Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

From Nambé to Chimayó

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On October 18th at Nambé Pueblo I had a great time photographing the hoodoos and other formations. Then, as we continued north-northeast on Highway 503, which forms a portion of the High Road to Taos Scenic Byway, to reach Chimayó about 10 miles away, we kept seeing more parts of the Nambé badlands that deserved to pictured.

 

 

You’re seeing two of those pictures here. And who could resist the clouds
over the snow-covered Sangre de Cristo mountains off to the east?

 

 

  

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 3, 2022 at 4:30 AM

More from Nambé Pueblo

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On October 18th at Nambé Pueblo I had a great time photographing the badlands. Today’s first two pictures provide closer looks at hoodoos on opposite sides of the panorama that set the scene two posts back. The patch of yellow at the edge of the second picture was a cottonwood tree, Populus deltoides subsp. wislizenii

 

 

And here’s a clear shot of the hoodoo that previously appeared behind trees:

 

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 2, 2022 at 4:34 AM

Veteran

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For the many times over the past decade that I visited a flowerful piece of prairie on the west side of Heatherwilde Boulevard north of Wells Branch Parkway in Pflugerville you could call me a veteran of that field. I went there most recently on Veterans Day, November 11, and discovered that development had expanded since my previous visit. More of the portion that had until recently hung on was now scraped of vegetation, with only a fringe in the back still left. That’s where I found things to photograph on that overcast and about-to-rain morning. Probably most conspicuous were many scattered tufts of Clematis drummondii that had turned feathery, one of which you see above. I also noticed some seed head remains of common sunflowers, Helianthus annuus; on one I encountered a shield-backed bug (family Scutelleridae), seemingly Sphyrocoris obliquus. In spite of the bug’s species name, its “here’s looking at you” gaze was anything but oblique.

 

   

(Pictures from the New Mexico trip will resume tomorrow.)

 

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The basics of great education have been around for thousands of years; it simply doesn’t take tremendous amounts of money to teach well. In an English classroom, we rarely need more than a pen and paper and a book or an essay to get the job done. Small class sizes, high expectations for student academic performance and behavior, and diligent, invested, highly respected educators backed up by an administration who supports teachers over parents and students would fix so many of these problems. But until it starts getting better, fewer and fewer ambitious and competent youngsters will see teaching as an attractive profession. And so the teacher shortage problem is going to continue to get worse.

That’s the conclusion of Elizabeth Emery’s January 2020 article “The Public School Teacher Attrition Crisis.” Schools have indeed worsened since then, in part because of the pandemic but still primarily because of the terrible attitudes and practices of administrators that Elizabeth Emery detailed in her article, and that caused her to quit teaching in a public school after just one full semester. You’re welcome to read the full article.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 1, 2022 at 4:29 AM

Nambé Pueblo

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On October 18th we happily turned in toward Nambé Pueblo and its intriguing geological formations. As much as I would have liked to get close to them, they were on fenced-off tribal land, so I got as near as I could from the closest roads and zoomed in with my 100–400mm lens.

 

 

In the top picture, two cottonwood trees, Populus deltoides subsp. wislizenii, had turned yellow. (Click to enlarge the panorama.) I eventually managed clear shots of the hoodoo in the last picture but I still like the view of it hiding behind trees.

 

  

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A November 13th commentary discussed the way people add an unnecessary qualifier to a word. Here’s another example. News is called news because it’s new. In spite of that, news announcers on television now almost always call it breaking news. News flash: if it weren’t breaking it wouldn’t be news, so drop the breaking and just call it news.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 30, 2022 at 4:27 AM

We’ll take the high road

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On October 18th, having spent the morning hours in the mountains above Santa Fe reveling in fall foliage, we drove down into town, freshened up, and set back out again. This time we headed north, up US 84, thinking we’d go to Chimayó and perhaps on to Taos. After 16 miles, in Pojoaque, we turned right on New Mexico Highway 503, which forms a part of the High Road to Taos Scenic Byway, and went east toward Nambé Pueblo. It wasn’t long before we had good views of the snow-covered Sangre de Cristo Mountains. I believe the prominent peak is Santa Fe Baldy, which rises to 12,632 ft (3,850 m). Later we saw a cottonwood tree (Populus deltoides ssp. wislizeni) that had turned bright yellow.

 

  

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 29, 2022 at 4:32 AM

A day of indulgence

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I’ll beg your indulgence for one more post about the colorful aspen trees (Populus tremuloides)
we found in the mountains northeast of Santa Fe on October 18th.

 

   

I could keep showing pictures of them for days.

 

 

But I won’t. In the next post I’ll move on.

 

   

I owe that last picture to construction, which had a stretch of the road’s two lanes down to one. Cars going in opposite directions got alternating use of the open lane every 15 minutes or so. Since I was stuck there anyhow I didn’t have to worry about finding a place to park. I got out and walked around taking pictures, including this one where backlighting lit up the foliage.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 28, 2022 at 4:31 AM

We interrupt fall color to bring you fall color

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The interrupted fall color is from New Mexico; it will resume tomorrow. Interrupting it are two colorful views from Austin. For a couple of months I’d watched the fruit forming on the yaupon tree (Ilex vomitoria) outside my window. First it was green, then yellow, then red. Finally on the sunny afternoon of November 13th I figured I was ripe enough to take some pictures of it, which I did with my telephoto lens. Notice that not all the little fruits ripened at the same rate.

