I can’t remember a time when photography wasn’t an interest. As far back as I can recall, I’ve seen images in my mind’s eye, and since I could never quite master drawing these with pencil and paper, I compromised and started creating them with camera and film.
With landscape photography, light does all the work. The second-by-second changes, as the rising or setting sun’s rays interact with the moisture and dust in the atmosphere, create a constantly changing palate of colors in both the sky and on the subject. This in itself can be truly awe inspiring. Nature provides me with more colors, shapes and textures than my imagination can fathom. So, beyond a few minor adjustments, I feel no need to try to change what the camera has recorded.
The exception would be panoramic images I have included in this gallery. These panoramic images were created by stitching a series of individual images together with software in a computer. Using a similar, but more hands on process, photographers have been stitching images together in the darkroom to create panoramic images for more than 100 years, long before anyone even dreamed of such things as computers.
The Great Plains region is rich in photographic opportunity. Sunrises and sunsets paint the sky with thousands of colors which change by the second. The night sky is dark, filled with stars, and on rare occasions, Aurora Borealis. Fed by countless lazy meandering streams, powerful and restless rivers course through the landscape reshaping the land itself as they press onward to the ocean.
Weather is a force to be reckoned with on the Plains. Winter blizzards sweeping in from the mountains to the west blanket the land in pure white. Ice storms rake down on the north winds, leaving destruction, and at the same time, stunning beauty in their wake. Summer thunderstorms, which are spawned by cool winds funneled along the Rocky Mountains to the west and fed by warm moist air from the Gulf of Mexico, produce some of the most dramatic weather—and light--on earth. Anyone who has witnessed a high plains thunderstorm, when the thunder shakes the earth and lightning rends the skies, can attest to both the power and beauty of nature, and can admit to at least a little fear of the fury unleashed.
The landscape is vast here, and diverse. The Great Plains landscape is an endlessly tempting subject for a photographer’s lens: The badlands of the Dakotas, the Sandhills of Nebraska, the high plains of Western Kansas, the tall grass prairies of central Kansas, the Gypsum Hills of southern Kansas and Oklahoma, and beyond into Texas.
A dazzling array of wildlife inhabits the Great Plains, although in some cases, much reduced in numbers and in range. Still, fauna exists here in sufficient numbers and variety so that it’s not too difficult to imagine the grand scenes of huge herds that greeted the first European explorers to the plains.
And there are people on the land, in their own way as colorful as a sunset, as diverse as the landscape, and unpredictable as the weather. Native people, relocated to reservations, have diminished in numbers, but are still living on the land of their father’s fathers. Descendants of the original European settlers are here, too, also in diminished numbers, though those who remain have learned not only to cope with the dramatic climate, but also eventually to thrive on the plains which were so filled with hardships for their ancestors. Blended together by time, brought together by the extremes of climate, and bound together by the very land they live upon, these people and their history, customs and foods are an important part of the story here as well.
As a life-long resident of Kansas, and as an inhabitant of the Great Plains, it is an honor to be asked to contribute to this project. It is my hope that by viewing this gallery you will be able enjoy at least a small portion of the beauty and diversity of this area. But more importantly, I hope it will encourage you to experience the Great Plains for yourself. Explore the endless horizon. Breathe the clean air. Gaze at the stars still visible in the dark night skies.
If you wish to view more of my work, or to order prints, I invite you to visit my website at: www.harlandschuster.com .