Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography


with 71 comments

Analoe Lizard with Red Dewlap on Branch 4079

On the afternoon of May 2, in preparation for a public nature walk in Great Hills Park the following Saturday morning, I walked through a portion of the park and jotted down the names of the prominent native wildflowers I saw so I could list them in a handout for the people who would attend. At one point I encountered a yellow-crowned night heron, just as I had on January 19, but this time my movement startled it and it flew away before I had time to take a single picture.

When I’d mostly finished my note-taking and was walking back toward the trailhead I’d entered the park from, I caught a glimpse of a green anole lizard, Anolis carolinensis, near the tip of a dead branch. I hadn’t seen one of these slender lizards for quite a while and hadn’t photographed one for years, so I set down my camera bag, put on my longest lens, and settled in to see what I could do.

My first pictures were so-so, but gradually I moved a little closer, and the anole began to display, perhaps because it felt I was encroaching on its territory. From then on, my challenge was to get pictures of the anole with its red dewlap extended—not an easy task, because the lizard kept its colorful flap of skin out for only a few seconds at a time before withdrawing it. As I took pictures the anole changed position occasionally, sometimes holding itself with its head up and other times reversing position and ending with its head down. The downward stance gave me an advantage I’d never had before, because in that position the dewlap just happened to be lit from behind by sunlight coming through the trees in front of me. That accounts for the unusually bright red-orange that you see here.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 18, 2012 at 5:40 AM

71 Responses

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  1. Magnifique… ! 🙂


    May 18, 2012 at 5:51 AM

  2. Wow, what an incredibly perfect shot!! Patience is everything with shots like this isn’t it? Great job 🙂


    May 18, 2012 at 5:53 AM

    • Thanks, Cindy. I didn’t initially get as close as I wanted because I didn’t want to scare off the anole. Luckily it stayed put as I slowly got closer

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 18, 2012 at 6:28 AM

  3. Wow! Great picture! Looks like a mini dinosaur, especially when the pic is enlarged.

    Cindy Hoyt

    May 18, 2012 at 5:55 AM

  4. Reblogged this on Cavalars.

    Cavalars Blog

    May 18, 2012 at 5:58 AM

  5. It is beautiful and you have captured it perfectly. Wow! ~ Lynda


    May 18, 2012 at 6:17 AM

    • Wow: yours is the third wow so far, Lynda. I can’t remember if any other picture in these pages has elicited so many so quickly. It’s clear that people like this little critter.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 18, 2012 at 6:40 AM

  6. Truly a rare incredible shot, and well worth all the less-than-perfect ones!


    May 18, 2012 at 6:37 AM

    • While a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, a sequence of similar photographs is as strong as its best shot—provided the photographer only shows the best one.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 18, 2012 at 6:53 AM

  7. Magnifique photo et magnifique lézard. Avec de telles couleurs, il doit s’agir d’un mâle 😉


    May 18, 2012 at 6:38 AM

    • Val notes that with colors like these we must be dealing with a male. The male photographer says “bien sûr,” of course.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 18, 2012 at 6:50 AM

  8. Amazing! Incredible details and beautiful colors. 🙂


    May 18, 2012 at 6:38 AM

  9. WOW! Fantastic shot. Persistence and patience pays off.


    May 18, 2012 at 7:10 AM

    • At least there was a payoff with the anole. That compensated me for the heron that flew away before I could take a single picture.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 18, 2012 at 7:27 AM

  10. Steve, another captivating image–what a fabulous specimen of nature, Sally


    May 18, 2012 at 7:52 AM

  11. wow! yes, great detail and color. 🙂 I’m sure I said it before, but I do so enjoy the critters, bugs, and birds. 🙂


    May 18, 2012 at 7:52 AM

    • I believe you did say that. I haven’t counted, but I think I’ve managed to include some sort of critter once every week or two

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 18, 2012 at 1:01 PM

  12. To this point, the caterpillar with the munchies had been my favorite photo. Now, he has some competition. This little fellow is so appealing – those lenses of yours surely do give us magnificent views. I’m surrounded by these critters, but never, ever could have seen such detail on my own.