The second view is from yesterday along the Capital of Texas Highway in my hilly part of Austin. The picture shows a seasonally colorful colony of poison ivy, Toxicodendron radicans. As much as we may crave order, nature is often a jumble, and there’s no such thing as personal space when it comes to plants.

  

 

 

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Two generations ago, my father, an immigrant from Mexico, benefitted from programs that gave him access to job opportunities and scholarships that were not available to my mother, whose Ashkenazi ancestry had imbued her with lighter skin. My wife, who immigrated to North America as a refugee from Ukraine when it was part of the former USSR, was similarly excluded from work and educational opportunities due to her ancestry. At what point can we start to hold every person to the same standards, and seek to grant them access to the same opportunities—regardless of skin color, ancestry, gender, sexual orientation, or other immutable characteristics?

Discriminating against a person based on the color of that person’s skin upends this nation’s foundational tenets of equality, while sacrificing our humanity in the process. Hard-earned principles and freedoms formed over centuries through the democratic process should not be abandoned. Treating applicants as representatives of identity groups, rather than as unique individuals with intrinsic value, elevates institutional interests over individual rights. In turn, this promotes division, resentment, and dehumanization.

 

So wrote Bion Bartning in a November 18th article for FAIR,
the Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism.
You can read the full article.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 27, 2022 at 4:30 AM

Vertical takes on aspen trees

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On October 18th we drove up Highway 475 into the Sangre de Cristo Mountains northeast of Santa Fe in a quest for fall foliage, especially from aspen trees (Populus tremuloides), as you saw last time. Stands of bare aspen trunks also constitute a photographic talisman,* with seemingly every nature photographer under the sun taking a crack at them. Lacking long-term access to the subject, I didn’t expect to take pictures like the best of those. Even so, I came away with a view of white trunks that pleased me, one that differs from what I’ve seen; it leads off today’s trio. Most photographers frame aspen groves horizontally to include as many trunks as possible. I took some of my pictures that way, too, but in these three photographs I went for a narrow view to emphasize verticality. In the middle picture, notice (how could you not?) the way one evergreen stood out among the many aspen crowns.

 

  

In the third view, the day’s bright blue sky played an important role.

 

 

* The Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries defines talisman as ‘an object that is thought to have magic powers and to bring good luck.’ Now compare that with the much more elaborate definition in Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language.

1. A magical figure cut or engraved under certain superstitious observances of the configuration of the heavens, to which wonderful effects are ascribed; or it is the seal, figure, character or image of a heavenly sign, constellation or planet, engraven on a sympathetic stone, or on a metal corresponding to the star, in order to receive its influence. The talismans of the Samothracians were pieces of iron, formed into images and set in rings, etc. They were held to be preservatives against all kinds of evils.

Talismans are of three kinds, astronomical, magical and mixed. Hence,

2. Something that produces extraordinary effects; as a talisman to destroy diseases. 

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 26, 2022 at 4:34 AM

The day after October 17th

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October 17th was the only day in our 12-day trip that I didn’t take any nature pictures. We did cultural things in Santa Fe like visiting the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum and the New Mexico Museum of Art, both of which we walked to from our conveniently located hotel. We visited a former Austin friend now living in Santa Fe whom we hadn’t seen in two decades. We visited our used laundry and made it clean.

As if to compensate for the photographic day off, on October 18th, which happened to be the Lady Eve’s birthday, I had one of the busiest and best photographic days of this trip or any other. Although in the 1970s I’d spent weeks in the Santa Fe area, neither then nor on brief visits in later decades do I recall ever having driven up Hyde Park Rd. (Highway 475) into the Sangre de Cristo Mountains northeast of the city, where people go skiing in the winter. That’s where we spent our morning, and a glorious morning it was.

As the road climbed we began to see isolated aspens (Populus tremuloides) or small groups of them whose leaves had turned their famous yellow. The top picture, taken during a brief stop at Hyde Memorial State Park, is an example of that.

And then we drove higher and eventually got to a place where suddenly a whole mounded hillside of yellow-leaved aspens loomed into view, as the second photograph shows.

 

 

For a different sort of “mound,” consider the frozen puddle
I found at my feet during one photo stop in the mountains.

 

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 25, 2022 at 4:30 AM

Second encounter with fall foliage

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October 16th in northern New Mexico was overcast and sometimes rainy. Arriving in Santa Fe hours too early for our hotel room to be ready, we drove north of the town on US 84 to see what interesting things we might find. In the vicinity of Tesuque Pueblo colorful fall trees, mostly but not only cottonwoods (Populus deltoides subsp. wislizenii), made their presence known.

 

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 24, 2022 at 2:01 AM

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