Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

“Who reports the works and ways of the clouds, those wondrous creations coming into being every day like freshly upheaved mountains?” *

with 27 comments

Sunset Clouds 1637

After driving through intermittent heavy rain on September 27, 2014, and with less than an hour to go to reach Phoenix, we pulled over at the Sunset Point rest area on Interstate 17. It seems that Sunset Point is aptly named, but we were a little too late for anything grand that might have preceded our arrival there. Still, I managed to get off a few shots of the last bit of sunset color above the darker type of clouds that had covered us for much of the afternoon.

From the decreasing saturation and increasing brightness of the blue and pink as you read across the sky, you can tell that I was aiming the camera generally southward and that the sun had settled out of sight off to the right.


* An answer to the title’s question, which John Muir posed in one of his journals, is, at least for this post: I do.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 18, 2015 at 5:00 AM

27 Responses

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  1. When I read your title, I heard echoes of the book of Job. Poor Job, sitting there under that withering questioning from the Lord: “Where were you, hotshot, when I was doing all these really cool things?”

    That aside, I’d say you captured something perfectly grand. Great washes of color can be beautiful, but I do enjoy a mix of clouds, and late captures of color.. I’d say this is a great example of Carpe cloud.


    January 18, 2015 at 7:14 AM

    • According to the Wikipedia article on John Muir, he had a strict religious upbringing: “By age 11, young Muir had learned to recite ‘by heart and by sore flesh’ all of the New Testament and most of the Old Testament.” Even though he turned against that and more toward nature, I imagine the Bible must have influenced his writing from time to time, even if not consciously.

      The Latin purist in me might say Carpe cloudem, but I wouldn’t want to carp.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 18, 2015 at 7:30 AM

  2. I have a strong connection with John Muir’s writings.

    Maria F.

    January 18, 2015 at 10:28 AM

    • I saw a biography of Muir on television a couple of years ago, but I don’t know much more than what I saw there.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 18, 2015 at 4:54 PM

  3. My immediate thought was that you had captured ‘burn off’ from an oil or gas well positioned just below and behind that cloud bank. The more I look at this shot the more I am convinced that you captured flames in the sky above. You are sure that’s a cloud?

    Pairodox Farm

    January 18, 2015 at 11:24 AM

  4. Great quote by John Muir who we all owe a debt of gratitude for his work on behalf of Mother Nature.


    January 18, 2015 at 1:32 PM

    • It’s not something of his I’d seen before, and I suspect most other readers haven’t either.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 18, 2015 at 4:57 PM

  5. A really gorgeous bit of sky…Great photo.

    Charlie@Seattle Trekker

    January 18, 2015 at 10:03 PM

  6. Loved the quote and the photo also! The quote reminds me of one made by Thoreau, in which he said:

    “For many years I was self-appointed inspector of snow-storms and rain-storms, and did my duty faithfully; surveyor, if not of highways, then of forest paths and all across-lot routes, keeping them open, and ravines bridged and passable at all seasons, where the public heel had testified to their utility.”

    Thanks for sharing!



    January 18, 2015 at 10:22 PM

    • We’re on the same wavelength, Nancy, because I’d thought about the Thoreau passage too and had considered putting it in the post. I’ve known it since high school and I remember quoting it in a French poetry course in college (though à propos of what, I don’t recall).

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 18, 2015 at 10:31 PM

  7. Sometimes the color is better when viewed away from the sunrise/set as this cloud exemplifies. Quite often the horizon to the east or west shows little of interest, photography-wise, but the north or opposite horizon is receiving color that is passing over the source direction.
    I think we are both trying to present to folks some of what is amazing in nature that is often passed by, whether large or small.

    Steve Gingold

    January 19, 2015 at 4:10 AM

    • Well said, and agreed to: “I think we are both trying to present to folks some of what is amazing in nature that is often passed by, whether large or small.” When it comes to photographing sunrises and sunsets (especially the former), I defer to you, who have much more experience than I do. In the going-on-four years that Portraits of Wildflowers has been running, this post is the first to show a sunset.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 19, 2015 at 6:19 AM

      • I am surprised by that, Steve. The lack of sunrises I understand….tooo early in the day. But with some of the open spaces filled with wildflowers near you, I’d think the draw would be strong. If our discussed visit should ever take place, I’ll have to give you a gentle nudge. Are you close to the Hill Country area? I am thinking of something like this .

