Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

A sharper view of a sharp subject

with 20 comments

Click for greater clarity.

In contrast to the soft picture in the last post, compare this one from the same session on November 21, 2011. Here, with a different group of glochids, I used flash as a supplement to natural light; in that way I could stop down (to f/13, as it turned out) and get more of the details of the half-inch disk of glochids in focus. Notice that they have a rough surface, the better to stay in your skin and convince you to stay away the next time you go out wandering in their vicinty. Note also that the two long spines emerging from this areole have a richer redness at their base than the long spines in the previous view.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 9, 2012 at 12:38 PM

20 Responses

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  1. The detail here looks more like micro than macro! It is amazing, and somehow… alien?

    Very artsy, I say!
    ~ Lynda


    February 9, 2012 at 1:13 PM

    • Some people think I’m an alien, so that’s appropriate. And artsy’s not a bad thing to be, either.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 9, 2012 at 4:07 PM

  2. I stepped in a patch of prickly pear when I was little girl (someone had it growing next to their pool!) and I’ll never forget the pain of all those tiny little needles. Now I know what I was up against!

    Mind Margins

    February 9, 2012 at 1:38 PM

    • Yes, they’re so tiny in real life, but their pain and annoyance are in inverse proportion to their size. Sorry you had such a big dose at such an early age.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 9, 2012 at 4:09 PM

  3. I like this one, it looks like an alien birthday cake.


    February 9, 2012 at 1:45 PM

  4. Great shot…I can’t decide which version I like better!


    February 9, 2012 at 2:50 PM

  5. Both are very appealing studies, even if the experience of getting so close might not be so pleasant. Is your flash handheld? I have not been happy with the results I get from the D60’s built-in flash.

    Cindy Kilpatrick

    February 9, 2012 at 2:57 PM

    • Although I have an external flash and a ringlight, both by Canon, I don’t carry them with me unless I anticipate a need for them. (My camera bag is heavy enough already.) As a result, I rely primarily on the flash that’s built into my 7D when I need to supplement natural light.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 9, 2012 at 4:14 PM

      • I will just have to try harder then. Thanks!

        Cindy Kilpatrick

        February 9, 2012 at 4:30 PM

      • Flash can produce garish results, so you might experiment with dialing the flash down to less than its normal strength so it doesn’t overpower the ambient light. Good luck.

        Steve Schwartzman

        February 9, 2012 at 4:37 PM

  6. I’d love to see what you do to those cochineal bugs that grow on them. I used to dye fibers with those bugs and jabbed one of the big spines through my knuckle. You make it more magical (but still pretty deadly.)


    February 9, 2012 at 11:48 PM

    • You anticipate me, Nancy. I have a cochineal-related cactus post planned for next week as part of this prickly pear series. That’s if I can stick to my schedule; I photographed a few more spring wildflowers yesterday, and they may want to jump in. In any case, I believe you’re the first person I’ve ever encountered who’s used cochineal bugs, and who got them straight from the cactus. Sorry to hear about your knuckle.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 10, 2012 at 5:41 AM

      • My friend who I used to gather with dyed with them as well. She unfortunately had a funny story about the bugs. I told her to turn the oven on to dry them out and she set the oven quite low instead of the blasting 450-500 degrees I suggested. She called me distraught because the bugs were crawling out of the oven to escape the heat. I told her to crank it up and they did indeed die.

        They make a really beautiful red dye – as do the cactus tunas they live on. The cactus is not as stable a color as the bugs. They are related to the kermes bugs from Europe that also make red.


        February 10, 2012 at 6:37 PM

      • Thanks for your story and the other information about cochineal, Nancy. I didn’t realize that the tunas are also a source of dye.

        Steve Schwartzman

        February 10, 2012 at 7:38 PM

  7. […] is from the same session on November 21, 2011, in my northwest Austin neighborhood that brought you close-ups of spines and glochids last […]

  8. What a close range! Amazing to see : )


    February 17, 2012 at 6:53 AM

    • Things can look pretty different when you get in close with a macro lens. I like to do that.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 17, 2012 at 7:28 AM

  9. […] I recently found a possumhaw full of fruit, I once photographed this little white snail on the glochids (and one spine) of a prickly pear cactus. The date was August 15, 2011. The cactus is still there, […]

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