September–October 2022

From the Editor

Close Readers of the Outdoors

Approaching nature with an observant eye.

The Volunteer has been publishing Jim Brandenburg’s nature photos for an astonishing 52 years, which makes the Minnesota native the longest-tenured contributor in the magazine’s 82-year history. His first shot for MCV, a black-and-white image of a regal-looking pine marten, was published in the January–February 1970 issue. (You can view the photo in our online archives. Search “pine marten Brandenburg” and scroll to page 9.) 

Though Brandenburg went on to land high-profile gigs with National Geographic in the ’80s and ’90s—his Arctic wolf photography for that magazine is among his most celebrated work—he always made time for MCV, even taking on the occasional assignment.  

In this issue we continue our relationship with Jim with a visual essay on one of his favorite subjects: Minnesota’s tallgrass prairies in autumn (page 28). The photos are classic Brandenburg—dramatic, personal, and uniquely framed. And on a practical level, they document important preservation and restoration efforts, including Touch the Sky Prairie near Brandenburg’s childhood home of Luverne. 

Of his photographic success, Brandenburg once said, “I’m good at paying attention.” I love the humble simplicity of this quote. Not only does it sum up the photographer’s core talent in five words, but it reminds us to approach nature with an observant eye. 

This edition of MCV covers multiple activities that require varying degrees of Brandenburg-like focus. Take “Ghosted by Grouse," about a group of hunters stalking wild birds up north. “Even being able to spot grouse takes a bit of practice,” writes author Ashley Peters. “These birds wear a camouflaged uniform of brown and white, an ideal outfit for staying hidden in forests mottled with sunlight and swaying shadows.”

Mushroom hunting calls for a similar focus and attention to detail, as the uninitiated will learn in our Minnesota mushroom primer. The same goes for building campfires and searching for springs in southeastern Minnesota.

All of these articles, and others in this issue, wouldn’t be possible without our talented contributors, who are all close readers of the outdoors. And a special shout-out to Jim Brandenburg, whose attentive lens continues to inspire readers more than five decades in.  

Chris Clayton, editor in chief