Brandenburg’s ’93 Days of Spring’ is breath of fresh air

We loved the summer temperatures over the last few days as much as the next person, but there was still a feeling that it wasn’t right. It’s not summer in Minnesota; it’s spring… a predictable, slow-moving, tantalizing progression to summer glory.

The magnolia blossoms made raking a delightful affair over the weekend, but with the summer heat, they only lasted a couple of days.

Nope. Something’s not right. It’s moving too fast; we’re missing the show. Summer is cutting in line.

Fortunately, Minnesota treasure Jim Brandenburg has given us “93 Days of Spring,” a one-a-day image of spring in Minnesota, which he shot for National Geographic.

It’s the most images ever published in a single issue of National Geographic.

“I’m a hunter who traded his gun for a camera,” Brandenburg, 70, tells the Duluth News Tribune in an interview published today. “My ancestors had to go out every day and bring home the bacon. I think that’s what I’m doing. It’s primal. It’s my backyard.”

While many of these photos were made near his home in Ely, others were made close to his second home near the Twin Cities and on the prairies near his childhood home, where he first began taking photographs. There, his Brandenburg Prairie Foundation has set aside 1,000 acres of land called “Touch the Sky Prairie.” Brandenburg grew up hunting and trapping on the prairies, learning the ways of animals and honing his tracking skills.

“Some of this is paying homage to my beginnings,” Brandenburg said, “touching that stone again where you started. It’s an honoring thing.”

Many of his images in this series include animals — the bison herd at Blue Mounds State Park near Luverne, a deer skull and antlers half-submerged in a wetland, a bald eagle dying in a pond.

“Brandenburg is the Wayne Gretzky of wildlife photography,” said photographer Layne Kennedy of Minneapolis. “He walks step for step with all critters and more often than not, he is one step ahead. His gift of anticipation allows him to reveal to others how wildlife lives its life.”

It wasn’t all scenic happiness, however.

Brandenburg writes on the National Geographic “Proof” blog: “I’d been watching an eagle nest for five years but had never photographed it. Then on day 50, on my way to finally shoot it, I saw an eagle floating in a pond nearby. It had been hit by a car. My heart broke as I watched it hang its head and die in the water.”

The next day, he said, he photographed the eagle’s mate waiting in vain near their nest. It waited for days, he said.

Spring can be an occasional heartbreak.

  • MrE85

    I don’t subscribe to NG any longer, but I am going to buy this copy. He’s a Minnesota treasure alright.

    • It’ll also be (or maybe already is) a book.

      • MrE85

        The magazine will be cheaper. I work for a nonprofit, remember?

  • crystals

    Touch the Sky is one of my favorite places on earth, and I’m eternally grateful to Jim and Judy for preserving and loving prairie lands.

    Shameless but heartfelt plug: Luverne is an A+ weekend trip from the Cities. Explore at Blue Mounds and Touch the Sky, visit the Brandenburg Gallery and the Herreid Military Museum (it is UNREAL), and cap it off *really* good food & drink at two legitimately good restaurants (Bluestem & Sterling’s).