Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Ouachita National Forest

with 32 comments

Fall Foliage in Ouachita National Forest 8931

On the way back to Austin from northwestern Arkansas we drove south along US 270 and then US 259 through parts of the Ouachita National Forest in far eastern Oklahoma.

[Switch to the present descriptive tense.] Shortly after I pull over into the wide roadside parking area another car does the same, and five people who seem to be from India get out and start taking pictures of each other. You know the drill: everybody minus one lines up side by side—never against the best background—and the photographer stands so far away from them that they’ll be insignificant in the pictures. Perpetually teacherish me calls out to them and points toward a place with more colorful leaves: “Over here, not over there.” I go on and take some more photos of my own, and I guess it looks like I know what I’m doing because soon the group comes up to me and one of the men holds out his point-and-shoot camera and asks if I’ll use it to take a picture of all of them. Sure, I say, taking the camera and sizing up the scene, and then they’re flabbergasted when I lie down on the ground nearby to get a good angle of them against the colorful leaves.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 7, 2013 at 5:55 AM

32 Responses

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  1. Hahahaha! Cool!

    Brenda Jones

    December 7, 2013 at 7:49 AM

  2. There have been many times when I offered to take a group picture so they could all be in it. But, I have never gone prone for them.

    Jim in IA

    December 7, 2013 at 8:23 AM

    • I’m under the impression that Indian culture shows a lot of respect for elders, so I think these relatively young people might have felt bad that they’d caused someone a lot older to get down on the ground. There’s no way they could know that I do that in taking my own pictures I already do that a lot anyhow.

      If you’re up for it (or down with it, as young Americans suddenly started saying a few years ago), the next time you take pictures of people you don’t know (or even those you do), try lying down and see what sort of reaction you get.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 7, 2013 at 8:41 AM

  3. That is a beautiful drive, love the Quachita mountains


    December 7, 2013 at 9:08 AM

    • I’ve lived in Austin since 1976, and though I’m sorry it took me so long to visit the Ouachita Mountains, I’m glad that I finally made it—and at just the right time of year.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 7, 2013 at 9:14 AM

      • I live up in Tyler, so I’m a closer. I’ll be in Austin in February for a education technology conference. Hoping to find some time to ride around the hill country then


        December 7, 2013 at 9:16 AM

        • Yes, from Tyler you can even do day trips to the Ouachita Mountains.

          The later in February that you come to Austin, the greater the chance of seeing early spring wildflowers like anemones. Happy visit.

          Steve Schwartzman

          December 7, 2013 at 9:24 AM

  4. This photo is beautiful. I’ll bet the visitor’s picture turned out great too!!


    December 7, 2013 at 9:20 AM

    • For their sake, I hope so. A problem with using someone else’s camera is that I don’t know its idiosyncrasies, and with a point-and-shoot there’s no way for me to control it. I’ve also learned that not everyone likes what I think of as a good picture. For example, I was at the Wildflower Center some months ago and a woman asked if I’d use her camera to take a picture of her and her husband. I did, and I framed only from the waist up, to make the people’s faces fill a larger portion of the frame. When the woman looked at the picture I’d taken, she asked if I could back up and take another one that included their feet. I obliged, but of course it wasn’t as good a photograph as the first one (to my mind, anyhow). As the French say, chacun à son goût, Each to his own taste.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 7, 2013 at 9:31 AM

    • Oh, and it just occurred to me that in today’s photograph you can see the trees’ feet, so to speak, rather than only their colorful leaves, as in some of the other fall foliage pictures I’ve showed here recently.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 7, 2013 at 9:34 AM

  5. WOW. Love that you came across this and now here I am, thousands of miles away, enjoying such an amazing view of your world. God sure did a good job with his paintbrush, didn’t He?


    December 7, 2013 at 3:42 PM

    • I appreciate your wow. This was a great trip through a part of the country that was new to me, and the weather and the foliage cooperated.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 7, 2013 at 6:29 PM

  6. tree-mendos


    December 7, 2013 at 8:23 PM

  7. This may be my all-time favorite fall foliage photo – at least of those I can remember. I like that you included the tree trunks, and I like their symmetry. I like that there’s sky showing through so much of the foliage. I especially like that the clouds seem to be extensions of the trees’ branches, adding symmetry to the upper reachs of the photo.

    Gosh – did I mention that I really like this photo?


    December 7, 2013 at 8:35 PM

    • Yes, I think you did, and I appreciate your listing the reasons why. I often end up photographing a portion of a tree with colorful leaves because in many cases a full view would include wires, buildings, signs, or other things that would detract from the picture. In this case, even though the trees were at the edge of a highway, the wires and poles were on the other side of the road and I had a clear shot. I didn’t even have to lie down to take the photograph.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 7, 2013 at 9:53 PM

      • With apologies to… well, you know.

        Tree limbs, tree limbs, burning bright
        in the throes of fall’s delight,
        what well-practiced hand or eye
        could frame thy soaring symmetries?


        December 7, 2013 at 10:09 PM

        • No apology needed, as these are just the things to delight a photographer (or painter, as Blake was): framing and symmetry.

          Steve Schwartzman

          December 7, 2013 at 10:20 PM

  8. Gorgeous shot Steve! Funny story too. I’ll have to try that next time somebody asks me to take their picture!

    Michael Glover

    December 8, 2013 at 10:57 PM

  9. I love the picture, but I think I would have liked seeing the picture of the humans too.


    December 10, 2013 at 10:35 AM

    • I suppose I could have asked them to e-mail a copy of the picture, but I never thought of asking.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 10, 2013 at 2:18 PM

  10. It takes an ‘Eye’ to see the best in a scene. Hopefully they learned something from this. Beautiful shot.


    December 10, 2013 at 12:52 PM

    • Well, I hope they learned more than that some Americans are strange. And yes, it takes an eye to see certain things. Whatever my successes, I still often wonder what I’ve missed that a more perceptive (or at least differently perceptive) person might have noticed.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 10, 2013 at 2:21 PM

      • I think our personal ‘Eye’ is unique, and that’s what makes photography so interesting. We all see different things. There’s no right way, just different Eyes.


        December 10, 2013 at 2:32 PM

  11. Lovely autumnal scene. I wonder if the members of the other travelling party are still talking about the stranger who got down on his knees!


    August 20, 2018 at 2:47 AM

    • When I looked back for a picture of autumn in Oklahoma to show you, I didn’t re-read the text. I’d forgotten about that incident with the tourists. I suspect they’ve long since forgotten the incident, too, though maybe when they look back through old photos they’ll be reminded because one picture will be so different from the others.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 20, 2018 at 6:59 AM

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