Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Layered clouds over undulating mountains

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Hueco Tanks State Park, El Paso County, Texas; November 9, 2016.

They know how to do clouds out there.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 18, 2017 at 4:54 AM

Posted in nature photography

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Great blue heron on the Pacific coast

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I’ve seen an occasional great blue heron (Ardea herodias) in Austin, but the closest I ever got to one was at Muir Beach on the Pacific coast of California on November 1st of last year. Why the bird let me get so close, I don’t know, but I wonder if my being downhill from it made me seem less threatening. From a photographer’s point of view, my lower position let me aim upward enough to isolate the heron’s head and neck against the sky.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 17, 2017 at 4:56 AM

Beginning of winter in Austin

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Thanks to two bridges, on the first official day of winter (December 21) we walked a two-mile circuit around a portion of downtown Austin’s Lady Bird Lake. At Vic Mathias Shores on the south side of the lake I pulled out my iPhone and recorded this view of bald cypress trees, Taxodium distichum, turning their end-of-year colors. The tall, bare plants in the foreground are giant ragweed, Ambrosia trifida. How could I pass up a sky like this as a contrasting background?

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 16, 2017 at 5:02 AM

Cottontop cactus

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When I got out of my car for the first time in California’s Joshua Tree National Park on November 5th last year and walked into the desert a short distance, I soon caught sight of this red cactus, the likes of which I’d never seen. Neil Frakes, Vegetation Branch Chief at the park, later identified it as Echinocactus polycephalus, known as the cottontop cactus. Even if there was no cotton at this stage, the red was rich reward enough.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 15, 2017 at 4:57 AM

Sunset over the Guadalupe Mountains

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Not long after we’d left El Capitán and the sumacs behind us on November 9th last year, I glimpsed colors in my rear-view mirror that were not only brighter than those of fall foliage but also more ephemeral. I pulled over, put a long lens on the camera, and took pictures looking back while the light lasted. Notice how the stray illuminated cloud in the upper left partly counterbalances the dark profile of the Guadalupe Mountains at the lower right.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 14, 2017 at 5:00 AM

Sumac in the Guadalupe Mountains

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At the Guadalupe Mountains National Park visitor center late on the afternoon of November 9th I realized I had to give up on the idea of seeing the excellent fall foliage I’d hoped for. A ranger said that some bright color still existed in the park’s interior, but the sky was overcast, as you saw in the previous post, and not much daylight remained. As we continued driving east along US 62 headed for Carlsbad, New Mexico, a little color caught my eye, and when I pulled over and walked closer I saw that several sumacs (Rhus spp.) were the source. Adjacent to the sumacs were some composite plants that had turned fluffy; I never found out what they were. Near by were some scraggly dead branches that appealed to my scraggly nature.

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© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 13, 2017 at 4:53 AM

Guadalupe Mountains National Park

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This past November 9th was the next-to-the-last day of our great Southwest trip. Late in the afternoon we approached Guadalupe Mountains National Park, which I have the impression few people have heard of (in contrast to Texas’s only other national park, the well-known Big Bend). The greatest elevation in this park is atop Guadalupe Peak, which at an altitude of about 8750 feet (2667m) makes it the highest point in Texas. The National Park Service bills the Guadalupe Mountains as “the world’s premier example of a fossil reef from the Permian Era.”

Above is El Capitán, while below is a view off to the west.

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© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 12, 2017 at 4:41 AM

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