Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Small palafoxia flowers and a goer thereon

with 23 comments

Tiny Dark Bee on Small Palafoxia by Tuna 4878

Click for better clarity, especially in the tiny bee’s minuscule hairs.

Also adjacent to a prickly pear tuna were some Palafoxia callosa plants, which are known as small palafoxia because their flower heads are small (no more than 5/8 in. or 16 mm across) in comparison to those of showier species in the genus. When I went to photograph a flower head on one of the small palafoxia plants, I found a more compelling subject, this tiny bee, and so I focused on it rather than the flowers, but you might say I was covered because the bee was definitely focused on the palafoxia flowers. The rosy color in the background came from the nearby tuna I mentioned, and the orange color came from the shallow round depression at the top of that inclined tuna.

This pastel photograph, like the last three pictures you’ve seen here, is from an August 22nd session on the right-of-way beneath the power lines to the west of Morado Circle in my Great Hills neighborhood of Austin. During these first four episodes of this right-of-way miniseries, the tuna has gone from focused subject to featureless but still richly colorful background. Two episodes remain, and though they’ll be tunaless they won’t be animalless.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 25, 2013 at 6:08 AM

23 Responses

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  1. Nice. I’ve seen enough of your images now Steven to appreciate the way in which you almost always go to great lengths to position one or another beautiful color as a backdrop to all of your otherwise beautifully-colored subjects. It’s as if you’ve positioned color cards behind your subjects. I wonder whether you do this consciously or whether you’ve just got a great sense which tells you that images constructed in this way look better than images constructed in other ways. In any case, yours are always beautiful studies in color. Furthermore … and this is coming your way from a guy who still doesn’t understand what ‘clash’ means … your colors schemes are always so well balanced. How is it that the background ALWAYS complements the subject? Is it YOU or is it NATURE? Perhaps both. Anyway … the effect is always pleasing to the eye. Finally … if you had the choice … would you go 55 macro or 105 macro? I can’t decide and have no opportunity to test either before a purchase – I’m relying on you! No pressure! D

    Pairodox Farm

    September 25, 2013 at 6:18 AM

    • Allow me to chime in on your comments of composition and color. He does it well. It is remarkable how those small worlds are present to the trained eye. They exist all around us. I’m glad he shows us.

      Jim in IA

      September 25, 2013 at 7:18 AM

      • Thanks so much, Jim. I was out this morning looking at more of those small worlds, which you’re correct to note are all around us. The showing can be as much fun as the finding and composing.

        Steve Schwartzman

        September 25, 2013 at 1:49 PM

    • I appreciate your appreciation, D. At least a dozen years ago, as I was getting heavily involved in photographing the native plants of my area, I came to realize that what’s in the background of a photograph can be as important as the subject in the foreground. In most cases, when you see a picture of mine that has as colorful a background as today’s, I chose a vantage point that lined my subject up with that colorful object in the background. Sometimes that’s relatively easy, as when I’m photographing a flower that’s close to or in a large colony of flowering plants; then there are many points of view—literal ones—that lead to a colorful background. In a picture like today’s, the tuna was close to the palafoxia, but a tuna is a relatively small object, so I had to aim pretty carefully to line things up. Especially in a difficult situation, I usually take a bunch of pictures, and that way I can hope that at least one came out well.

      I’m pretty accepting of color combinations, so, like you, I find it strange to think of colors clashing. As far as I’m concerned, the more colors the better, usually.

      As for the macro lens, I’ve gotten really accustomed to my 100mm, which lets me keep more distance from a subject, especially a finicky one, than a 55mm macro would. On the other hand, the 55mm lens is smaller and lighter. I really would recommend waiting till you can go to a camera store and get the feel of each lens. Or, if a mail-order company allows a return period, order both lenses and return the one you find less useful.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 25, 2013 at 1:48 PM

  2. Wonderful detail and color Steve


    September 25, 2013 at 7:24 AM

  3. A beautifully composed background. Had Blake seen this, he might have chosen different words: “…to see heaven in a palafox, and sunrise in a tuna”.


    September 25, 2013 at 7:28 AM

  4. I love the title as much as the photo…for real!!!!!


    September 25, 2013 at 9:02 AM

    • I’m as much a word person as a picture person, so thanks for letting me know that you like the title.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 25, 2013 at 1:52 PM

  5. Marvelous shot, Steve! I love the color echos between the palafoxia flowers and the tuna behind, but the hairs on the bee really make the shot. Wow!


    September 25, 2013 at 10:39 AM

    • Thanks, Lynn. I like your synesthetic notion of a “color echo,” and a wow is always welcome. Maybe “the bee’s knees” should be replaced with “the bee’s hairs,” but that doesn’t rhyme.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 25, 2013 at 2:02 PM

  6. Bees are such great acrobats. Acrobees?


    September 25, 2013 at 2:14 PM

  7. What a wonderful range of color! Clash? How could they? They all share red in common.


    September 26, 2013 at 8:21 AM

    • We’ll appoint you our color arbiter from now on, Lynda. I’m really taken with this combination of warm pastels.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 26, 2013 at 8:25 AM

  8. Gorgeous!! BTW…I’ve come to you by way of Alex Autin’s blog.


    September 30, 2013 at 8:28 AM

  9. Pretty hard to resist a “goer thereon.”

    Susan Scheid

    September 30, 2013 at 8:22 PM

    • Once again you’re in good company, Susan. In a comment above, SmallHouseBigGarden wrote: “I love the title as much as the photo…for real!!!!!”

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 30, 2013 at 9:17 PM

  10. […] color scheme, one in which pink carries the day. This is a larger and showier species than the small palafoxia you recently saw, but you have to travel a little east of Austin to begin finding it. It’s also different from […]

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