Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Looking up

with 35 comments

Maximilian Sunflower with Wispy Clouds 8510

This picture, like the last few, dates from August 31, 2012, at the Doeskin Ranch, which is a nature preserve in Burnet County about an hour northwest of Austin. To take this photograph of a Maximilian sunflower, Helianthus maximiliani, in such a way that I could include the dramatic clouds above me, I lay on the ground and aimed my camera straight up at a flower stalk that was jutting outward. Because the sky was so bright, I used fill flash to lighten up the underside of the stalk and flower head, which would otherwise have turned out too dark and featureless.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 17, 2013 at 6:17 AM

35 Responses

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  1. Awesome point of view – I love it! And thanks for the tip about using fill flash in that situation because I doubt I would have thought of that :).

    photosfromtheloonybin

    January 17, 2013 at 6:25 AM

    • The clouds were awesome, so I’m glad that you found the view to be too.

      Dozens of the pictures I’ve shown here have been taken with fill flash, though I usually haven’t mentioned that.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 17, 2013 at 7:30 AM

  2. I was thinking: What, you got snow! But now I know. 😉

    bentehaarstad

    January 17, 2013 at 7:41 AM

    • Your comment is evidence for the hypothesis that someone who lives in Norway is more inclined than people in a warm climate to see snow in white things that aren’t snow. I wish I could see real snow by just lying down on the ground (something I do often enough when taking pictures). The last time we had snow in Austin was two years ago, and we were surprised because unusually cold temperatures let it stay on the ground for a couple of days before melting. Last year, by contrast, we had a winter without a winter.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 17, 2013 at 7:51 AM

  3. NIce photo of good ole Max- a fall bloomer that I really like. The clouds added quite a bit to the photo.

    petspeopleandlife

    January 17, 2013 at 8:24 AM

  4. Surrealistic specimen shot. Superb, Steve!

    Lynda

    January 17, 2013 at 9:01 AM

  5. I love the sky background, I’d love to try that.

    afrenchgarden

    January 17, 2013 at 9:05 AM

    • Give it a shot. It helps to have something to lie down on to mitigate the roughness (in Texas make that ferocity) of the ground. I always carry a foam pad with me when I go out photographing.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 17, 2013 at 9:20 AM

      • I remember your tip and I do the same now but more because it is so wet at the moment, thanks.

        afrenchgarden

        January 17, 2013 at 9:39 AM

        • I’ve used my pad to lie on damp ground, too. That’s less common here than all sorts of prickly things, but it does occur.

          Steve Schwartzman

          January 17, 2013 at 9:52 AM

      • Many a time I’ve wished I had a foam pad. The ground here in the Arkansas Ozarks is also not noted for being smooth and soft. During most of the year, ticks and/or chiggers would also be a consideration. Oh, well, no one ever said photography was not without its “dangers”. 🙂

        Love the perspective of this photo. Great work.

        Marvin Smith

        January 17, 2013 at 11:27 AM

        • You mentioned the single biggest reason for me to carry my foam pad with me: chiggers. They’re a real nuisance in central Texas for at least half the year. I can’t eliminate their bites, but the pad reduces the number of them. We definitely suffer for some of our pictures. On the positive side, our suffering sometimes leads to worthy pictures. I’m glad you like this one.

          Steve Schwartzman

          January 17, 2013 at 11:36 AM

    • I’m thinking a yoga mat; thin, long, narrow, and often with a carrier, would work really well in these circumstances.

      Joan Leacott

      January 18, 2013 at 8:42 AM

  6. Your willingness to experience discomfort for a great shot is well rewarded by the results. I wish I were as able to envision the final state of a painting before I start out.

    mrsdaffodil

    January 17, 2013 at 11:05 AM

    • I can’t say that I always know what I’m going to see through the viewfinder once I get into position, but one advantage that photographers have over painters is being able to try things out fairly quickly, take a bunch of photographs from different angles, and keep any that succeed. Of course painter have advantages over photographers: being able to record only what you want to, leaving out any distractions; moving things about for better effect; changing colors to fit your mood; etc. Each medium has its pros and cons.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 17, 2013 at 11:22 AM

  7. Superbe prise de vue Steve et j’aime beaucoup le fond.. il faut être agile pour faire des photos:

    chatou11

    January 17, 2013 at 11:11 AM

    • C’était surtout le fond qui m’attirait. Et oui, il faut être agile, mais il faut aussi être prêt à souffrir de temps en temps—ou souvent, hélas!

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 17, 2013 at 11:27 AM

  8. This flower is splendid ! It’s snow in the background ?

    GuillaumeGuillaume

    January 17, 2013 at 11:23 AM

    • You had the same idea as Bente in the second comment above. We rarely get snow here, and never in August, when the afternoon temperature is usually at least 35°C. No, what you see in the background is clouds. The clouds appealed to me more than the sunflower, which wasn’t the greatest specimen, but that’s what I had to work with.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 17, 2013 at 11:31 AM

  9. As more evidence for the truth of your comment to Bente about “imaginative vision”, I saw the background as water when I first looked at the photo. It took a few seconds for me to reinterpret the image and realize I was looking at clouds. And what fine clouds they are! It’s a beautiful sky, and a perfect way to highlight the flower.

    shoreacres

    January 18, 2013 at 8:37 AM

    • Another case of conditioning, I suspect, this time from someone who’s spent a lot of time on and near water. There’s also the question of expectation: water is normally down and sky is normally up, so something blue beyond and seemingly below a flower is more likely to be water. I enjoy playing around with reality when I can, changing viewpoints and making one thing seem like another.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 18, 2013 at 9:15 AM

  10. Such an interesting image… Love the contrast, and flower of course! 😉

    FeyGirl

    January 18, 2013 at 10:59 PM

    • I just looked at the USDA map, and although Maximilian sunflowers grow in almost every state, they’re not shown for Florida. Sorry, but at least you get to see them here from time to time, and this time even with an unusual perspective and background.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 19, 2013 at 5:47 AM


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