Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Autumn on the prairie

with 11 comments

Goldenrod, Poverty Weed, Broomweed 2712

Click for greater clarity and size.

This is what autumn looks like on the Blackland Prairie in northeast Austin. The most prominent flowers are goldenrod, Solidago altissima. The small yellow ones close to the ground are broomweed, Amphiachyris dracunculoides. The bushes in the background are poverty weed, Baccharis neglecta. In spite of these native plants’ different looks, all three are in the sunflower family, which is huge and offers lots of variety.

The site shown here was in the northwestern quadrant of McCallen Pass and E. Parmer Lane, and the date was October 10. In the following weeks the goldenrod in Austin faded, but then lots of rain revived or brought up smaller numbers of goldenrod plants, so we’re once again seeing some of those familiar yellow-orange tops here and there around town, including along one stretch of the busy freeway known as Mopac.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 14, 2013 at 6:01 AM

11 Responses

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  1. Don’t you love it when the clouds pose for you, as they seem to have here, or, come to think of it, maybe you waited hours for them to line up just right!

    Susan Scheid

    November 15, 2013 at 3:05 PM

    • In this case the clouds were already there, so all I had to do was pick a vantage point that let the flowering plants line up harmoniously with them. I respect photographers who wait for hours until conditions are just right, but I confess that I don’t have the patience for that. Fortunately for me, there are a lot of things in nature in Austin that don’t make me wait to get good pictures of them.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 15, 2013 at 3:12 PM

  2. We have many kinds of goldenrod here but not S. altissima – quite spectacular! Our goldenrods are done for the season, alas. I miss their golden presence.


    November 15, 2013 at 4:41 PM

    • When I visited eastern Pennsylvania in the fall of 2000, just a year after I got interested in native plants, I saw plenty of goldenrod flowering there, so I’m glad you’re well-provisioned with it. The altissima species really can be tall: I’ve photographed some where I’ve had to aim upward from a standing position.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 15, 2013 at 4:59 PM

  3. Your blue skies are amazing, I try to get them but not always can. I’ve been also doing lots of imaging close to the ground.

    M. Firpi

    November 15, 2013 at 7:37 PM

    • You’ve seen enough of my pictures to know that I often take advantage of those blue skies.

      Welcome to the League of Close-to-the-Ground Photographers. That’s where a lot of the action is, botanically speaking.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 15, 2013 at 7:50 PM

      • And a lot of clutter. And I don’t like Photoshopping so much but there is so much clutter with the foliage that I just have to tone it down.

        M. Firpi

        November 15, 2013 at 8:49 PM

        • By aiming upward I can often reduce the distracting clutter and sometimes eliminate it altogether.

          Steve Schwartzman

          November 15, 2013 at 9:17 PM

          • I know it works well for larger wildflowers, but for the smaller ones I do better with black. And I essentially get it naturally, I just hold the flower against a dark spot and there it is. I don’t Photoshop that at all. I get it naturally and I tend to like it too. I just darken here and there to get rid of distractions.

            M. Firpi

            November 15, 2013 at 9:23 PM

            • I also use the technique of lining a subject up with a dark background. With a bright subject, the camera can render the background completely black. An early example in my blog of that technique was:


              Steve Schwartzman

              November 16, 2013 at 8:06 AM

              • Yes, that is what I mean. When I can I put the blue sky in. I’m also using my pop up flash for filling in shadows or an old small Canon flash external unit I had stored and now I’m using again: the 270EX. It’s very small and weak but perfect for close-up work IMOHO.

                Caribbean Biodiversity

                November 16, 2013 at 8:56 AM

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