    They do extend their dewlaps both to attract the girl-lizards and to lay claim to territory. The National Zoo site says they’ll sometimes turn sideways when they feel threatened, just to make themselves seem larger. Good for the photographer!

    Because they also change color, like a chameleon, I often see them as black, gray and brown mottled, or brown, depending on where they’ve been perching – the landscape rocks, metal fencing, bushes and so on. Maybe someday you’ll find a group of anoles in a variety of colors – like finding the multiple stages of the goldeneye.


    May 18, 2012 at 7:52 AM

    • Most of the detailed pictures you’ve seen here have come via my macro lens, which lets me get physically very close to my subjects. In this case, because of the rough terrain between where I was and where the anole was, it would have been difficult for me to approach it physically—and even if I could have, I probably would have scared it off. In a situation like that a telephoto comes in handy. Even while physically some 10 feet away, I could zoom in to record the amount of detail in the anole that you see here. And as you said, the turning sideways certainly helped. As for a multicolored group of anoles, I’m willing, but I don’t recall ever seeing more than one at a time, so I think it’s a long shot (oh, punning me).

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 18, 2012 at 2:34 PM

    • Oh, and might you have a thing for green, given that that’s the overall color of the caterpillar and the anole?

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 18, 2012 at 2:50 PM

  13. Wow! This is an amazing shot! Beautiful colors, and so clear I could see the textures on his skin. How long did you have to wait before getting this incredible shot?


    May 18, 2012 at 8:20 AM

    • One advantage of digital photography is the time stamp attached to each picture. In looking at my data I see that I took the first anole picture at 3:54:03, and the one that appears in this post at 4:02:14, or about 8 minutes later. I took some others shortly before and after this one that turned out equally well.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 18, 2012 at 2:42 PM

  14. They are such great little posers! Mine was a bit busy getting lunch.


    May 18, 2012 at 9:09 AM

    • A good phrase: great little posers. Mine showed no sign of eating anything during the time that I was there

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 18, 2012 at 2:44 PM

  15. Wow, wow, wow! This is a stunning shot, Steve…took my breath away…wish I had shot it 😉


    May 18, 2012 at 10:31 AM

    • Your wows are numbers 7, 8, and 9, Cindy, and much appreciated. I hope you’re breathing by now.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 18, 2012 at 2:46 PM

  16. Beautiful… The glowing orange is stunning. Actually he is in a perfect Yoga posture… Perhaps he is a yoga teacher among the lizards… 😉


    May 18, 2012 at 12:54 PM

  17. This is an AWESOME shot! It’s tough to get a shot of an Anole without scaring it off, but the results are almost always incredible 🙂

    Chris Perez

    May 18, 2012 at 3:36 PM

    • Thanks. It sounds like you’re speaking from experience. I kept my distance to keep from scaring it off, as you said, and used a telephoto to compensate.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 18, 2012 at 3:39 PM

  18. Sort of a funny looking, dapper dude of a lizard – ha! Have a Great Weekend! Still on hatch watch with Mama Quail and her 18 eggs in our backyard:)


    May 18, 2012 at 3:58 PM

    • I like your description of this “dapper dude of a lizard.” I had only one anole, but you’ve got 18 + 1 quail; I hope you’re planning to take pictures of them.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 18, 2012 at 4:16 PM

  19. Oh, he’s adorable!! Just a like a character from a child’s book.. The cool thing about photography, is we see the one photo.. but you’ve probably got tons of other photos of this guy as well that didn’t make it to the post. Do you keep them all??

    Just A Smidgen

    May 18, 2012 at 4:27 PM

    • I guess I’m the child that the book is intended for (and maybe adorable, too).

      As for your question: if the situation is difficult I typically take a bunch of pictures in the hope that at least one will turn out well: in this case I ended up taking several dozen. Later, if I notice that a photograph is flawed I throw it away, but otherwise I usually keep everything, just in case. Sometimes I go back and discover hidden gems.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 18, 2012 at 4:48 PM

      • I knew it.. several dozen.. I thought I was a shutter-bug.. that is impressive. It must be difficult to choose only one then..

