Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Archive for January 20th, 2012

3-D in 2-D

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It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a man in possession of a single eye must unfortunately be in want of an accurate view of the world.* If we take want in its original sense of ‘be lacking,’ that statement is indeed correct: in a three-dimensional world, it takes two eyes to truly perceive depth. And yet we go on year after year taking pictures using almost exclusively our one-eyed cameras that compress a solid world into the plane of a conventional photograph.

I bring all this up because a flat image can’t to justice to the geometry of the mustang grape vine, Vitis mustangensis, that runs diagonally from the lower left to the upper right of today’s photograph. To say that a vine of this species becomes ever more woody as it gets older is an understatement; some aged mustang grape vines grow so thick that they are easily mistaken for trunks of trees, even large trees. The one you see here is on its way to that venerable state. If you try to follow the vine with your eyes, you’ll see that it emerges from the ground near the lower left edge of the picture; it goes to the right, twisting as it goes, until it’s over the large rock; next, it turns back to the left; then it seems to rise vertically for a little bit; finally it rises diagonally until it branches near the upper right corner of the photograph, with both branches further twisting until they ultimately go out of the frame at the top.

But now let me explain why the first paragraph is relevant. What you can’t tell from this two-dimensional view is that where the mustang grape seems to change direction over the large stone and double back to the left, it actually makes a slowly rising loop that turns a full 360° before the vine begins its steeper ascent. If you could see that twisting portion from above looking downward, it would appear to be approximately a circle. I know because I was there and saw it like that, and now you know too.

This photograph comes from the same January 13 outing in Balcones District Park that brought you the detailed view of a Texas red oak leaf.

For more information, and to see a state-clickable map of the places where the mustang grape vine grows, you can visit the USDA website.


* Some perceptive readers will have noticed a vague similarity of that opening line to the first line in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 20, 2012 at 5:01 AM

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