Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Prairie fleabane

with 32 comments

Here’s a little wildflower you’ve never before seen in these pages: it’s Erigeron modestus, called prairie fleabane or plains fleabane. This one was part of a group growing on the property of native plant aficionados Dale and Pat Bulla in northwest Austin on March 5.

Although the photographs in this blog often show subjects in sharp detail, here I took a different approach and focused on the front-most ray flowers, knowing that the rays farther back and all of the yellow disk flowers would come out with less detail or hardly any at all: let’s hear it for impressionism. Those among you who are further interested in photography as a craft can verify that points 1, 2, 5, 12 and 20 in About My Techniques apply to today’s image.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 15, 2012 at 5:46 AM

32 Responses

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  1. This is a lovely photo, colorful and interesting, and it’s a technique I often use with small flowers or they’re lost in their background. Our fleabane is pure white but as the flowers age they are tinged with pink/violet. I love them both ways.


    March 15, 2012 at 6:24 AM

    • It’s good to hear that you’ve made use of this technique too. For me it’s important to get close to small subjects, of which there are so many. (Sorry for the late posting of your comment and my reply: WordPress sent your comment to the spam folder by mistake.)

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 15, 2012 at 10:35 PM

  2. Je connais, une variété de Pâquerette. La plus commune avec les pissenlits dans nos champs. Elles fleuriront d’ici un mois ou deux selon la météo.


    March 15, 2012 at 6:42 AM

    • Il fallait que je cherche “pâquerette”. Voici ce que dit Wikipédia de Bellis perennis: “Haute de dix à vingt centimètres; les fleurs naissent sur des inflorescences appelées capitules : celles du pourtour, que l’on croit à tort être des pétales, appelées fleurs ligulées, parce qu’elles ont la forme d’une languette, ou demi-fleurons, sont des fleurs femelles, dont la couleur varie du blanc au rose plus ou moins prononcé ; celles du centre, jaunes, appelées fleurs tubuleuses, parce que leur corolle forme un tube, ou fleurons, sont hermaphrodites. Ainsi, contrairement à l’opinion populaire, ce qu’on appelle une « fleur » de pâquerette n’est en réalité pas « une » fleur mais un capitule portant des fleurs très nombreuses.”

      Quant au pissenlit: “Pissenlit (ou dent-de-lion) est un nom vernaculaire ambigu en français. On appelle «pissenlit » diverses plantes à tige généralement creuse et dont l’inflorescence est un capitule plat et jaune. Ce capitule est généralement à fleurons ligulés. C’est la couleur jaune du capitule et sa forme plate qui déterminent généralement l’emploi du nom « pissenlit » pour désigner telle ou telle espèce. Les pissenlits «véritables» sont des espèces du genre Taraxacum. Des espèces d’autres genres de la famille des Asteraceae peuvent prendre néanmoins ce nom vernaculaire.”

      Mon Petit Robert indique que le nom est par allusion aux vertus diurétiques de la plante.

      Aux EEUU le dent-de-lion est très commun, un cadeau de l’Europe. J’en ai déjà vu beaucoup cette année.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 15, 2012 at 7:10 AM

  3. As I drove up to Dallas with my mother, we saw slopes and slopes of a yellow flower with the bluebonnets emerging in between. What could that be? I know it’s not much to go on…but so curious.


    March 15, 2012 at 6:42 AM

    • I’m afraid it’s Rapistrum rugosum, a highly invasive alien species that’s rampant this spring. As you said, I’ve seen it mixed in with and even dominating the bluebonnets at various places along Mopac this spring.

      One native yellow flower that’s out now is greenthread, Thelesperma filifolium, which I photographed some of yesterday.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 15, 2012 at 7:18 AM

  4. I like how you use the focus in this photo. Gives the flower some more personality maybe, at least softens the flower. Nice!


    March 15, 2012 at 6:49 AM

  5. The sumptuously blurred background and stem do look like a painting. From the name, I was expecting some dull, small flower. Not so.

  6. I love the soft focus of this image – it’s really beautiful


    March 15, 2012 at 7:20 AM

  7. I’ve been really enjoying the colors you’ve been presenting lately. 🙂


    March 15, 2012 at 7:43 AM

  8. Love, Love the colors!


    March 15, 2012 at 10:50 AM

  9. This is a new one for me. I grew up in Oklahoma, but was not as aware of the beauty of wildflowers as I am now. We have a couple of fleabanes here in Maine, but nothing as showy as that.


    March 15, 2012 at 3:55 PM

    • I’d say this one is at its most colorful in the stage that you see here. It’ll open into a small daisy with white rays, and the purple will no longer be apparent when th flower is viewed from above.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 15, 2012 at 5:59 PM

  10. I like this approach to the focus–let’s hear it for photographic impressionism!

    Susan Scheid

    March 15, 2012 at 4:02 PM

    • I’m glad you like this, Susan. I try lots of approaches, but this is one I keep coming back to.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 15, 2012 at 6:06 PM

  11. I like the change in this picture.
    The focus is amazing, and the contrast is impressive.
    Nicely done Steve!

    Pablo Buitrago

    March 15, 2012 at 5:03 PM

    • Yes, a change of pace is good. The translucency of the rays added a lot to the overall effect.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 15, 2012 at 6:07 PM

  12. Perfection!


    March 15, 2012 at 8:05 PM

  13. Beautiful. It almost looks as though it’s lit from within.

    Between Houston and Beaumont, the Indian Paintbrush are thick, in fields as well as roadside ditches, and they’re looking especially vibrant.


    March 17, 2012 at 9:22 PM

    • Thanks. That effect of being lit from within is what grabbed me.

      I saw my first Indian paintbrushes of the season north of Austin today, and I even photographed a few. Although they were vibrant, they weren’t as thick as the ones you describe, but I hope they’ll still get that way. What was unusual about the ones I saw was that their color varied quite a bit, with some being orange or pink rather than the usual red.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 17, 2012 at 11:37 PM

  14. Really nice. I like the depth of field you gave to the composition (technique 20?). Also like your system of reference to these techniques. I may adopt a similar approach, someday. Much convenient to explain without repeating yourself over and over again.


    March 18, 2012 at 12:00 PM

    • Yes, technique 20 indeed. I’m glad you like the results in this case—and the system for easy reference to common techniques that recur. For years I thought about creating a similar system for designating common mathematical errors so that I wouldn’t have to write so much when correcting students’ math tests, but I never implemented it. Think of the hundreds and hundreds of times I had to point out that (a + b) squared ≠ a squared + b squared!

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 18, 2012 at 12:10 PM

  15. beautiful blog, great nature photos!


    April 4, 2012 at 8:41 AM

  16. […] central Texas I’m used to seeing—and you’ve already seen—prairie fleabane, Erigeron modestus, which grows individually or in small groups. What a contrast […]

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