Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

One of three cacti

with 33 comments

Click for greater clarity.

It was March 2, and as I walked around the undeveloped area behind a small playground on Yaupon Dr. in my northwestern part of Austin, I came across something unusual: three species of cactus growing within an area of about a square meter. One was the ubiquitous prickly pear, which you’ve seen many times in these pages. Another appeared to be a Mammillaria. The third and smallest was the one shown here, a lace cactus, Echinocereus reichenbachii. None of the three species even had buds this early in the season, but I was intrigued by the radial pattern at the top of the lace cactus, which I emphasized by aiming the camera straight down and cropping the resulting photograph in a circle. The diameter of that circle represents a distance of about 3 cm., or a little more than an inch.

Those of you who are interested in photography as a craft can confirm that points 1, 8, 9, 15, and 21 in About My Techniques are relevant to this image.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 11, 2012 at 5:48 AM

33 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Wow! Love the symmetry.


    March 11, 2012 at 5:58 AM

    • Happy radial symmetry to you, too; I see that the Gravatar next to your name shows a circular flower head.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 11, 2012 at 6:42 AM

  2. Beautiful, life is amazing as are you!

    Bonnie Michelle

    March 11, 2012 at 7:27 AM

  3. I’ve largely given up commenting on your photos. Each one is a masterpiece, both because of your technical skill and also your ability to find the patterns that pervade the natural world. Commenting seems a little superfluous
    But this shot is stunning. The interleaving spines forming a radial lattice is beautiful.


    March 11, 2012 at 7:38 AM

    • Thanks for your kind words, Neil. I’ll admit to being interested in patterns for as long as I can remember, first in mathematics and language, then in the visual arts. Your description of “interleaving spines forming a radial lattice” is certainly apt, and my wife’s first reaction to this picture of a lace cactus was that it really does look like lace. The math part of my imagination appreciated the radial symmetry, but then the plebeian part intervened and saw toothpicks.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 11, 2012 at 7:50 AM

  4. Also this is reminiscent of a fullerene or buckyball. The layer next to the central hexagon appears to be formed of pentagons, as if, completed, this would form a tessellated sphere.


    March 11, 2012 at 7:40 AM

    • Ah, see, there’s the mathematics. Good for you for picking up on all those geometrical features.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 11, 2012 at 7:55 AM

  5. Amazing! Just to think, we would typically not even give this remarkable plant a second look. Thank you for bringing your vision to us!!

    Grace Duke

    March 11, 2012 at 7:41 AM

    • You’re welcome, Grace. The botanist will add that if you saw this cactus not in its current state but when it was flowering you would certainly give it a second look, because its flowers are quite attractive. Now that I know the location of this one and a few neighbors, maybe I’ll be lucky enough to see some flowers on them later in the season.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 11, 2012 at 7:59 AM

  6. Great! It looks beautiful and i love the symmetry!


    March 11, 2012 at 8:12 AM

    • That circular symmetry got me (I have a background in math). I’m pleased that you enjoy it too.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 15, 2012 at 10:44 PM

  7. Hi, Steve. I’ve just recently come across your site and started coming back just because I love close-up and macro photography. I’ve started reading about your techniques. Some I have tried and others not. I’ve already learned a lot from them and will be coming back often. Now I’m in a hurry to get out there and start taking more imaginative photos.

    laveta segura

    March 11, 2012 at 9:12 AM

    • Welcome to this nature photography blog. I’m glad some of my techniques have proved helpful. Happy picture-taking to you.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 11, 2012 at 10:05 AM

  8. Ah, ha! I recognized this at once – a rare response for me here. I have one of these little gems. His name is Godot, because I had to wait seemingly forever for him to bloom. You can see him in bloom here, along with his friend Godette. She’s the one with the spider-web-like bud covering that resembles your yarrow.


    March 11, 2012 at 12:29 PM

    • Happy moment of recognition! Thanks for the link to your post (and the link within that one to the previous one), which I’ll recommend to readers.

      As soon as I saw the name Godette, the shape and sound of the word made me think of the actress Paulette Goddard, whose names incorporate both parts of God-ette.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 11, 2012 at 12:47 PM

  9. The overlaying spines give depth, your circular crop makes it look like a sphere, giving the impression of one of those lovely blown glass paperweights. Your description of its size tells me that most of us wouldn’t have even noticed it. Glad you did. ~ Lynda


    March 11, 2012 at 12:31 PM

    • I’d been looking at this picture as a two-dimensional representation, but your comment about the interwoven spines and the circular crop let me see the added third dimension (which of course I knew was there in reality). I am glad I came across this little cactus, a species I don’t see that often.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 11, 2012 at 12:52 PM

  10. Spectacular–and I know very well that it’s your incredibly close observation that allows me (us all) to truly see this cactus.

    Susan Scheid

    March 11, 2012 at 4:38 PM

  11. I love how you’ve framed this~ it looks like a mandala.


    March 11, 2012 at 8:34 PM

  12. Hi Steve .. I love this lace cactus and the way you’ve photographed it. It’s one of those pictures that will stay with me for a long time .. a friend took me to a neighbour’s house the see an aloe – that totally represented Fibonacci .. it was just superb – that real life memory sticks with me.

    Now I must pop over and see your mandala .. cheers Hilary


    March 12, 2012 at 2:18 AM

    • Yes, the fabulous Fibonacci numbers. I counted the “spokes” in this picture and found that there are 13, which is a Fibonacci number. I’m pleased that this picture will stay with you.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 12, 2012 at 6:41 AM

  13. really awesome image! 😀


    March 12, 2012 at 6:02 AM

  14. Nicely done, like looking through a kaleidoscope.


    March 12, 2012 at 10:04 PM

  15. Hi Steve

    It is great the way you have captured the pattern of the cactus. I really enjoy the way you size up potential shots to get a different take on a plant. It makes for some really dramatic and interesting photos.



    March 13, 2012 at 12:13 PM

    • Thanks, Guy. I’m pleased that you like the different approaches I take to my subjects. I’m always on the lookout for something new or a new way of seeing something familiar.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 13, 2012 at 12:20 PM

  16. […] call it false garlic. As you can see, this one had sprung up adjacent to a prickly pear that was one of three types of cactus I found growing together on March 2. It reminds us of Dolly Parton’s adage that […]

  17. Wow, fantastic perspective, Steven.

    Mufidah Kassalias

    April 8, 2012 at 9:45 PM

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 )

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: