Subscriptions to South Dakota Magazine make great gifts!
Subscribe today — 1 year (6 issues) is just $25!
The Season of Color
Jul 29, 2015
If you could pick a color to represent summer in South Dakota, what would it be? Azure blue for the summer sky? Maybe green with yellow tints for the prairie pastures? The colors of the rainbow we see after a spring storm? How about a mixture of orange and red for our signature sunsets? How do you color the serene night sky? I don’t know, but one thing is certain: summertime’s palette of color is vibrant and full of life. The rains have been good. For a few months out of the year our landscapes transition from drab tans and browns to lovely green accented with yellow, blue and red flowers. We may not have the vast carpets of wildflower fields like other parts of the world, but the summer wildflower season in South Dakota is still beautiful.
Much of the state is prairie landscape, which means outside of the farm fields, grass is king. However, summer wildflowers aren’t difficult to find. These bursts of color often accent the wide pastures with pleasant shades of yellow or purple. Coneflowers, sunflowers and milkweed also attract colorful butterflies, moths and even birds. A walk on a hillside that has never seen a plow always surprises me with the abundant variety of life mixed with the grasses. It is a great way to spend an afternoon or evening hike with your camera.
Earlier this month, I was surprised to see that you don’t even have to leave the confines Sioux Falls to find wildflowers in abundance. Just north of Cherapa Place on the east side of the Big Sioux River is a large area planted back to native grass and flowers. Such a display of natural color in the midst of our largest city is a feast for the eyes.
Flowers are fun to photograph any time of day, but I’ve had the best luck early in the morning, before the wind comes up and the dew dries. Flowers look good under clouds, too, because the light is diffused more evenly and the shadows are less harsh. My favorite time to hunt wildflowers, however, is early in the evening when the golden light colors the land with warm hues. A macro lens will work wonders, but it is not necessary. A wide-angle lens can take great photos of wildflowers too. I recommend getting down on your knees or even your stomach to shoot the flowers at eye level. Getting down in the grass and looking up provides new and creative perspectives for you and your camera. Be warned, however, that un-photogenic insects like ticks, spiders and ants also live at this level, so be mindful of where you settle in and always wear repellent.
As summer wanes, the sunflower season will get into full swing. You’ll see blooming blazing stars and ironweed, and monarch butterflies will begin their migration to Mexico. But there’s still plenty of time left in the season to find your summer color. Take a hike, bring your camera and enjoy the color of summer while it lasts.
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.