Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Archive for March 2014

Looking up and away

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Sycamores by Bull Creek Cliffs 2233

Looking up and away on February 28th from the place in the panhandle of St. Edward’s Park where the nibbled purple anemone grew so close to the ground, I recorded quite a different view: sycamore trees, Platanus occidentalis, with their white bark standing tall against the horizontal white of the even taller cliffs carved out by æons of water flowing through Bull Creek.

Most of the pictures in these pages are closeups, so I’m happy whenever I can give you a change of pace with a conventional landscape like this one. Visitors to these pages in November of 2012 saw a horizontal view of the cliffs about a mile upstream from the place in today’s picture.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 21, 2014 at 6:03 AM

First anemones

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Nibbled Purple Anemone 2259

I photographed my first anemones of the season on the last day of February. It seems I wasn’t the only one eager to find them, judging from the nibbling I noticed on just about every flower, including this richly purple one in the “panhandle” of St. Edward’s Park.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 20, 2014 at 6:01 AM

Possumhaw in a new kind of place

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Possumhaw with Fruit by Cattails 2127

Click for greater clarity and larger size.

I’ve seen possumhaws, Ilex decidua, in various environments, but when I went to Travis County East Metropolitan Park on the overcast morning of February 28th I found one that was new to me because of the presence of cattails, Typha domingensis.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 19, 2014 at 4:58 AM

Bushy bluestem once more

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Bushy Bluestem Turned Fluffy by Pond 2189

Another thing I photographed at the edge of a pond in far northwest Austin on February 27th was this bushy bluestem, Andropogon glomeratus. You might assume the blue in the background is from water, but I was facing away from the pond and toward some shaded woods, so the blue would’ve come from dapples of light or bits of sky visible through the darker trees. Today’s backlit photograph is a more chiaroscuro look at this grass than any I’ve previously shown (or probably ever taken).

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 18, 2014 at 6:03 AM

Black willows with another color

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Black Willows with New Shoots 2192A

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In contrast to the paloverde whose new growth is green, the black willow tree, Salix nigra, puts out slender young branches, and often many of them, that are orange or reddish-orange. I’m afraid I don’t know what kind of animal made the prominent nest.

I photographed this network of old and new black willow branches at the edge of a pond in far northwest Austin on February 27th.

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 17, 2014 at 6:00 AM

Palos verdes

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Paloverde with Many New Branches 1994

Palos Verdes is the name of a wealthy town south of Los Angeles. Palos verdes is a good description in Spanish of the conspicuous ‘green branches’ of the tree that botanists classify as Parkinsonia aculeata and that bears the common name paloverde even in English. I photographed these many new branches of one on the fringe of Great Hills Park on February 27th. If you’d like to see some rather different views of this kind of tree that have appeared here, you can.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 16, 2014 at 6:00 AM

Old man’s winter beard

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Clematis drummondii Fluff Weathered 1396

I’ve showed zillions of pictures—all right, maybe a dozen—of the native vine Clematis drummondii, known colloquially as old man’s beard because of the prominent tufts of fibers produced by the plant’s flowers. Those tufts often last through the winter, turning a dingy brownish-gray as they age. The one shown here from February 21 even had a matted look to it, perhaps the result of sleet and freezing temperatures in the preceding weeks. Bedraggled and battered though this tuft may have been, it still held on to some of its seeds, and that persistence manages to spread out the plant’s seeds in time, just as the wind spreads them out in space.

I took this late-afternoon picture along Brushy Creek near Parmer Ln. in the town of Cedar Park, a large suburb adjacent to northwest Austin.

If you’re interested in photography as a craft, you’ll find that points 1, 2, and in this case the Rembrandtesque 19 in About My Techniques are relevant to this photograph.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 15, 2014 at 6:01 AM

Another snagged feather

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Small White Feather Caught on Dry Grass Stalk 1348A

While I wandered along Brushy Creek near Parmer Ln. on February 21st in the town of Cedar Park, I noticed—not for the first time and not for the last—a small feather that had gotten caught on something, in this case a dry grass stalk. I think the photograph’s overall blue cast is due to the fact that the scene was largely in the shade of the trees that you can make out indistinctly in the background.

I’d originally planned to show this picture in a conventional rectangular cropping, but March 14th, 3/14, happens to be π Day. You’ll recall that π, whose value is about 3.14, is the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. In other words, if you take a diameter of a circle, bend it to match the curvature of the circle, and lay that curved diameter successively around the circumference, it will fit approximately 3.14 times.

It may surprise you to learn that π turns up in many places that seemingly have nothing to do with circles. How, you wonder, is that possible? Now that I have your rapt attention, let me give you an example. Suppose you have a hardwood floor in one of your rooms, and let’s say that the long planks of wood are 4 inches wide. Imagine you take a 4-inch-long needle and repeatedly toss it onto the wooden floor. More often than not the needle will come to rest touching one of the parallel cracks between the rows of boards. Sometimes, though, the needle will end up in such a way that it’s entirely on a board and doesn’t touch the crack on either side. What are the chances that a tossed needle will touch one of the cracks? It turns out that the chances are 2/π. If you divide 2 by π, you’ll see that that amounts to about 0.637; in other words, if you repeatedly toss a needle that’s as long as the boards are wide, then in the long run the needle will end up touching a crack between the rows of parallel boards about 63.7% of the time.

If you’d like to learn more about this question, which has been called the Buffon needle problem, you can read various articles about it. And while we’re being brainy today, you might also be interested to know that 3/14 was the birth date of Albert Einstein (in 1879).

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 14, 2014 at 6:00 AM

Plum blossoms and yaupon fruits

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Yaupon with Fruit by Blossoming Plum Tree 2966

Click for greater clarity and larger size.

Although some of the overnight rain had frozen by the morning of March 4th, this blossoming plum tree, probably Prunus mexicana, seemed unharmed by the ice. The many-fruited yaupon tree to its left, Ilex vomitoria, which is an evergreen, likewise appeared to have escaped damage. If winter and spring seem strangely juxtaposed here, that leapfrogging of seasons had been going on for some time and continues to do so. A week after this picture the afternoon temperature hit 81°F (27°C), but the high the next day was 20°F cooler and winds of 10 to 25 miles per hour blew for much of the day.

Like the last few photographs, I took this yin~yang one in Great Hills Park in my northwest Austin neighborhood.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 13, 2014 at 6:03 AM

Another plant, longer ice

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Greenbrier Leaf with Icicle at Tip 2443

On March 4th, as you’ve heard, I went to Great Hills Park because we’d had overnight rain and some of it had frozen in the early morning air, giving me a rare chance—but less rare than usual this winter—for nature pictures that include ice. The previous post showed you a thinly encased twig of an elbowbush, and now here’s some more-extreme ice at the tip of a greenbrier leaf, Smilax bona-nox. The vertical stripes in this column of ice remind me of similar though shorter lines in a lengthening drop of water I showed here a couple of years ago.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 12, 2014 at 6:00 AM

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