Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Silverpuff living within its constraints

with 23 comments

Click for greater clarity.

Click for greater clarity and size.

Still another fuzzy thing I found at the Bullas’ place on February 24 was silverpuff, a small wildflower in the genus Chaptalia. Most of the ones I see around Austin keep their flower heads constrained in the way you see here, but somehow, as closed as they remain, they still manage to get themselves pollinated.

In addition to the felt-like texture, notice how many pastel colors there are in this inch-long flower head: green, purple, reddish-violet, and brown. For an explanation of the black background, which is completely natural, see point 4 in About My Techniques.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 7, 2013 at 6:14 AM

23 Responses

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  1. Beautiful Steve! Do you not use a small piece of black fabric in the wild??

    Tina Schell

    March 7, 2013 at 7:27 AM

    • Thanks, Tina. I’m aware of the technique of using an artificial backdrop, especially a dark one to isolate a subject, but I don’t recall ever having done that. Sometimes, as in this picture and the ones linked to in point 4 of About My Techniques, I’ve gotten the same effect naturally as a by-product of the fact that a camera’s sensor is much less sensitive than the human eye.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 7, 2013 at 7:38 AM

  2. Lovely! there is also movement in this photo, i imagine it swaying in the wind.

    Bonnie Michelle

    March 7, 2013 at 7:48 AM

    • Many of the days here over the past few weeks have been breezy, and I’ve sometimes had to use higher than usual shutter speeds to get sharp pictures. In this case, though, I don’t think there was much wind, and I see that I used a shutter speed of 1/400 sec., which is only a little higher than I would normally set the camera with my 100mm macro lens. (The closer you get with a macro lens, the more your subject seems to move around.) But all that is techno talk, and I’m happy that you feel moved by the resulting image.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 7, 2013 at 8:02 AM

  3. Great Blog and beautiful photos. Being new to Texas and enjoying photographing flowers myself, it’s great to learn what some of them are. I’m lucky to live next to the Mueller Prarie,so will now know what i’m looking at (sometimes) Thanks for making some of the beauty of the world available to so many.


    March 7, 2013 at 10:01 AM

    • Thanks and thanks. Living as you do by the Mueller Prairie, you can indeed learn to identify many of its native plants. If you use the box in the upper right part of the page and search for Mueller, you’ll see what plants I’ve featured from there in the last couple of years.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 7, 2013 at 11:07 AM

  4. Love the movement and colors in your capture:)


    March 7, 2013 at 10:54 AM

  5. Thanks for giving this flowerhead its day in the “sun.” Love the tie-dye effect of the colors.


    March 7, 2013 at 10:57 AM

    • Good connection: I would never have thought about tie-dyed clothing. Maybe someone (you?) can make a garment that looks like this.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 7, 2013 at 11:13 AM

  6. I love those mixed pastels. We have a few like this in PA that never open like a flower, but the seed head opens out like a dandelion.


    March 7, 2013 at 12:36 PM

  7. Those muted colors are lovely. I always struggle to get that in my photos.


    March 7, 2013 at 1:18 PM

    • Without my macro lens I couldn’t have gotten close enough to see those subtle details.

      On the other hand, as a painter you have a freedom I don’t, namely to choose whatever pretty colors you want, as in:

      No photograph per se will ever look like that.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 7, 2013 at 1:58 PM

  8. […] you see what was obviously a close encounter of that second kind. Like the previous photograph of a constricted Chaptalia flower head, this one came from a February 24th session at Pat and Dale Bulla’s native plant […]

  9. Well, look here. I just commented on the purpose of the fuzziness of the Mexican olive, and here’s another fuzzy plant. I just did a search of your site using “fuzzy” as my keyword, and got a passel of enjoyment (as we say) looking at all the fuzzy plants.

    Here’s my untested hypothesis for the morning: I’ll bet that a study of natives in South Florida wouldn’t turn up as many fuzzy plants. If the fuzziness is an adaptation for retaining moisture, it shouldn’t show up as much in wetter climes. (Unless, of course, there’s a secondary function.) Interesting stuff!


    March 9, 2013 at 9:21 AM

    • The search function confirmed what you felt, that I’m fond of photographing fuzzy things (mostly from the plant kingdom, but I’ve included an occasional feather), and also of touching them, though I can’t convey that here.

      Your hypothesis about the distribution of plant hairs by climatic region is plausible, and scientists will like it because your hunch is testable. I wouldn’t be surprised if some botanist hasn’t already put it to the test. Perhaps you can put the question to people in the botany department at a university.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 9, 2013 at 11:12 AM

  10. Three fuzzy flowers in a row, and beautiful specimens all. I shouldn’t stay away so long.


    March 9, 2013 at 9:52 AM

  11. A gorgeous picture


    March 17, 2013 at 6:22 AM

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