Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

A different white

with 23 comments

I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned that my Great Hills neighborhood in northwest Austin is an ancestral home to white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus). These rather small deer thrive in the wooded canyons that are a feature of this eastern edge of the Texas Hill country, but they come out, especially in the evening and at night, to walk through the streets and across people’s front yards in search of plants to eat. When I’m making my way through the woods in search not of things to eat but of things in nature to photograph, it’s not unusual for me to startle a deer and have it snort and run away.

Much less commonly, just once every few years, I’ve come across what you see here, an antler that a deer has shed. So it was on December 7, when I had mostly finished photographing the cold and delicate white of frostweed ice, that I discovered lying on the ground this cold but durable white emblem of a male deer. You are looking at the end that once attached to the deer’s head and that became visible only after the antler had fallen off.  At the bottom of the photograph you see the bifurcation leading into the two branches of the antler, which aren’t included in this abstract view.

If you’d like to read more about deer antlers, here’s an article and another article. And if you’re interested in the craft of photography, points 1, 2 and 4 in About My Techniques are relevant to today’s image.

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 16, 2011 at 5:15 AM

23 Responses

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  1. Brings back memories of those that I have been fortunate to find!

    Bonnie Michelle

    December 16, 2011 at 6:21 AM

    • Ah, so you’ve found them too. I wonder how common it is in areas where there are deer for people to come across one of them.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 16, 2011 at 7:08 AM

  2. Nice capture! I used to see them fairly often when I hunted (years ago that is); western Manitoba has an abundance of white-tail deer. In parts of Canada they grow to almost the size of Mule deer. This is a great shot of the head-end of the shed. Excellent details and nice lighting too! Cheers!


    December 16, 2011 at 8:42 AM

    • Thanks, Steve. It’s always pleasing to have another photographer appreciate the details and lighting of a picture.

      From what you and Bonnie have said, I guess fallen antlers aren’t uncommon, just uncommon for me. It surprises me to hear that white-tailed deer grow larger in parts of Canada; I don’t know why they stay on the small side here in central Texas.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 16, 2011 at 9:09 AM

  3. When I first glanced at the photo, I immediately thought: “Button”. Traditional southern German or Austrian clothes come with buttons made from slices of antlers. The ring at the top of the antler your photo shows is called “Rose” in German, just like the flower. Roses are used for elaborate carvings that can easily be worth over $100.

    I think a German or Austrian button maker would get a kick out of this white rose, because antlers here are usually brown outside and only light inside.


    December 16, 2011 at 8:45 AM

    • Thanks for telling us about the way buttons in your part of the world have traditionally been made from slices of antlers. I’ve heard the word rose used figuratively for other things (like the diagram at the base of a compass indicating the cardinal directions), but never for the ring at the end of an antler; I’m always glad to learn something new. If the light color on the outside of the antlers we have here makes them more valuable, perhaps German and Austrian carvers should get together for an antler-gathering trip to America.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 16, 2011 at 9:18 AM

  4. Such a lovely and mysterious photo. My first thought was “fungus”, but when I scrolled a bit and saw the bifurcation, it became an antler.

    In the country around Kerrville, it’s common to see antlers decorating fences or gates. I’d assumed at first they were hunting trophies, but in fact the ones belonging to people I know are found objects.

    I’ve never found any myself, and was forced to beg some from a friend for my pet squirrel to gnaw.


    December 16, 2011 at 9:29 AM

    • Thanks for finding loveliness and mystery in this picture. Because I knew from the outset that this was an antler, my imagination never had a chance to see it, even initially, as a fungus.

      Like you, I’ve noticed antlers decorating fences in the Hill Country, and like you I guess I’ve always assumed they came from hunting. If memory serves, the ones on fences are usually larger than “my” antler; maybe people only put up the largest ones they find.

      As for squirrels, I had no idea they’d be interested in gnawing on an antler. Good luck on coming across one yourself one of these days.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 16, 2011 at 9:41 AM

      • They gnaw on them for two reasons. Their teeth grow continually, and gnawing is important to keep them trimmed up. And, they crave the calcium and other minerals the antlers contain. Giving pet squirrels a fresh antler now and then is a good alternative to cutting their teeth. A very good alternative.


        December 18, 2011 at 6:37 AM

      • Thanks for the explanation. I can understand why giving an antler would be preferable to cutting—or trying to cut—a squirrel’s teeth.

        Steve Schwartzman

        December 18, 2011 at 7:02 AM

  5. This was amazing photograph… When I see it first time, I thought it was fungus or something like that. But by reading you, I understand that it was an antler… But on the other hand to be honest I haven’t seen it before… I only know from the pictures, etc. You really created such a nice image… Thank you for all these details, I learned so many things about deers… How I wished to find them in here too. With my love, nia


    December 16, 2011 at 11:03 AM

    • Thank you, Nia. You’re not alone in thinking at first that it was some sort of fungus, and the abstract way I photographed the antler could easily give that impression. I’m assuming you have some sort of deer in Turkey (but I could be wrong), and you’ve traveled in Europe, so it seems that one day you might luck out and find a fallen antler.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 16, 2011 at 11:17 AM

      • Actually, you are right there are deers in here too… Even near Istanbul too… Because I can read some signs on the roads, be careful there is deer in this area… But to be honest without a car, it is not easy to make this trip for deers… I should be lucky also for to find them… Anyway, Thank you again, with my love, nia


        December 16, 2011 at 11:31 AM

  6. You’ve photographed this to give it such beauty and elegance, Steve. A gorgeous shot, and I’m glad you said it was an antler, because like Nia, I thought it was one pretty fungus. 🙂


    December 16, 2011 at 12:44 PM

    • Beauty and elegance: I’ll take that, Katie. Thanks. You can see you’re not alone in thinking of a fungus.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 16, 2011 at 2:39 PM

  7. This image is a good representation of your ability to see in ways others do not. The angle and position of the shot made me keep returning and enjoying it more, which is a criteria for success. Great work Steve, Sally

    Sally W. Donatello

    December 16, 2011 at 2:27 PM

    • Thank you, Sally. I do strive to see things differently, both from the way others have seen them and from the way I’ve seen them before.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 16, 2011 at 2:40 PM

  8. Funny, guess I’m not the only one who saw a fungus at first glance. Somehow, I think you must have known that would happen. 😉 Beautiful form and color. ~ Lynda


    December 16, 2011 at 11:53 PM

    • I plead innocent to the charges, Lynda: I never imagined a fungus, though it’s clear from your comment and other people’s that many see this end of the antler that way.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 17, 2011 at 5:33 AM

  9. This is just wonderful! I’m so glad to have been led to your site, Steve, and will enjoy learning from your techniques, too. I hope that in the spring you can help me identify some Wisconsin wildflowers.

    Catherine O'Meara

    December 24, 2011 at 7:33 AM

    • Thanks, Catherine. I’m fine with techniques, but when it comes to identifying Wisconsin wildflowers, each region has so many unique plants that I’m afraid I might not be of much help unless it’s a species that also grows down here. But sometimes we have relatives that could give clues, so who knows?

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 24, 2011 at 7:43 AM

  10. […] 2011 I highlighted the part of the antler that had been attached to the deer’s head, so with this latest antler I’ve given you a different view. Don’t you love the bumpy […]

  11. […] picture of a deer antler was magical […]

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