for your pasque craziness!!!
07:48 pm - Mon, April 2 2012
Lisa said:
Very beautiful album, Christian. Love the Pasques against the sunset.
04:08 am - Tue, April 3 2012
Chad Coppess said:
Thanks Heidi, I appreciate that and I bet Christian appreciates that you think I'm crazy after reading his column. :)
06:25 am - Tue, April 3 2012
Josh said:
I love hunting for the pasque too. It is a fun part of spring in South Dakota.
06:51 am - Tue, April 3 2012
Heidi said:
Oh my goodness! I got my C's mixed up. So sorry Christian. Thanks for the poke Chad. Can I blame it on a case of the Mondays?
08:11 am - Tue, April 3 2012
Joannie said:
Beautiful -- your photos AND your writing! You are exceptionally gifted at both, Christian. You may not realize just how much joy you bring to others, but please know that you are making a difference in this world of ours! You know how to touch hearts...or, maybe I should say that God does...through YOU!!! Thank you!!!! You are a tremendous blessing to many! Keep on keep'n on!!
09:06 am - Tue, April 3 2012
Chad, wonderful, wonderful work! Your first paragraph seems to describe my personality as well. Glad I am not alone!Finally, finally tracked down my first pasqueflower this year. The photos on South Dakota magazine really motivated me to get out and find it THIS year - after many failures.Thank you for your inspiration!
10:57 am - Tue, April 3 2012
Christian said:
Thanks everybody for the encouraging comments. Heidi, I don't mind being mixed up with Chad Coppess. That is actually a very nice compliment!

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