        Steve Gingold

        January 19, 2015 at 10:52 AM

        • Austin doesn’t get a lot of great sunsets, so it’s hard to know when to expect one and be ready in a place with something good on the ground to play off against the colors of the sunset. Yes, I’m literally one mile inside the Texas Hill Country, though still in Austin rather than out in the country. Your link didn’t work for me, but if you can post it again I’d like to see the picture you had in mind.

          Steve Schwartzman

          January 19, 2015 at 11:10 AM

          • Not sure why it didn’t work, but here it is without the abbreviation…. http://robgreebon.photoshelter.com/image/I0000_yP8McySGv0

            Steve Gingold

            January 19, 2015 at 11:16 AM

            • I see that the photo is from near Mason, a town about two hours west of Austin where we happen to have friends. I also see that the photographer wrote: “I drove a long way in the dark to find this wonderful field of Texas Bluebonnets – and to capture this scene as the sun first peaked over the distant tree line. The dirt road I drove was full of mud, but it was worth it to witness this morning in the Texas Hill Country.” It sounds like his tribulation was akin to some of yours for the sake of a sunrise photo.

              Steve Schwartzman

              January 19, 2015 at 11:50 AM

              • Sometimes we are lucky and a great scene exists by the side of the road, but most often the legwork to get us somewhere is what contributes to a good image….or at least one that most others don’t get to witness. I guess we have to pick our poison…drive to the scene in the dark or drive home in the dark.

                Steve Gingold

                January 19, 2015 at 11:58 AM

  8. “I was awakened by a tremendous earthquake, and though I hadn’t ever before enjoyed a storm of this sort, the strange thrilling motion could not be mistaken, and I ran out of my cabin, both glad and frightened, shouting, ‘A noble earthquake! A noble earthquake’ feeling sure I was going to learn something.” — John Muir

    This is the one John Muir quote that stays in my mind. If only I had known it when our earthquake struck! Next time I will remember to shout, “a noble earthquake”. I much prefer the noble clouds of course.


    January 19, 2015 at 6:24 AM

    • I’d have thought this would be a moving but traumatizing quotation for you, yet you seem to have shaken off any dreadful associations. I hope you’ll carry a voice recorder with you at all times so that if another quake hits we can all listen to you proclaiming how noble it is. In the meantime, I’m glad you find that these pink and grey clouds have their own nobility.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 19, 2015 at 6:56 AM

      • It is just as well I didn’t have a voice recorder with me on those earthquake days. The words that fell from my lips were far from noble!!! So the fact that Muir had the presence of mind to utter such magnificent words makes me believe he was an extraordinary and magnificent person.


        January 19, 2015 at 4:58 PM

        • If there’s a next time—and let’s hope there isn’t—you can strive to follow his example.

          Steve Schwartzman

          January 19, 2015 at 5:18 PM

  9. I appreciated your final sentence, “I do.” — oh, if only more people took time to marvel at the beauty of our planet, from majestic sunsets to the tiny nuances that most overlook. you present those details to us on a daily basis. thank you.

    i also enjoyed reading this thread – so many great comments – i wish that everyone could be in the same room, a room of like-minded people who appreciate nature.

    Playamart - Zeebra Designs

    January 21, 2015 at 7:50 AM

    • With that “I do” you might say I was married to nature photography (I never thought of it that way before).

      Here’s another bit of relevant etymology: the word nuance is based on the French word for ‘cloud’ (think of the Spanish cognate nube). A nuance was originally a subtle difference in shading or form of the type we see in clouds. You can see more at:


      Lacking a real room, we turn to these virtual blog rooms where, as you pointed out, some excellent conversations take place.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 21, 2015 at 10:17 AM

  10. I’ve often wished for that, too, that we could all be in the same room talking together. How perfect that nuance is derived from the French word for cloud. And, of course, your photo itself is pure magic. So glad “you do” 🙂


    February 4, 2015 at 10:16 AM

    • Thanks, Melissa. In the same way that schools have class reunions, we could have a blog (re)union. The location, though, whatever it might turn out to be, would present problems for some people.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 4, 2015 at 10:47 AM

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