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Melissa blue butterfly on blanket flower in rural Grant County.
Melissa blue butterfly on blanket flower in rural Grant County.
Wilson’s snipe showing off that beak in rural Grant County.
Wilson’s snipe showing off that beak in rural Grant County.
Thimbleweed flower at Lake Vermillion Recreation Area.
Thimbleweed flower at Lake Vermillion Recreation Area.
The first black-eyed Susan of the year at Lake Vermillion Recreation Area.
The first black-eyed Susan of the year at Lake Vermillion Recreation Area.
Western Minnehaha County sunset.
Western Minnehaha County sunset.
Least skipperling in Brookings County.
Least skipperling in Brookings County.
Marsh hedge nettle in bloom in rural Deuel County.
Marsh hedge nettle in bloom in rural Deuel County.
Wild garlic blossom at Jacobson Fen in Deuel County.
Wild garlic blossom at Jacobson Fen in Deuel County.
The last of the yucca blooms along the Jones and Jackson County line.
The last of the yucca blooms along the Jones and Jackson County line.
Prickly pear cacti blooming at Buffalo Gap National Grasslands.
Prickly pear cacti blooming at Buffalo Gap National Grasslands.
Storm clouds forming in eastern Pennington County.
Storm clouds forming in eastern Pennington County.
Lightning dancing over the Northern Black Hills.
Lightning dancing over the Northern Black Hills.
First light after the rain over Bear Butte.
First light after the rain over Bear Butte.
Fleeting rainbow in rural Meade County.
Fleeting rainbow in rural Meade County.
Twin flower macro at Englewood Springs near Lead.
Twin flower macro at Englewood Springs near Lead.
Water avens at Englewood Springs.
Water avens at Englewood Springs.
Tall white bog orchid at Englewood Springs.
Tall white bog orchid at Englewood Springs.
Western spotted coralroot orchid at Englewood Springs.
Western spotted coralroot orchid at Englewood Springs.
Rocky Mountain Iris detail at Englewood Springs.
Rocky Mountain Iris detail at Englewood Springs.
Stream orchids at Whitney Preserve in Fall River County.
Stream orchids at Whitney Preserve in Fall River County.
Northern green bog orchid at Aurora Prairie Preserve in Brookings County.
Northern green bog orchid at Aurora Prairie Preserve in Brookings County.
Wood lily at Aurora Prairie Preserve in Brookings County.
Wood lily at Aurora Prairie Preserve in Brookings County.
Regal fritillary at Aurora Prairie Preserve in Brookings County.
Regal fritillary at Aurora Prairie Preserve in Brookings County.
Pale-spike lobelia at Aurora Prairie Preserve in Brookings County.
Pale-spike lobelia at Aurora Prairie Preserve in Brookings County.

Natural Fireworks

Jul 14, 2021

Independence Day has come and gone. It has been a dry spring and early summer. The weather reminded of my days growing up along the Dewey and Ziebach County line near the Moreau River breaks. The ’80s offered up dry and hot summers but we Begeman boys were always allowed to buy fireworks from a mail order catalog that would arrive around the first of June. I still remember watching anxiously for the UPS truck when the last week of June came around with about as much excitement as Christmas. That UPS truck would soon bring all the $10 to $15 worth of firecrackers, smoke bombs and bottle rockets that our allowances could afford. If it was dry, we always had the garden hose at the ready. If it was windy and dry, we had to wait. But the wait was always worth it.

I still enjoy a good fireworks show, but nowadays the kinds I actively seek are the tiny explosions of color and beauty found in the varieties of wildflowers blooming this time of year. A dry year, like this one, makes them a little tougher to find. A strong wind or even a mild breeze makes them difficult to photograph. Their beauty attracts insects galore, and some of those can be quite annoying, but all those troubles are a trifle when standing in a native prairie remnant under a vast blue sky surrounded by wildflowers waving in the wind. These scenes of the fleeting loveliness of summer are something I am compelled to search out and enjoy in South Dakota, not just for photography, but also to recalibrate and find that elusive center again.

Late June and early July found me in search of new wildflowers. From the Northern Black Hills to the fens of the northeast I searched for orchids and butterflies as well as the old favorites. Flowering prickly pear, yucca and black-eyed Susan found their way in front of my lens as well as stormy skies and even a short-lived rainbow. I re-established the fact that I’m a tick magnet. I ripped another pair of jeans while losing a battle with downed white spruce tree. Poison ivy somehow found its way to a single point of my elbow, much to my dismay. Deer flies, gnats and many other unknown harassing insects tried their best to annoy, but even so, the treasures found made up for the pains. Bog orchids, stream orchids, twin flowers and so much more was new to my eyes and camera. The vast array of flora that can be found in South Dakota is incredible, from alpine and mountain species through short-grass prairie country to the lush tall grass prairie remnants in the east. Throw in the ever-changing but always amazing Dakota skies and capturing images to share in this column was actually quite easy, incredibly fun, and truly a joy.

Lately rain has been finding its way to our region. Let’s hope that trend continues (minus the hail) and the late summer bloom continues to bring nature’s fireworks up from the good earth and into our view. And here’s to hoping each of you reading this can get out and experience a bit of summer’s visual poetry on the prairie yet this season. Trust me, it is good for the heart and soul.

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

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