Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Staminate column like a candle wick

with 14 comments

As I mentioned yesterday, on June 23 I stopped by to take a first look at the prairie restoration I’d read was under way on the grounds of the Elisabet Ney Museum. There I ended up leaning over a low stone wall to photograph some turk’s cap plants, Malvaviscus arboreus, growing in a partly shaded area. The previous picture portrayed an opening bud, and this picture shows that when the resulting flower matures, there emerges from the narrowly open end of its pinwheel formation an impressively long staminate column, a typical trait of the hibiscus and some other members of the mallow family.

To get a picture in the low light, I opened up my 100 mm macro lens to f/3.5. In spite of that wide aperture, because the camera’s sensor was parallel to the flower’s staminate column, a surprisingly large part of it came out sharp in the image.

By a historical coincidence, in taking the picture shown yesterday and this one today, I stood in about the same location as the photographer more than a century ago who took the photograph that appears first on the home page of the Elisabet Ney Museum website. The building shown there looks largely the same, but I looked at the nearby turk’s caps rather than at the building.

I hope you’ve enjoyed these two days of saturated red. Tomorrow’s colors will be yellow and green, and they’ll frame a small but poignant drama of life and death.

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman


(Visit the USDA website for more information about Malvaviscus arboreus, including a clickable map showing where the species grows.)

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 6, 2011 at 6:02 AM

14 Responses

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  1. Your close up work is inspiring! I don’t have all the right equipment, but nonetheless try to achieve a clearer, and better composed photograph. Your posts are helping me. Thank you!


    August 6, 2011 at 6:35 AM

    • Thanks. I’m happy if my work can inspire you and other people. You’re correct that the right equipment is important; without a good macro lens I couldn’t take pictures like this.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 6, 2011 at 7:02 AM

  2. Love how you framed the magnificent details with the red of another bloom in the background. Did you notice the tiny dots on the lower right petal (if that part can be called petal?)? Aphids? Pollen?

    Awaiting yellow and green…


    August 6, 2011 at 9:04 AM

    • Thanks, Dawn. When a scene allows it, I like to line up the main subject with something in the background. Usually I look for something of a different color to create contrast, but here what was nearby was another turk’s cap, so I ended up with red on red. Yes, I noticed the little granules too but I don’t know what they are; at first I thought pollen or seeds. If anyone knows, please leave a comment.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 6, 2011 at 9:23 AM

  3. Beautiful composition. Excellent bokeh.


    August 6, 2011 at 12:52 PM

    • Glad you like it. I’ve sometimes said that the three most important things are composition, composition, and composition.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 6, 2011 at 12:56 PM

      • And when it comes to bokeh, I used up my play on words based on that term in the previous post, when I wrote: “As for the rest of the image, beaucoup bokeh, if you forgive that bouquet of French and Japanese.” But I’ll repeat it here, because one good turn deserves another.

        Steve Schwartzman

        August 6, 2011 at 12:59 PM

  4. This photo is amazing. I’m just starting out in photography so I hope I can take pictures like this soon. Thank you for the inspiration!


    August 6, 2011 at 1:17 PM

  5. Beautiful image!


    August 6, 2011 at 10:45 PM

  6. I have only just come across your blog. Your photos are so incredibly beautiful. This one, and the couple before it, invoke an almost orgasmic feeling in me.


    August 7, 2011 at 4:06 AM

  7. […] caps that I took on the grounds there in June and that I posted in this blog on August 5 and August 6. She invited me to display them at the museum as part of Austin Museum Day, and I accepted. To have […]

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