Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

A different view of flameleaf sumac

with 18 comments

Flameleaf Sumac Leaflet Curling 0946

Click for greater clarity and size.

On the overcast and misty morning of December 6th I took pictures along Great Northern Blvd. in central Austin of a prairie flameleaf sumac tree, Rhus lanceolata, that still had plenty of color on it. The light was low but I didn’t want to introduce the harshness of flash, so I ended up using a high ISO and a wide aperture to take pictures in which only parts of my subject were in focus. I thought these would likely be the last photographs I’d take of colorful flameleaf sumac leaves for 2012, but you may recall that December 25 provided an unexpectedly late chance to take more.

If you’re interested in photography as a craft, you’ll find that points 1, 2, 9, 18, 20, and the seldom-invoked 11 in About My Techniques apply to this photograph.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 28, 2012 at 6:21 AM

18 Responses

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  1. Hey Steven. I’ve missed your posts! I’ll have to go backward and play some serious catch-up (did I miss any spideys?). I hope you had a magical Christmas up there in the hill country. Our best to you and yours for the New Year. Cheers!


    December 28, 2012 at 8:49 AM

  2. I like the blurred background and a portion of one leaf in focus. The colors are really pretty.


    December 28, 2012 at 10:14 AM

    • Thanks for appreciating it. It’s the camera’s normal way of seeing, with one portion of the view in focus and other parts not. Our eyes see that way, too, but our brain fills in the missing sharpness and we think we’re seeing everything in focus at the same time. (People who wear glasses are aware of the illusion.)

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 28, 2012 at 10:19 AM

      • Yes, and I am one who has needed glasses for many years. It does hamper my ability to use manual focus on my camera. Once in a while I attempt it but most times my eye sight is not sharp enough.

        Good photographers use manual and that bothers me a lot that I can not. If it were not for auto focus I would be up a creek with no paddle. New glasses are in order for me so maybe once I get those stronger optics… I shall see- better, hopefully.


        December 28, 2012 at 11:43 AM

  3. Lovely contrast.. just read your comment and I wear glasses so I bet I’ve got the illusion!


    December 28, 2012 at 10:36 AM

    • I’m glad you like the contrast between the sharp and the not-sharp. I wear glasses now, too, ever since the lenses in my eyes grew stiff and would no longer automatically focus at all distances (and especially up close) the way they did for the first four decades of my life. I can’t wear glasses when I’m photographing, but I have my camera’s viewfinder diopter adjustment dialed up to the maximum, and I get by.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 28, 2012 at 10:44 AM

  4. You give us so much pleasure every day of the year. Though I often can’t keep up in real time, I always love it when I come to look. To a terrific New Year for you and yours–and the windflowers!

    Susan Scheid

    December 28, 2012 at 8:57 PM

  5. Just lovely soft colors.


    December 29, 2012 at 8:34 AM

    • Thanks for appreciating the image. It’s softer than most of the others I’ve shown of flameleaf sumac.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 29, 2012 at 8:58 AM

  6. Such a lovely, evocative photo. It may be that what Gordon Bok said about flowers applies to leaves, too, as this one seems to be bowing its head.

    It’s a pity we don’t know
    what the little flowers know
    they can’t face the cold November,
    they can’t take the wind and snow.
    They put their glories all behind them,
    bow their heads and let it go,
    but you know they’ll be there shining in the morning.


    December 30, 2012 at 9:04 AM

    • I’ll confess that this time I didn’t see any anthropomorphism. Austin rarely gets snow or ice, but many of the trees here still act as if it does, shutting down dutifully [there’s my anthropomorphism] for a time, though a much shorter time than up north. You might say that morning comes sooner here than in many other places.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 30, 2012 at 9:37 AM

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