Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

New Zealand comes to Texas

with 23 comments

Colorful Rock at McKinney Falls State Park 1251

New Zealand comes to Texas—figuratively speaking, that is. I went a bit crazy over abstract patterns I found over there in rocks, shells, liverworts, lichens, geothermal formations, clouds, etc. Since then I’ve been searching close to home for patterns that might rival, even if subtly, some of the ones from New Zealand. On August 19th I found this colorful panel of rock at McKinney Falls State Park in southeast Austin. Because abstract photographs often lack orientation, I’ll tell you that in this view you’re looking straight down.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 1, 2015 at 5:11 AM

23 Responses

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  1. New Zealanders will feel right at home if they see something like this in Texas. 😉 I have often wondered if two similar scenes were put before me, one taken in NZ and one in another country, if I would be able to identify the NZ scene. We all like to think our scenery is unique, particular to our country, but this is not entirely true. Film makers are good at seeing the similarities in landscapes, and they put those similarities to good use.


    September 1, 2015 at 6:13 AM

    • I associate rock patterns much more with the desert parts of Texas in the west than I do with Austin in the center, but I have found some here too. I like your idea of a test to see whether people could distinguish between something like this and something from New Zealand. Some things are unique (the first that came to mind is the Pancake Rocks of Punakaiki) but others are just relatively unique (Yellowstone calls out to Rotorua) and many are common to geology in various parts of the world (every place being part of the same earth, after all).

      Regarding your comment about makers of films: I’ve often thought that when one place gets passed off as another in a movie, there are always local people who recognize the site for what it is and aren’t fooled. For example, in doing research for an article last year about the Water Gardens in Fort Worth, I watched a 1970s science fiction movie that used the Water Gardens as the set for a scene from the future. The special effects people added a different background that caused the site to seem to be next to an ocean, but I still recognized the place.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 1, 2015 at 6:39 AM

  2. You can never go too crazy over abstracts, Steve. I’m quite fascinated by this one which seems to have a delicate collection of soft colours, textures and patterns. I’m curious about what is making those longish vertical white lines. Thanks for giving us some orientation as I had no idea what angle you were viewing this from.


    September 1, 2015 at 6:19 AM

    • I can’t resist adding that this view is only mildly extreme, Jane, and I agree that there need be no limits on the craziness of abstractions. Like you, I wondered about the lines that seem to be scratches but I didn’t find any nearby clues, so the mystery remains. Those lines are “vertical” as they appear here, but because I was aiming down there’s no “correct” viewpoint; in this case the dark area across the “upper” part of the photograph and the curve bounding that area suggested the orientation I chose. When I find an abstraction on the ground that interests me, I sometimes circle it with my camera looking for a good way to fill the frame.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 1, 2015 at 7:07 AM

  3. …this is simply stunning


    September 1, 2015 at 7:16 AM

    • As a painter, or just because you’re you, you can appreciate the abstractness of this photograph. And to the wider audience I say: Viewers of the world, unite, you have nothing to lose but your orientation

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 1, 2015 at 7:27 AM

  4. The layered look is always attractive in rocks.

    Jim in IA

    September 1, 2015 at 7:50 AM

  5. It took only a glance for the colors to recall this photo, one of my favorites from your New Zealand collection. It’s such a beauty.

    Looking at the photo, I get slightly vertiginous, as though I’m not just looking down, but am looking really down, as into a well. The pinkish rock seems to be the inside wall, and the darker part at the top the depths of the well: water, or whatever.

    The white lines are strange, and interesting. Maybe someone was drawing on the rock with Austin chalk!


    September 1, 2015 at 5:00 PM

    • Your vertigo has some justification because the dark area at the “top” of the photograph was at the edge of a depression in the limestone. Had you been there, however, I don’t think you’d have worried about falling.

      I believe you’re right onto something with your link to the New Zealand rock formation, which must have been yelling out to me (even if subconsciously) when I saw the formation in McKinney Falls State Park. The one in the Antipodes is better, but the Austin “echo” is worthy in its own right.

      You’ve come up with a novel use for Austin chalk, that’s for sure. I saw the lines as slender bolts of lighting.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 1, 2015 at 5:41 PM

  6. I was intrigued by the white lines as well. Perhaps a big bear was there, carving his initials.


    September 1, 2015 at 5:55 PM

    • Someone has a good imagination.
      Bears, bison, and mountain lions once roamed here, but that ended more than a century ago. We still have coyotes, raccoons, and armadillos. Could any of them be responsible for the lines? I don’t know.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 1, 2015 at 7:54 PM

  7. Serious photography wouldn’t be half the fun it is and wouldn’t have half the attraction that it does without a generous portion of imagination in the photographers. Your site seems to be a magnet for folk who share this quality. Who makes the lines? So much fun to speculate!


    September 1, 2015 at 8:44 PM

    • Yay, imagination! I’m glad to hear you like the interchanges that this magnet attracts. It can indeed be fun to speculate—which etymologically means to take a little look—but it’s also good to finally find out the truth, which in this case we haven’t managed to do.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 1, 2015 at 9:48 PM

  8. Your final sentence explained my sense of vertigo as I looked at your image, Steve. It’s amazing what there is to see the more we examine things. So many patterns and shapes. Easily walked by without giving them a thought.

    Steve Gingold

    September 2, 2015 at 3:57 AM

    • I’m glad you appreciated the anti-vertiginous ride on my orient express.

      So many patterns and shapes, indeed. I’d been to this very area in the park before but don’t recall noticing what’s in the photograph. Perhaps I didn’t see it, or maybe it didn’t look this way on previous visits.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 2, 2015 at 7:48 AM

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