Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Archive for January 2015

Frostweed ice thrice

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Frostweed Ice on Two Stalks 2411

Last month you saw a picture of frostweed ice for the second time this season. That photograph was from December 29, but when we had a morning about as cold two days later, I checked the patch of Verbesina virginica plants in Great Hills Park again and found not a single bit of ice. I figured that might be it for this winter, but on the colder morning of January 5th I discovered ice emerging from more of the plants than in either of my two previous sessions. Duty-bound by the nature photographer’s oath never to pass up a chance for good pictures, I put on several layers of clothing and my hip-high waterproof boots, then went back and ended up spending 75 minutes kneeling and even lying on the cold ground. Ah yes, dedication.

The first picture of frostweed ice you saw this season was taken with a flash. The second was not, and in fact none of the photographs from that session included flash. On this third and last occasion I took every picture with my ring flash. When photographing frostweed ice I usually go for close and abstract images, and I almost always aim horizontally or even somewhat upward to avoid the clutter on the ground around the base of the stalks. It occurred to me, though, that for a change I should show you an in situ image of the phenomenon, so here it is, clutter and all. At least this picture has the virtue of including two “frost flowers,” and the ice is more horizontally expansive and ribbony than in the other pictures you’ve seen here recently.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 21, 2015 at 5:10 AM


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Cattail Seed Head Blowing 1996

A thousandth of a second is how I set my shutter speed to record this seed head of a cattail, Typha domingensis, blowing in the breeze at the Arbor Walk Pond on December 29, 2014.

According to an online article, a single cattail stalk can produce a quarter of a million seeds. Such a large number implies that the seeds are tiny, and they turn out to be only about 0.2 mm, or 8 thousandths of an inch, long (not counting the attached fluff, of course).

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 20, 2015 at 5:42 AM

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Possumhaw’s time to shine again

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Possumhaw with Dense Fruit 0351

While walking along the trail that parallels the south shore of Lady Bird Lake yesterday afternoon I spied some possumhaws, Ilex decidua, with lots of little fruits on them. This iPhone picture lets you see the colorful view but you’ll have to imagine feeling the 72° (22° C) that the temperature got up to.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 19, 2015 at 5:25 AM

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

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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

One more

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Saguaros Reflected in Creek 2864A

Click for greater size and clarity.

Okay, so I changed my mind and decided one more saguaro picture wouldn’t hurt, especially one with such a delightfully delineated diagonal. Although the gigantic cacti classified as Carnegiea gigantea can weigh a couple of tons each because of all the water they absorb from intermittent rainfall, I don’t normally think of them living close to a body of water. That shows how much I know, but it’s one reason I was fascinated (not fasciated) by this slopeful of saguaros that I saw reflected in Sabino Creek on October 2, 2014. (Sabino Creek runs through Sabino Canyon in northeast Tucson.)

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 17, 2015 at 5:32 AM

Fasciated saguaro

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Fasciated and Backlit Saguaro 3652

In a post last October that showed a fasciated spectacle pod plant in Albuquerque, I mentioned that it was one of four such specimens I saw on my Southwest trip. I promised you’d see more, so here’s one of two fasciated saguaros (Carnegiea gigantea) that I saw in Arizona. The photograph is from October 3, 2014, in the Rincon Mountain District of Saguaro National Park on the east side of Tucson.

If you’re new to fasciation, also known as cristation, or if you’d like a refresher, you can read an introductory article that coincidentally includes a picture from Saguaro National Park, although it’s the part of the park on the other side of Tucson from the one that provided today’s photograph.

This gigantic fasciation marks the conclusion of the saguaro miniseries that’s been fascinating you for several days.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 16, 2015 at 5:18 AM

59 seconds

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Saguaro Arm Bud 3142

Fifty-nine seconds (thanks, metadata) before I took the photograph of the giant saguaro cactus, Carnegiea gigantea, that you saw in the last post, I’d taken a closer picture of the arm bud.

This cactus was growing a few minutes’ walk from the visitor center at Sabino Canyon in northeastern Tucson on October 2, 2014.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 15, 2015 at 2:14 PM

Two things

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Sheltered Saguaro with Arm Bud 3143

Here are two things I learned about saguaro cacti, Carnegiea gigantea, when I was in Arizona last fall:

1) Some young saguaros get extra protection from growing in the shelter of a bush or tree. Today’s picture shows an instance of that, even if this saguaro had already grown to a medium size.

2) Some saguaros grow as a single column, while others develop arms that branch off that column. In this photograph, taken at Sabino Canyon in the northeast fringe of Tucson on October 2, 2014, I count six (or possibly seven) well-established arms emerging from near the base of the main column, plus the bud of a new arm about halfway up it.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 15, 2015 at 7:49 AM

Saguaro spines

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Spines on Young Saguaro 2207

A saguaro cactus, Carnegiea gigantea, can be tall (as much as 70 ft.) and massive (as much as 4800 lbs.), but this one was still young and short enough for me to get close to its top and record the rising rows of spine clusters you see here.

Today’s picture comes from Picacho Peak State Park on Interstate 10 between Phoenix and Tucson on September 30, 2014. The name Picacho Peak is alliterative, but it’s also redundant because picacho means ‘mountain peak’ in Spanish. Some people would say that such a large number of cactus spines is redundant, but the saguaro apparently disagrees.

(While the weather continues mostly cold and bleak in Austin, I’ve been showing a few more of the many photographs I took on my two-week trip to the American Southwest last autumn.)

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 14, 2015 at 5:32 AM

Dense saguaro colony

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Dense Saguaros 2373

How about the density of this saguaro cactus (Carnegiea gigantea) colony behind the visitor center in the Tucson Mountain District of Saguaro National Park on September 29, 2014?

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 13, 2015 at 5:25 AM

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