Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Just when I thought…

with 16 comments

Prairie Flameleaf Sumac Turning Colors 0304

… that I was done photographing flameleaf sumac for 2014, along came the afternoon of November 30th and I found myself at it again. How could I not, when intermittent sunshine lit up two Rhus lanceolata trees along consecutive bends in the switchback path leading down through the park behind the Arboretum? This was the lower of the two trees.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 14, 2014 at 5:32 AM

16 Responses

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  1. Spectacular! This is one of those plants I dearly appreciate and which falls prey, here in southern Ontario, to dog-strangling vine. If we want our sumacs to survive, they need individual annual ministration, or it won’t be long before the patch is gone.


    December 14, 2014 at 8:14 AM

    • Yay, sumacs, bringers of fall spectacles that you don’t have to be wearing spectacles to see.

      I remember your reference (on October 26, I see it was) to dog-strangling vine, which I’m sorry to hear is also sumac-strangling vine. It’s good to hear you’re ministering to your sumacs to keep them going. I wonder if any notable poets have written about sumacs.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 14, 2014 at 8:54 AM

  2. This photo is a beauty, Steve!


    December 14, 2014 at 10:31 AM

    • That’s certainly how I felt, Melissa, and I was grateful for the extension of the sumac season.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 14, 2014 at 12:13 PM

  3. Who will be complaining about extending the autumn color season? Not I. Lovely stuff, Steve. The shaded background really allows the colors to glow.

    Steve Gingold

    December 14, 2014 at 11:02 AM

    • Being a photographer, Steve, you can appreciate my balancing act. I wanted to get as much translucence in the leaves as possible to saturate the colors, but when I aimed too high I began to get lens flare from the sun that was above and in front of me. You can see a slight bit of that along the top edge of the photograph beginning at the center and extending rightward, but I didn’t find it noticeable enough to detract from the image. That’s why I didn’t further darken that area, though it would be easy to go back in and do so.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 14, 2014 at 12:20 PM

  4. Beautiful lighting on the leaves. 😀

    Raewyn's Photos

    December 14, 2014 at 1:57 PM

    • This is another one of those cases where I positioned myself so that the sun was beyond the tree. In that way the light would pass through the leaves on its way to the camera and would increase the saturation of the warm colors.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 14, 2014 at 3:36 PM

  5. You’ve captured a burning bush for us — at least metaphorically. I especially like the way the branches have picked up such rich color. I assume that’s also a result of the light passing through the leaves.

    I’ve always enjoyed photos that show the process of change. The bits of green still on the sumac are great complements to the vibrant color. It’s interesting, too, about the lens flare. I’ve heard the phrase, but didn’t quite understand what it meant. Once you called attention to it here, it’s easier to understand – or at least notice.

    Speaking of change, when I left home this morning, our cypress had fully turned color and were shining in the sun. Tonight? Nearly all of their needles have fallen, and are covering the ground. It’s amazing how fast it can happen.


    December 14, 2014 at 8:24 PM

    • Just call me Moses Schwartzman: even if I didn’t part the Red Sea, I let you see red in part of this bush.

      You’re correct that the light passing through the leaves picked up some of their color and shed it on nearby things, branches included.

      A bunch of series have appeared here showing the development of native plants. Occasionally a single picture shows a transition, with remnants of a mostly gone phase (here the green) lingering among the majority they’re about to join (here the red). Tomorrow’s picture will show quite a different view of the transition.

      To my purist mind, lens flare is a defect. For others it has become a fad, and I often see it in posted images that I consider ruined but that the posters obviously think are attractive.

      Thanks for letting us know about the falling of those bald cypress needles. I didn’t realize that could happen so quickly.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 14, 2014 at 9:37 PM

      • Well. That explains that. In the online editor I use for quick cropping or sharpening, there’s one section of special effects that includes “lens flare”. I gave it a try, to see what it did, and went away puzzled, unsure why anyone would want to add such an effect to their photo. It never crossed my mind that there could be fads in photography, or that, if someone wanted to achieve such a thing for particular effect, they wouldn’t want to do it with the camera. Live and learn.


        December 15, 2014 at 5:49 AM

        • I’m tempted to revise Shakespeare and say “Frailty, thy name is human.” I’ve seen fads in many things. They’ve been rampant in education since I was in high school (and no doubt before then, except that I was too young to notice). When I got seriously interested in photography in the 1970s, there was a fad among some photographers of filing away the edges of the metal frame in their enlarger’s negative carrier to produce an irregular border around the resulting photographic prints. The irregular border was intended as a badge of honor to show that an entire image was present and that the photographer hadn’t done any cropping, because cropping somehow constituted a mortal sin. In the same era there was a fad for “from the hip” photographs in which the photographer wouldn’t even look through the viewfinder to compose a picture before releasing the shutter; I guess that was intended to convey spontaneity. I could go on, but that’s enough to make the point that photography has been as subject to fads as many other areas of human endeavor.

          Steve Schwartzman

          December 15, 2014 at 11:40 AM

  6. Beautiful colors! Such a perfect blend.


    December 14, 2014 at 9:53 PM

  7. […] is, the upper of the two flameleaf sumacs that I mentioned photographing along the switchback path leading down through the park behind the Arboretum on November 30th. This view looks almost […]

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