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Stunning Aerials of North America's Prairies and Plains

By Camille Mann
Published: October 28, 2013

Train, Chase County, Kan., 2009. (Terry Evans)

Photographer Terry Evans has been snapping photos of North America’s prairies and plains for more than 30 years and has seen the grasslands change over the years due to industrialization — a transformation she’s documented in her series of aerial photos.

“Thirty-five years ago, I began photographing an untouched 80-acre prairie north of Salina, Kan. And since then, my work has been inspired by those early revelations of looking at virgin prairie and seeing its subtle beauty,” explained Evans, who grew up in Kansas City, Mo., to Weather.com.

Evans continued to take photos out of a Cessna 172 aircraft with her Hasselblad camera, shooting the same areas. Over time she noticed a visible change.

“Over the years, I have continued to look at North American prairies and plains to explore the ways that people use, abuse, care for and nurture these landscapes, but as time passes, I see that we are creating an industrialized landscape as we increase mining for oil, coal, sand, limestone and other materials to keep us living the lifestyles we prefer.”

She also explained that the changes are hard on the people who live on the land as well. “The heavy industrialization of the land affects local people the most. Their home landscapes are changed and damaged beyond repair.”

Evans’ earlier photos capture the unique patterns in a flourishing ecosystem, and her later photos capture oil waste dumps and mining fields.

In order to get the best shots, the Chicago-based photographer takes the hinge out of the window in the airplane so it will stay open while she’s shooting. She also keeps an eye out on the forecast.

“Weather is the key factor in my aerial work. I will only work on a sunny day, usually early or late in the day so I get long shadows to define the subject. I have often have to cancel a flight just a few hours beforehand because the weather changed.”

While she doesn’t do as much aerial work as she used to, because the work is “very energy intensive,” she’s still drawn to it. “Every time I fly, it is a new exploration,” she said.

To see more of Evans’ work visit her website.

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