Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Distressed sycamore leaf

with 20 comments

A distressed sycamore leaf; click for more detail.

As the drought in Texas continues, many plants are feeling stressed. In some trees, like the bald cypress featured in a recent post, leaves have taken on an appearance that might make people think we’re in autumn—if only the temperature weren’t around 100°F (38°C) every afternoon. Shown above is the leaf of a sycamore tree, Platanus occidentalis, that I observed on August 8 in Great Hills Park, a nature preserve that has an entrance conveniently located just half a mile downhill from my house in Austin.

By positioning myself so that the leaf was between the sun and the camera, I allowed light to pass through the leaf on its way to the camera’s sensor. In taking advantage of the leaf’s translucence in that way, I ended up with brighter and more saturated color than would have been the case if the light had reflected off the leaf. In this case, the hole in the leaf also allowed a glimpse of the all-too-familiar blue sky that has characterized the drought.

By the way: doesn’t the grid of lines in the leaf remind you of streets and roads as they appear at a certain magnification on a map at an online site like maps.google.com?

For more information about the sycamore, which is reputed to be the tallest deciduous tree in the United States, you can visit the websites of the USDA and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 17, 2011 at 5:50 AM

20 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Excellent capture Steven, so Texas is in drought with high temperature. Has this resulted in any fires?


    August 17, 2011 at 5:58 AM

    • Thanks, John. Good timing with your question; yesterday morning I picked up Austin’s daily newspaper and saw this on the front page: “LEANDER [an Austin suburb] — Fifteen homes were destroyed and 189 others were evacuated Monday as a 30-acre grass fire spread rapidly amid extremely dry conditions.”

      The county we’re in instituted an outdoor burn ban some months ago.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 17, 2011 at 6:13 AM

  2. Oh also forgot to mention I finally worked out how to link. So I have linked to your site hope that is OK.


    August 17, 2011 at 6:03 AM

    • Sure, and thanks again. I encourage viewers to take a look at John’s extremely close, finely detailed macro photographs.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 17, 2011 at 6:17 AM

      • I did go look and his work is beautiful and a glimpse into a secret world of detail.


        August 17, 2011 at 9:00 AM

  3. I have to say I love how you view things. I’ve thought this about leaves too. 🙂


    August 17, 2011 at 9:02 AM

  4. Wonderful road-map! Lovely detail, it’s such a shame that it isn’t under better conditions. I do hope that your drought conditions are alleviated sooner rather than later.


    August 17, 2011 at 10:31 AM

  5. The backlighting brings out the colours and details wonderfully. It does look like the map to some miniature city!

    Journey Photographic

    August 18, 2011 at 4:42 AM

    • So you see the map that Dawn and I have also seen. Welcome to the urban leaf club.

      I’m fond of photographing backlit translucent objects, at least when I can manage to keep lens flare out of the picture.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 18, 2011 at 7:02 AM

  6. Indeed, the leaf reminded me of a satellite view of land from space.

    Nice photo!

    Watching Seasons

    August 18, 2011 at 4:52 PM

  7. Lovely detail. I like the way you see beyond the subject being photographed. I like to think that bit of blue sky is the oasis of Austin, although the drought has hit hard everywhere.


    August 22, 2011 at 11:14 AM

    • Thanks for appreciating my way of seeing “beyond the subject being photographed.” It’s good that you can conceive that bit of blue sky as an Austin oasis in the drought.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 22, 2011 at 11:24 AM

  8. This is my first visit here, Steve, and I’m very impressed. This photo deserves a place on a wall in my house. Excellent.

    ken bello

    September 8, 2011 at 3:55 PM

    • Thanks, Ken, and welcome. Congratulations again on completing one year. I reached that mark last week on my language blog, but just passed three months on this one.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 8, 2011 at 4:30 PM

  9. Very inspiring. 🙂


    December 19, 2012 at 10:26 AM

    • Thanks. I should be posting another sycamore leaf photo at the end of 2012.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 19, 2012 at 10:34 AM

      • You are very most welcome. 🙂
        I’m looking forward to seeing it. I’ve followed your blog so I could catch it up later. 🙂


        December 19, 2012 at 10:37 AM

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: