From his vantage point in the heart of the Flint Hills, photographer Harold Gaston captures Kansas images most people overlook. Weathered hedge posts, a meadowlark on an icy barbed wire fence, an old windmill standing sentinel on the plains, remnants of a limestone farmstead, and fires snaking across the darkened prairie—they’re all favorite focuses of this Kansan, whose passion is showing off his native state with out-of-the-ordinary photographs. Except for a stint in the military, Harold has always lived in Kansas. Raised on a farm in Lyon County, Harold now resides in neighboring Morris County in the quaint east-central Kansas town of Council Grove, known for its rich Santa Fe Trail history and Flint Hills beauty.
“From the time I learned to drive, I recall spending countless hours driving the back roads of the Flint Hills. Ever since those early days, I’ve been drawn to the simple beauty of the hills and their uncluttered, vast vistas,” Harold says about one of his favorite subjects, the largest remaining tract of tallgrass prairie in North America. Photography has been a hobby since Harold’s military days in Viet Nam, where he bought his first camera and learned 35mm basics from his sergeant. After retiring from his landscape business in 2007, Harold refocused on his hobby and launched Kanscape Photography. His selection of images range from gorgeous Kansas sunsets and wildflowers to dramatic black-and-white winter scenes.
“I’m always looking for that landscape that is different, not just another landscape,” Harold explains. “Most of my favorite photos are situations that I’ve come across by accident.” Harold appreciates the state’s sweeping vistas, and traveled to far western Kansas during the wheat harvest to capture the endless horizons of those flattened plains. “It took me back to my early days of wheat harvests with my dad, and also gave me a chance to photograph in a very different landscape than what I am used to,” he explains. “The vast open spaces produce some incredible skies, which in turn produce really great photo opportunities. I call it the Big Sky Country of Kansas!”
Harold’s works have been selected for exhibition at many Kansas art shows, including the Smoky Hills Art Exposition in Hays, the annual fall photography show at the Manhattan Arts Center, the Visions of the Flint Hills Exhibit in Kansas City, the online Plains Photo Project at Emporia State University and the Gathering in the Grove art show in Council Grove, where Harold received the People’s Choice Award in 2009.
“I think all landscape photographers have that special place or subject that they’re drawn to. For me, it’s simply Kansas and its roads less traveled,” Harold says.