2016 is upon us, which means one thing to us Kansas photographers…The Flint Hills prairie burns are only a few months away!
The spring prairie burns in the Flint Hills region of Kansas marks the end of winter and a gradual transitioning, or awakening of the Kansas landscape that welcomes longer days, warmer temperatures, and the overall feeling of relief, knowing that we have survived yet another winter.
The Flint Hills of Kansas are 82,000 square miles of unplowed tallgrass prairie that stretches from eastern Kansas to north-central Oklahoma. This region is an important area for grazing cattle. Much of the Flint Hills have been spared from the plow as the rocky terrain prevents crop farming, which has allowed the tall grass prairie to remain intact, in its natural state. In a typical year, ranchers annually burn hundreds of thousands of acres of grassland in late March through early April to reduce the abundance of invasive trees, shrubs, and less nutritious grasses, while promoting nutritionally rich grass for that summer's grazing. When the hills are ablaze, its an incredible sight to see! Imagine, controlled fire spreading across the entire landscape! The prairie burns are even more amazing to watch from sunset into the night as the hills are silhouetted in fire, illuminating the nighttime landscape in a spectacular orange glow that can be seen from many miles away!
It's a memorable experience to see prairie fires burning as far as the horizon extends, to feel the warming spring breezes blowing unobstructed across the mostly treeless prairie, listening to the relaxing crackle of last years dormant grasses burning, and if your lucky, you will see hawks circling in an excited anticipation of small rodents exposing themselves to escape the fires. Be sure to watch the cowboys (and cowgirls) working the fires with excited, almost childlike expressions of joy and excitement on their faces, because, lets face it, fire is COOL! Well, actually, its very hot, but you know what I mean!!! So use caution when driving. Don't let the fires get too close, and please be mindful of the ranchers working the fires.
There's only one problem with photographing this fascinating yearly experience. Nobody knows exactly when the ranchers and cowboys will burn their landscape. It can be very hit or miss, unless you know exactly when a rancher is going to burn their land. The best way to photograph the Flint Hills prairie burns is to drive into the Flint Hills and hope to get lucky and stumble across a ranch burning hundreds, maybe even thousands of acres of their land, and there's no guarantee of finding a prairie fire, UNTIL NOW! Fellow photographer and good friend, Craig McCord, and I, have coordinated photography workshops with 2 Flint Hills ranches, The Cowboy Way Ranch and the Clover Cliff Bed and Breakfast Cattle Ranch. They're allowing us access to their land, giving us permission to photograph the prairie fires and the ranchers (cowboys and cowgirls) that tend to the fires.
We're offering prairie burn workshops, giving you the opportunity to photograph this incredible phenomenon. No more guesswork is involved. Please email me at [email protected], or see Craig McCord photography for information on this incredible experience. These workshops give you the opportunity to build your portfolio of images, using the Flint Hills, and the cowboys and cowgirls of the Flint Hills, burning their land, as a backdrop, guaranteeing unique images that would be hard to obtain anywhere else. Please see the pictures in the slide show that shows just how incredible the Flint Hills prairie burns are!!!