Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

A world in a drop of resin

with 33 comments

Click for more detail and greater sharpness.

Yesterday you saw a large ant that was happily free, but I also referred to a post featuring two small ants that met their demise when they became entombed in a drop of sunflower resin. Because I photographed the free ant way back on August 3 of last year, I decided to look through my archives to see what else I might have taken pictures of on that outing along Bull Creek. It turns out that another bit of resin, this time curiously shaped and positioned, had figured prominently in that August 3 session. As you see here, the drop was at the very tip of one of the sunflower’s long and still partly green bracts.

From my vantage point beneath the resin drop, the larger portion of it looked to me like a miniature globe of a planet with brown landmasses and blue seas—except that the blue was from the sky and the brown was from the drying bracts of the sunflower. Because the resin drop acted as a lens, the positions of things were reversed, with the brown mass at the top of the tiny globe coming from the earth-bound sunflower, and the blue beneath the brown “continent” coming from the clear sky overhead. There are likewise regions of blue and brown in the portion of the drop that extends downward, and if you’d like to see all these details more clearly, click on the icon below for an enlargement:

Of the roughly 250 photographs that have appeared in these pages so far, the last two have been among those with the smallest amount of area in focus. Yesterday it was just the ant and a part of the bract it was on; today only the resin is clearly focused, and that’s most likely what your eyes were first drawn to.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 19, 2012 at 4:57 AM

33 Responses

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  1. You have an eye for minutiae. Beautiful. Was this photo planned or was the subject found out after the fact? I have to share my primary teacher’s perspective here: The Dr. Seuss story “Horton Hears a Who” did come to mind when I read your title and viewed the little world balanced there on the tip of the flower bract. 😉 ~ Lynda


    January 19, 2012 at 7:16 AM

    • I wasn’t out looking to take a picture like this, Lynda, but when I saw that little drop of resin at the tip of the bract like that, and the miniature world in it, I was captivated.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 19, 2012 at 11:23 AM

  2. Just a quick thank you for your blog. I’m learning and loving it.

    Pat Bean

    January 19, 2012 at 7:31 AM

  3. Absolutely other-worldly.

    Bonnie Michelle

    January 19, 2012 at 7:42 AM

  4. Fabulous image, showing that you are among those that really see beyond the usual edges of our visual arena. The photograph is especially captivating for the reflections that are cast in that small world, as though a commentary on our very existence–our world within the entire universe of worlds, Sally

    Sally W. Donatello

    January 19, 2012 at 7:57 AM

  5. Beautiful! I love shots like this. Recently took some in ice crystals on tree limbs that similarly reflect a small world that I liked and am now looking forward to next time I’m in snow & ice so that I can try again.

    Anne Camille

    January 19, 2012 at 8:02 AM

    • I’ve been envious lately, not at all of the cold per se, but of the snow and ice that those of you who go out photographing in northern latitudes get to play with at this time of year.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 19, 2012 at 11:33 AM

  6. What an honor the universe has given you – a glimpse of the world through new eyes. Lovely lovely photo.


    January 19, 2012 at 8:15 AM

    • Thanks, Dawn. It was one of those close encounters of the photographic kind that I’m grateful for having.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 19, 2012 at 11:34 AM

  7. Water, resin, all those substances reflect the world from ther own unique perspective, kind of like us, yes?


    January 19, 2012 at 8:17 AM

  8. Wow! This fabulous and for very explicable reasons, INTERESTING (the vivid colors, the wondrous reflection, the spectacular composition. You’ll see why I’m particularly excited about it if you see my post today about some raindrop shots with some discussion (and a question) about why mine are “boring” (according to my partner). I think it’s through seeing what works that I’m going to get an understanding of what doesn’t. What a marvelous and serendipitous post!


    January 19, 2012 at 8:52 AM

    • That is serendipitous, and I’ll add that on a few other occasions I’ve noticed a simultaneity of posts when looking at other people’s blogs. I like the discussion of the pros and cons, the subjectivity versus objectivity, that you describe in your article (readers, you can click on the link three comments down). There have been pictures of mine that I’m fond of but that few other people seem to be, and then pictures where I’m excited and other people come away with the same excitement. It can be hard to know when to keep supporting a picture even when few others seem to appreciate it, and when to conclude that, for whatever reason, I was overvaluing it. I just started reading a book called Being Wrong, and maybe it will shed some light on the situation.

      As I said in my answer to Lynda, I hadn’t preconceived an image like this, but when I came across the subject I felt right away that everything was in place for a magical image. That said, I did take other variations of the view so I could see which one(s) turned out best. With something so small, there’s always the likelihood of error, and in some of the pictures the drop ended up not being focused sharply enough, for example. But one success is all it takes.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 19, 2012 at 11:57 AM

  9. Amazing, Steve! This is truly a beautiful shot, with excellent clarity in the resin drop. And the first thing I thought of when I saw it was a mini globe. Very well done!!


    January 19, 2012 at 8:56 AM

  10. […]  I just saw a great a shot over on Steve’s site:  https://portraitsofwildflowers.wordpress.com/2012/01/19/a-world-in-a-drop-of-resin/  I think that I’m going to figure a lot out by seeing strong examples of what actually does […]

  11. the world is a curious wonder. So nice to read about your excitement for life and the magic you create when nature meets your imagination. thanks for sharing


    January 19, 2012 at 10:37 AM

  12. Just Amazing!!!


    January 19, 2012 at 11:22 AM

  13. Another beauty. This one is so wonderfully evocative of Blake!


    The shot combines our natural inclination to see things within the framework of the familiar in order to identify them (seeing the resin drop as a planet) with the poetic tendencies that allow us to extrapolate from those first impressions to see something new in what *is* in front of us, something that Blake did touch upon in ‘Auguries of Innocence’ as well.


    January 19, 2012 at 12:38 PM

    • You read my mind: I’d thought about quoting Blake’s first line but never acted on that thought. Now you’ve saved me the trouble and even provided a link to the whole poem. Thanks.

      “Our natural inclination to see things within the framework of the familiar” is at work in language at well. For example, we speak of a head of lettuce, the eyes on a potato, a handful of possibilities, etc. But I’ll claim greater poetry in following Blake and seeing a world in a drop of sunflower resin.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 19, 2012 at 12:56 PM

  14. That is fascinating- I’m going to pay much more attention to the next sunflower I come across. We have a number of native species growing here; I was not aware they created a resin.


    January 19, 2012 at 4:16 PM

    • Let us know if you find any of your native species that exude resin. Until 2011 I think I’d noticed it only on the so-called common sunflower, Helianthus annuus, but this past fall I saw some on a Maximilian sunflower, Helianthus maximiliani.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 19, 2012 at 4:42 PM

  15. Seriously beautiful 😉

    Claire Takacs

    January 20, 2012 at 2:21 AM

  16. Hi Steve. The miniature globe makes me wonder what other lovely views are waiting out there, some of them never to be seen. You capture so many small miracles that otherwise people would not know exist. Jane

    jane tims

    January 21, 2012 at 6:55 AM

    • For each thing that I see, Jane, I’ve often wondered how many others I’ve missed, either for not being in the right place or for not perceiving what is right in front of me.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 21, 2012 at 8:42 AM

  17. This is very interesting shot and a perfect metaphor! I loved reading your exclusive description : )


    January 23, 2012 at 2:28 PM

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