        Just A Smidgen

        May 18, 2012 at 5:04 PM

      • When there’s a likelihood that the subject is quickly going to disappear, I grab whatever I can get. Under normal circumstances, with plants, I often take pictures from different angles, with different things lined up in the background, with different lenses, etc., to capture different aspects of the subject. Sometimes it is hard to pick from all those pictures. Only a small fraction ends up appearing here.

        Steve Schwartzman

        May 18, 2012 at 5:24 PM

  20. Amazing shot, Steve.
    Wonderful detail and great focus.


    May 18, 2012 at 7:10 PM

  21. […] my other blog today I featured a green anole, which is a type of lizard found across the southeastern United States. Spanish lagarto and English […]

  22. Very stunning shot Steve! I love the great details. Perfect timing always plays a part in getting the shot doesn’t it? That light was perfect for this!

    Michael Glover

    May 18, 2012 at 10:09 PM

    • You said it, Michael: everything conspired for good here. If only we could get a picture like this every day.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 18, 2012 at 11:00 PM

  23. I’m a longtime fan but never commented before this trophy. It just tore a hole in my retina 🙂 Such a rare confluence of timing, light, position, and clarity! Congratulations,


    May 19, 2012 at 2:04 AM

    • Thanks for your congratulations. I hope the hole heals quickly enough for you to see upcoming posts clearly.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 19, 2012 at 6:46 AM

  24. Great shot Steve…the detail and color is amazing! Great find!!!


    May 19, 2012 at 2:10 PM

  25. Woww !! Red Card ! 😉
    Fantastic specimen and shot !


    May 19, 2012 at 4:25 PM

    • The lighting was optimal, that’s for sure. As for the red card, I hope it doesn’t mean I’m being ejected from the game.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 19, 2012 at 5:42 PM

  26. That’s a terrific shot!


    May 19, 2012 at 10:24 PM

  27. Spectacular shot, and I love the “back story” of what it took to get it.

    Susan Scheid

    May 20, 2012 at 8:16 AM

  28. […] my reconnoitering through Great Hills Park on May 2, about half an hour before I encountered the green anole that graciously put on a display for me, I noticed a funnel web in the low vegetation next to the […]

  29. That paid off well, it’s a beautiful shot!


    August 4, 2012 at 5:38 PM

    • Thanks, it really did pay off. I don’t know that I’ll ever get such good pictures of an anole again.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 4, 2012 at 6:29 PM

  30. […] in my northwest Austin neighborhood; this was the same productive walk that led to a picture of a green anole displaying its dewlap and a spider in a funnel web beneath its cast-off […]

  31. […] spot where I aimed in the same direction and photographed a similar translucence in the dewlap of an anole lizard last […]

  32. I came to this post after reading your rattan leaf and out of season sage posts. What an amazing shot!! I have tried numerous times to catch an extended dewlap as various lizards “posed” around here, but never did one come out as fab as this!! Wow!!


    January 20, 2013 at 5:36 PM

    • Then I’m glad I mentioned this in the post about the backlit rattan leaf. I’d tried photographing anoles in the past, too, but this was the best opportunity I ever had, and I made the most of it. Thanks for the wow, and let’s hope another anole opportunity comes your way.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 20, 2013 at 6:10 PM

  33. […] couple of years ago I showed a very different photograph of an anole, and one of the most commented-on pictures ever to appear here, which you’re welcome to look […]

  34. […] like when it’s green and displaying a bright red dewlap, you’re welcome to check out a classic portrait from 2012. I don’t think you’ll be […]

  35. Simply fantastic, Steve. I had never even heard of this creature before.


    April 24, 2020 at 1:23 PM

    • Texas and Oklahoma are the closest this lizard gets to Colorado, so your not having heard of it is understandable. The display of a dewlap is something to behold. Maybe you’ll see that in Texas someday.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 24, 2020 at 1:38 PM

  36. He’s wonderful!! I’ve never seen one. What a treat to see this one.


    April 24, 2020 at 1:54 PM

    • As many as I’ve seen over the years, this one was the best, especially because the backlighting enhanced the red dewlap and made it contrast all the more with the green of the lizard and the background.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 24, 2020 at 2:28 PM

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