Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Two steps backwards

with 18 comments

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In the last post you saw how a single seed of an antelope-horns milkweed, Asclepias asperula, gets carried away from its point of origin as intended, but not always with the best of landings. Before that you saw an array of seeds and fluff in their last minutes of contact with the pod that nursed them. The chaos of that release is in contrast to what came before it, which I didn’t mention then but which I would be remiss in not telling you about now. The truth is that the seeds develop in an interwoven, tightly packaged, and quite orderly way. In this picture you see a drying pod and the breeze as they’ve just begun conspiring to turn order into disorder.

I took this picture on June 25, 2011, in the same meadow that got mowed to the ground half a year later but that recovered in the spring of this year. For those of you who are interested in photography as a craft, points 1, 2, 4, 6 and 18 in About My Techniques are relevant to this photograph.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 27, 2012 at 5:44 AM

18 Responses

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  1. Interesting detail on this shot – so unusual


    May 27, 2012 at 6:24 AM

    • One thing that makes the picture unusual for me is that the background is pure black in the upper portion and lighter below.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 27, 2012 at 7:07 AM

  2. These are things one does not see with the bare eye, and it’s so interesting watching the different stages of a bud, flower or seedhead. Great photo!


    May 27, 2012 at 6:52 AM

    • These pages
      Show stages
      Of flowers
      Of ours,
      Of our “weeds”
      And our seeds;
      Nature’s joy
      Doesn’t cloy.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 27, 2012 at 7:20 AM

  3. This photograph is brilliant Steve, it is an explanation in action. Goes way beyond typical photography. Thanks for this!


    May 27, 2012 at 7:54 AM

    • You’re welcome, Wild Bill. You have a great phrase there, “explanation in action,” one I think would serve someone well as a title for a blog.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 27, 2012 at 8:08 AM

  4. How well I remember the lecture I got as an over-eager child, wanting to pull out those seeds and let them fly. My grandfather sat me down with some pods and showed me that pulling on the seeds before they were ready often separated the seed from the fluff, making flight impossible. Patience, he counseled – Nature knows what she’s doing.


    May 27, 2012 at 9:06 AM

    • Thanks for sharing that lesson from childhood. Nature in Texas in 2012 has imitated the young you, producing flowers and scattering seeds before (and after) their customary time.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 27, 2012 at 10:22 AM

  5. Fabulous shot! Great details and lovely light. I will check out about your techniques next time I have a bit more time.


    May 27, 2012 at 11:22 AM

    • Thanks, Inga. The light appealed to me, too. The techniques will be waiting there whenever you have the time: let’s hope some of them prove fruitful for you.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 27, 2012 at 11:34 AM

  6. I used to break these open as a child when the milk would run out. I can remember how intrigued I was. My mother never liked cleaning me up, but seemed to understand the inquisitive act and didn’t scold me. Blowing on a dried dandelion was something quite different:-) Makes for an interesting image. (thanks for the correction on the quote author. never trust the internet w/o 2 sources)


    May 27, 2012 at 10:45 PM

    • I think a lot of children have been fascinated with milkweed, both the milk and the silk.

      As for the dependability of the Internet, even two sources might not be enough, unless they’re known to be reliable. I recently came across a quotation that had been wrongly attributed to Edgar Allen Poe on dozens of websites.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 28, 2012 at 12:28 AM

  7. Not being learned in photography, I offer a layman’s observation:

    I like the thirds of your photo, how the seedpod aligns in opposed corners, and divides the light and dark fields of the background. It is visually concise and lovely in its simplicity. ~ Lynda


    May 31, 2012 at 10:06 AM

    • I like your analysis, Lynda. There is something in photography called the Rule of Thirds, which you’ve picked up on intuitively. I’ve always had a fondness for photographs that reverse the normal order and have dark above and bright below.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 31, 2012 at 12:25 PM

  8. This is stunning! Never seen something like this! Nature…

    greedy soul

    June 3, 2012 at 6:34 AM

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