Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Equivalents

with 18 comments

Buttonbush flowers; click for greater detail.

The talented and influential American photographer Alfred Stieglitz created a series of cloud photographs that he named Equivalents. I’ll borrow his term but put it to a different use in the service of linking yesterday’s photograph to today’s. If yesterday’s rounded flower head was old and belonged to a sunflower, the spherical one shown today was fresh and belonged to a buttonbush; the sunflower remains were scentless, while this flower globe was fragrant. Where the surrounding blue in yesterday’s picture came from the sky reflected in the water in a pond, the rich blue that you see here came from the sky itself with no intermediary. As I said: different, and yet for me equivalent, even when it comes to the shading on the right side. I’ve usually photographed buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) with the light coming from behind me, but when I was at Bull Creek Park a month ago* I could position myself only in such a way that sunlight on one of the prominent flower globes came strongly from the left side. If this were the moon, it would be slightly past its half-moon phase, with earthshine illuminating some of the details on the darker side.

———————–

* That was the same productive visit that led to pictures of a camouflaged insect, a roughstem rosinweed in full flower, and the exuviae of a cicada.

(Visit the USDA website for more information about Cephalanthus occidentalis, including a clickable map showing the locations where the species grows; that turns out to be more than the whole eastern half of the U.S.)

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 9, 2011 at 6:00 AM

18 Responses

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  1. In keeping with your theme of Equivalents I see:

    A beautiful waning crescent whose terminator line (where light and dark meet) allows more depth and definition of the finer details of your subject. Lovely.
    ~ Lynda

    pixilated2

    August 9, 2011 at 6:38 AM

    • I’m pleased that you find this lovely, Linda, especially as it’s a new way for me to depict this species. I hadn’t thought about the terminator aspect of the lighting, but now that I look at the picture with that in mind I do see more definition and finer details in that zone.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 9, 2011 at 7:00 AM

  2. Thank you for the link to Equivalents – I had not seen that collection. I really dig it too.

    I like today’s “alien moon” of a flower. Thanks for drawing our eye from the light to the dark.

    Dawn

    August 9, 2011 at 7:32 AM

    • I remember that you and I discussed one of Stieglitz’s portraits of Georgia O’Keeffe at

      http://dawnschuck.wordpress.com/?s=stieglitz

      and I’d been meaning to check to see if you’d said anything about his Equivalents. As for the buttonbush, I like your phrase “alien moon of a flower.” And when it comes to discussing the transition from dark to light, what better name could a person have than Dawn? (Well, okay, it could be Aurora as well, which was the Latin word for dawn ans has also been used as a female name.)

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 9, 2011 at 7:43 AM

      • Steve – thanks for the delightful comment about “dawn” – and I wish I could claim the other conversation – but it was a different Dawn. I am out here in WordPress land and you are most welcome to drop by any time.

        Enjoying your thoughts along with images. I learn so much from the generosity of others that share their visual explorations. Thanks.

        Dawn

        August 10, 2011 at 7:42 AM

      • All right, then I’ll parody Thoreau, who wrote that “There is more day to dawn,” by saying that there are more Dawns today.

        I’m glad you’re enjoying this blog.

        Steve Schwartzman

        August 10, 2011 at 1:15 PM

  3. That’s a beautiful flower, I can’t recall having seen anything like it.

    sanetes

    August 9, 2011 at 11:49 AM

    • I’m glad to be able to introduce you to it. I got to know it here in central Texas but then was surprised to learn that it grows in so many parts of the United States. That includes almost the whole state of New York, where I grew up, but I didn’t pay attention to native plants back then. In any case, it’s too bad I can’t convey the fragrance of a buttonbush flower head over the Internet.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 9, 2011 at 12:57 PM

  4. All the other flowers giggled when the buttonbush came out of God’s design workshop, but when God emerged a step later, smiling, they all shut up.

    sarah

    August 9, 2011 at 7:13 PM

  5. We have quite a few on our place. They fare well in damp/wet areas and this a good thing since we that is all we have in several spots of our property most of the year. They have a variety of bees that visits to harvest its nectar and then they fly off and help pollinate the plant. Cool plant. Thanks for sharing. I am new to your blog but you and I both can thank your being Freshly Pressed for that.

    The Jagged Man

    August 9, 2011 at 11:00 PM

    • I’m grateful to Freshly Pressed; I even wrote a note to WordPress saying so. Can you tell us where your place is? I only recently learned that buttonbush grows all across the eastern half of the United States.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 10, 2011 at 3:54 AM

      • I live in the heart of Kentucky.The buttonbush is very prominent here and such a wonderful little ecosystem of its own.

        The Jagged Man

        August 10, 2011 at 6:50 AM

  6. What a fabulous shot. I have seen these before, but never took a close look – I will now!

    farmhouse stories

    August 10, 2011 at 10:12 PM

    • Thanks, Cait. You’re right that it’s worth taking a closer look. Happy viewing (and don’t forget to sniff one of these fragrant flower globes).

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 11, 2011 at 5:34 AM

  7. […] Equivalents (via Portraits of Wildflowers) Posted by miararasputri in Uncategorized August 11, 2011 The talented and influential American photographer Alfred Stieglitz created a series of cloud photographs that he named Equivalents. I'll borrow his term but put it to a different use in the service of linking yesterday's photograph to today's. If yesterday's rounded flower head was old and belonged to a sunflower, the sp … Read More […]

  8. […] Equivalents (via Portraits of Wildflowers) Posted on August 11, 2011 by urbsform The talented and influential American photographer Alfred Stieglitz created a series of cloud photographs that he named Equivalents. I'll borrow his term but put it to a different use in the service of linking yesterday's photograph to today's. If yesterday's rounded flower head was old and belonged to a sunflower, the sp … Read More […]

  9. […] been following this column since its early days may recall the Yin-Yang, celestial orb picture of a buttonbush flower head, Cephalanthus occidentalis, from early August of 2011. This bush (or even small tree) thrives near […]

  10. […] here’s a closer view of a spent seed core from a buttonbush, Cephalanthus occidentalis. Notice the spiderwebs and what appears to my uninformed eyes to be an […]


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