September–October 2022

Peak Prairie

Photographer Jim Brandenburg finds deep quiet and subtle color on Minnesota grasslands in autumn.

Give celebrated nature photographer Jim Brandenburg a choice between the riotous fall palette of the Minnesota north woods or the gentle hues of the prairie and he won’t hesitate to pick his favorite.

“I like the subtleties of the prairie colors,” he says. “They’re at their peak photographically in the fall.” 

Brandenburg grew up near prairie in southwestern Minnesota and has helped to restore prairie lands, including the 1,000-acre Touch the Sky Prairie near his boyhood home, where he shoots many photos. Still, throughout his life, he says, “I’ve noticed the incredible decrease in prairie acreage. It’s like an endangered species almost. Less than 1 percent of North America has remained in tallgrass prairie.”

Knowing this makes every parcel of prairie all the more precious. “It’s kind of sacred territory for me,” he says.
Add the element of quiet anticipation that pervades in the fall, and overall it’s a very special time for the photographer.

“There’s an exhilaration that comes with the change of seasons. The air is a little different, and you know something’s happening.”