Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Cold enough

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When I checked the outside temperature around 8 o’clock in the morning on November 17th, I saw that it was 34° F (1° C). Had the overnight temperature dipped below freezing, and had any frostweed (Verbesina virginica) done its magic ice trick? An easy way to find out was to check the frostweed plants in a portion of Great Hills Park just half a mile downhill from my home. When I got there I saw that most of them were untouched, but about a dozen stalks showed the characteristic curls of ice I was hoping to find, and that I then spent a good while photographing. Here’s one of them:

Frostweed Ice Scrolls 7165

If you’re unfamiliar with frostweed’s ice trick, one of the strangest and most beguiling phenomena in nature, you can check out the explanations and photographs in posts from this season over the last three years:

2011

2012

2013

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 20, 2014 at 5:33 AM

A different profile with the sun behind it

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Giant Ragweed at Sunrise 7498

The last two posts showed the backlit profile of the Superstition Mountains east of Phoenix, but now you’re seeing a different sort of profile with the sun beyond it. Move forward from September 29th outside Phoenix to October 17th inside Austin, when I pulled a Steve Gingold by being out and ready for pictures so early in the morning that it was still dark. Where, I’d asked myself, might I have a good view toward the east to photograph the sunrise, and I decided to check out the site of the former Mueller Airport, which has been undergoing redevelopment for a decade.

Now that you know the setting, you can understand that in the background of this photograph you’re seeing not a range of mountains but a pile of dirt at a construction site (though your imagination can still make a mountain out of what would have been a very large mole hill). As darkness gave way to dawn, the brightening eastern sky silhouetted this giant ragweed plant, Ambrosia trifida, that I chose as one of my subjects. If you’d like to know what a giant ragweed plant looks like when there’s light on it, you can check out a post from three years ago.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 19, 2014 at 5:23 AM

There’s that profile again

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Saguaro Cactus Backlit 1796

Behind the chain fruit cholla of the last post you saw the profile of Flat Iron Peak in the Superstition Mountains east of Phoenix. Here’s a portion of that profile again, but now less conspicuous because it appears at the base of a saguaro cactus, Carnegiea gigantea, that was blocking the morning sun on September 29th at the Lost Dutchman State Park. This is the first time I’ve ever shown one of these giants, but it won’t be the last.

If you’re interested in photography as a craft, you’ll find that newly added point 26 in About My Techniques is relevant to this photograph.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

 

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This is another entry from the saw (as in the past tense of see) part of the see-saw that’s been oscillating between pictures from my trip to the American Southwest in late September and more-recent pictures showing what’s been going on in Austin.

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 18, 2014 at 5:36 AM

Chain fruit cholla

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Chain Fruit Cholla by Superstition Mountains 1770

On September 29th at the Lost Dutchman State Park east of Phoenix I photographed this Opuntia fulgida, known as chain fruit cholla and jumping cactus. That last name corresponds to the way the joints of this cactus break off so easily that they almost seem to jump onto anything that brushes against them; I’m here to tell you that on more than one occasion some small joints “jumped” onto my shoes and pants. Seen in profile behind the cactus is the Flat Iron Peak of the Superstition Mountains.

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This is another entry from the saw (as in the past tense of see) part of the see-saw that’s been oscillating between pictures from my trip to the American Southwest in late September and more-recent pictures showing what’s going on in Austin.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 17, 2014 at 5:31 AM

Hover fly on frostweed flowers

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Hover Fly on Frostweed Flowers 8139

On October 19th in Great Hills Park I photographed this little hover fly on some flowers of frostweed, Verbesina virginica. This is the third post in two days that refers to Virginia, even though I photographed both of the relevant plants in Austin, where they’re also native.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 16, 2014 at 5:38 AM

A closer view of Virginia creeper turning colors

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Virginia Creeper Turning Colors on Rock 4301

In a comment this morning, Steve Gingold said he hoped to see some of the other pictures I took of Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) along Morado Circle on November 7th. Always eager to oblige, I’m posting this closer view of a vine that had attached itself to a vertical rock surface. The colors of the leaflets appealed to me, of course, but so did the interplay of the shadows those leaflets cast.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 15, 2014 at 1:14 PM

Reliable Virginia creeper

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Virginia Creeper Turning Colors 4264

Austin has hardly any large-scale fall foliage like that of the Northeast where I grew up, but I’ve come to rely on a few native species here for smaller blazes of color toward the end of the year. One of those color-providers is the vine that botanists call Parthenocissus quinquefolia and that most ordinary folks call Virginia creeper or five-leaf creeper. On the afternoon of November 7th I made like a creeper and scampered up a small embankment along Morado Circle in my neighborhood; once there, I aimed my camera mostly vertically and photographed this vine that had crept up a tree and thanks to a vivid change of colors stood out more conspicuously than it had at any time earlier in the year.

If you’re interested in photography as a craft, you’ll find that point 12 in About My Techniques is especially relevant to this photograph.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 15, 2014 at 5:00 AM

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