Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

A different profile with the sun behind it

with 24 comments

Giant Ragweed at Sunrise 7498

The last two posts showed the backlit profile of the Superstition Mountains east of Phoenix, but now you’re seeing a different sort of profile with the sun beyond it. Move forward from September 29th outside Phoenix to October 17th inside Austin, when I pulled a Steve Gingold by being out and ready for pictures so early in the morning that it was still dark. Where, I’d asked myself, might I have a good view toward the east to photograph the sunrise, and I decided to check out the site of the former Mueller Airport, which has been undergoing redevelopment for a decade.

Now that you know the setting, you can understand that in the background of this photograph you’re seeing not a range of mountains but a pile of dirt at a construction site (though your imagination can still make a mountain out of what would have been a very large mole hill). As darkness gave way to dawn, the brightening eastern sky silhouetted this giant ragweed plant, Ambrosia trifida, that I chose as one of my subjects. If you’d like to know what a giant ragweed plant looks like when there’s light on it, you can check out a post from three years ago.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 19, 2014 at 5:23 AM

24 Responses

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  1. Have you read “Day of the Triffids”? 🙂 Knowing the species and the setting, I definitely get a “triffidy” feeling from this wonderful photo.


    November 19, 2014 at 9:30 AM

    • I may have put it too many f’s…haven’t had my coffee yet…


      November 19, 2014 at 9:31 AM

      • Your spelling of Triffids looks ffffine to me, MMMelissa.

        Here’s how I began the article about this species of ragweed in my unpublished book Portraits of Texas Wildflowers:

        “In 1951 the English science fiction writer John Wyndham wrote a novel about plants that have a whip-like poisonous stinger and the ability to communicate with one another. The plants are also able to move about on three “legs,” which explains why Wyndham called his creatures triffids, meaning literally ‘split into three.’ But there’s no need to resort to science fiction when a prolific plant in Texas has some of those same abilities, is a menace to human beings, and even partially shares a name with Wyndham’s creatures; that plant is Ambrosia trifida, whose species name describes the way the plant’s leaves are typically cleft into three lobes. One thing that makes this plant a monster is its height, which can reach 15 ft. Another is its success in colonizing land: some authors use the adjective “rank” to describe its growth into dense colonies, and the species has been reported not only in 47 of the contiguous United States—the good citizens of Nevada may be too busy gambling to have noticed it—but also in most Canadian provinces. If, for more than a century, chinaberry and Chinese tallow trees have been replacing natives across the woods and prairies of Texas, and if more recently Chinese trade goods have taken root in the fields of American commerce, then Ambrosia trifida has done its patriotic best to reverse the imbalance by becoming an invasive species in the giant country across the Pacific.”

        Steve Schwartzman

        November 19, 2014 at 9:46 AM

  2. A couple of friends of mine self-published, via Blurb, a very nice picture book of nature photography, Steve. The only problem there is also my biggest challenge…self-promotion, A publisher does that and, well if you are the publisher then it falls upon you to promote. Photographer’s Market might be of help and I’ve seen Barnes and Noble, for instance, publish and sell small books by unrepresented photographers. So if I am telling you this, why am I not doing it? See my problem described above.

    Getting up before the sun and getting out while there are no other people, no traffic and crisp clean air is a real treat. I am glad that you were able to do it even if just this one time. Using shadows to hide unwanted stuff or create an air of mystery is another perk with getting out either early or late.

    Steve Gingold

    November 19, 2014 at 3:27 PM

    • The book I conceived would take the economy of scale provided by a commercial publisher, or else individual copies would be too expensive. And then, as you said, there’s the big problem of promotion. I’ve been thinking more along the lines of a series of e-books; there’s still the problem of promotion, but no longer of expense.

      I got out before the sun a second time recently, and maybe I’ll show a picture from that excursion too. You’re right that there’s an air of mystery in the semi-darkness, and I felt it during those two ventures.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 19, 2014 at 3:51 PM

      • E-books can work very well. Many well known photographers…John Shaw, William Neill, Guy Tal etc…do pretty well that way. It’s definitely a way to keep costs under control and keep things economical for your customers. I’ve a few of them but, to be honest, the enjoyment of the images just isn’t the same as holding a well-printed photography book.
        I’ll look forward to your next early morning image.

        Steve Gingold

        November 19, 2014 at 4:03 PM

  3. Nice!


    November 19, 2014 at 8:21 PM

  4. Ragweed and a dirt pile never looked so good. Your mention of the word “rank” in your comment to Melissa brought to mind another, older use of the word, and a song that works especially well with your photo. I’m sure it’s often been sung on front porches that had a view much like this, and I can imagine the poor ragweed joining in on the chorus.


    November 20, 2014 at 8:13 AM

    • I like your statement that “ragweed and a dirt pile never looked so good.”

      I’m not sure I’ve encountered rank in the sense of ‘utter,’ but giant ragweed is the uttermost ragweed of them all, that’s for sure.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 20, 2014 at 9:16 AM

  5. I enjoy photography from every angle. As in life, the darker and stronger effects show up clearer and the backdrop adds charisma to it. ~Yolanda


    November 20, 2014 at 10:05 AM

    • You might say I come at angles from various angles, partly as a math person and partly as a photographer. In that second role I’ve gotten used to bending, squatting, kneeling, sitting, and even lying on the ground to get a better angle on a subject than a straightforward view would provide.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 20, 2014 at 10:17 AM

      • I agree, I say closer the better. I photograph flowers all the time, they are fascinating and yet beautiful at the same time. Thank you for your reply. I enjoy your work.


        November 20, 2014 at 10:20 AM

  6. The colours in the sky! Wonderful!


    November 20, 2014 at 6:04 PM

    • That’s how I felt, but I’m not sure the colors are enough incentive to make me get out so early in the morning more than once in a rare while. (In spite of what I just said, I did follow up this early-morning session with another one four weeks later.)

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 20, 2014 at 7:00 PM

  7. I do love the soft hilly background against the crisp silhouette of the plant. I am most decidedly a morning person, but my sunrises are viewed through many trees along my creek, not exactly photo-worthy (I’ve tried).


    November 22, 2014 at 11:07 AM

    • That’s why I headed for a flat and rather open place where I hoped there wouldn’t be obstructions to the view. The dirt pile is an obstruction of sorts, but I incorporated it into the image for its out-of-focus contour that could pass for a mountain range’s.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 22, 2014 at 12:35 PM

  8. […] in the dark before dawn to places where I could get in position for daybreak. Last year I showed a picture from the first of those two sessions but none from the other. Here, then, on the one-year anniversary of that second dawn expedition, is […]

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