Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

A silverpuff puffball

with 31 comments

Silverpuff Puffball 2381

If you’re wondering why the reluctant-to-open flower head you saw last time is called silverpuff, it’s because when Chaptalia texana goes to seed it turns into the kind of puffball you see here. This photograph is from October 31, 2014, along the River Place Nature Trail.

The light in the shade of the trees—which is where this little wildflower tends to grow—was low enough to force a wide aperture in the camera lens, which meant that not much of the picture would be in focus. I chose to keep parts near the center sharp, so everything around them in this abstract view is soft and impressiony.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 6, 2015 at 5:08 AM

31 Responses

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  1. Like a beautiful seedy star floating in space. The selective focus allows the center details to shine…like a star.

    Steve Gingold

    March 6, 2015 at 6:07 AM

    • Have you done any playing around with selective focus that you were particularly happy with?

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 6, 2015 at 9:11 AM

      • In a few cases, Steve. Not very often though.

        Steve Gingold

        March 7, 2015 at 3:05 PM

        • Well, I should qualify that…as do you, I often try to isolate a subject so it is in focus and everything else, not. I am not sure if that meets the definition. Occasionally I will open up and have a focal spotlight, but not often.

          Steve Gingold

          March 7, 2015 at 3:07 PM

          • You’re correct that I wasn’t thinking about isolating a sharp subject against an out-of-focus background, which we do often enough, but rather about isolating a sharp part of a subject against a nearby out-of-focus part of the same subject, as in the picture in this post.

            Steve Schwartzman

            March 7, 2015 at 3:44 PM

  2. I am so jealous of this shot Steve. I have tried numerous time to get a decent photo of a dandelion ‘clock’ but never with a result anywhere near this! Did you zoom in on it or is this a macro shot?


    March 6, 2015 at 7:13 AM

    • This was a macro shot, Jude; I feel I’d have to use macro for an object as small as this one. I also took some photographs of the puffball with flash so that I could use a smaller f/stop to get more details in focus simultaneously, and some of those pictures weren’t bad either, even though I’d been apprehensive that the results with flash might look too garish.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 6, 2015 at 9:21 AM

      • Thanks Steve. Most helpful.


        March 6, 2015 at 2:11 PM

        • It occurs to me that generally the only “closeups” I take with a telephoto are those of birds or other animals that wouldn’t let me get close enough to use my macro lens.

          Steve Schwartzman

          March 7, 2015 at 2:18 PM

  3. I really like this image, Steve.


    March 6, 2015 at 8:26 AM

  4. I find your selective focus quite effective, and I love the rich palette of dark colors in the background. And an extra bonus: There seems to be a rainbow around the frilly fringes!


    March 6, 2015 at 8:36 AM

    • I suspect you’re seeing small areas of chromatic aberration, but what’s a little aberration among friends, right?

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 6, 2015 at 9:24 AM

  5. Great photo. I used to call these sort of dried flowers fairies – as they would float in the air when released.

    Raewyn's Photos

    March 6, 2015 at 2:10 PM

  6. Great shot! I had to laugh that it happened because you didn’t have enough light for a smaller aperture. It was a good problem to have for this photo.



    March 7, 2015 at 10:29 AM

    • Generally I stay away from “soft” pictures with shallow depth of field, but when conditions warrant, selective focus can lead to good results.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 7, 2015 at 1:43 PM

  7. The colorful background does lots for this classic image. D

    Pairodox Farm

    March 7, 2015 at 1:20 PM

  8. Amazing photography. Isn’t it amazing how sometimes your best photographs turn out when least expected. Thank you for sharing!

  9. […] I using Lightroom yet. Finally – FINALLY – I started using Lightroom. Cee Neuner and Steve Schwartzman in the blogging community encouraged me to shoot raw when I asked how they were shooting reds […]

  10. Speaking of selective focus, your photo matches my eye doctor’s description of how I’m seeing the world these days. I found out last week that things finally have reached the point where surgery’s called for. There’s no telling how I’ll see the world once I lose the cataracts and swap out my lenses, but it ought to be interesting.

    I know the flower isn’t a dandelion, but it reminded me of some lines from Yevtushenko’s “The Monologue of the Beatniks,” which I recently found:

    “The twentieth century dumbfounded us.
    Lies were heavy as taxes.
    Like dandelion seeds
    Ideas blew away from living breath.”


    March 9, 2015 at 8:48 AM

    • No doubt you’ll be thrilled to see the world differently, and it’ll also be interesting to “see” whether there’s any noticeable change in your posts when you see the world through different lenses.

      The lines by Yevtushenko about dandelion seeds in turn remind me of Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind.” At the same time, silverpuff reminds me of “Puff, the Magic Dragon.” What can you expect from a child (all right, teenager) of the ’60s?

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 9, 2015 at 9:09 AM

  11. Everything is so sharp, this is an impressive shot ! I love it !


    March 10, 2015 at 6:07 AM

    • Well, most of the center is sharp, in any case. I’m glad this made such an impression on you.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 10, 2015 at 7:55 AM

      • It made such a good impression, because I’ve tried these kind of shots before without any success. It was with extension tubes … maybe that’s the problem. Oh well, the important bit is that I love your shot ! 🙂


        March 10, 2015 at 8:36 AM

        • I had a 12mm extension tube on my 100mm macro lens, and that was probably enough. The more (and longer) the extension tubes, as you know, the less will be in focus. In any case, I’ll say again that I’m pleased you like the result here.

          Steve Schwartzman

          March 10, 2015 at 11:32 AM

  12. Beautiful macro shot.


    March 11, 2015 at 1:03 AM

  13. […] is a chiaroscuro portrait showing less than a full puff of silverpuff (Chaptalia texana) in the heavy shade beneath some Ashe juniper trees (Juniperus […]

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