Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Old and new

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Firewheel Seed Head Remains Cobwebbed by Broomweed Flowers 7161

The old that the title refers to is a dry seed head of Gaillardia pulchella, known as firewheel, Indian blanket, and blanket flower. There are two new things: 1) the scaffold of spiderwebs covering the dry stalk and seed head  2) the many small but bright yellow flowers of broomweed, Amphiachyris dracunculoides, out of focus and partly polygonalized in the background.

Any resemblance to “The Starry Night” is purely coincidental; I doubt Van Gogh ever even heard of broomweed and firewheel, much less saw any. The only connection I can make to France, where that painter worked in the final years of his life, is the cul-de-sac at the end of Meister Lane in southeastern Round Rock where I took this photograph on the first day of October.

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 24, 2015 at 4:50 AM

34 Responses

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  1. A very nice starry effect, Steve. Vincent would approve, vraiment.


    October 24, 2015 at 9:02 AM

    • Merci, Mélissa. When Don McLean wrote his song about Van Gogh he didn’t have broomweed in mind, but for me that plant’s cheery yellow blossoms are the “flaming flowers that brightly blaze.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 24, 2015 at 9:10 AM

  2. beautiful, looks as if the flower has some diamond bracelets


    October 24, 2015 at 10:44 AM

  3. A bashful blanket flower .. Super image 🙂


    October 24, 2015 at 1:09 PM

  4. Great photo. And title!
    This image is almost like an explosion!


    October 24, 2015 at 2:14 PM

    • I was there and I know that nothing was moving, but your imagination isn’t constrained to that reality. I’m glad you like the title, too.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 24, 2015 at 4:02 PM

  5. I tried to see, by clicking for a larger image, whether that is a spider within the web but could not tell for sure. Seems so or maybe just some plant debris?
    All those little yellow highlights in the background add a lot.

    Steve Gingold

    October 24, 2015 at 4:37 PM

    • You’re quite perceptive. There was indeed a spider, and in some of the other pictures that I took it’s more prominent. In the end I decided to post this mostly spiderless image to try to keep viewers’ attention on the contrast between the dead and living plants.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 24, 2015 at 4:43 PM

      • Living creatures do tend to draw attention away from other things so probably a good choice.

        Steve Gingold

        October 24, 2015 at 7:22 PM

        • Some of the spider pictures were good in their own right but they would serve a different purpose, so I’m glad you approve my choice.

          Steve Schwartzman

          October 24, 2015 at 8:43 PM

  6. Nice approach. I noticed this bokeh is similar to the ones I’ve had using the Canon 70-200L f/4 IS lens. Is that the lens you used?

    Maria F.

    October 24, 2015 at 7:15 PM

    • I had the 70-200L f/4 IS lens with me but I used my 100mm macro, which let me get close enough to the cobwebbed firewheel to show small details while at the same time producing a pleasant bokeh. I could probably have gotten a similar effect with the zoom, as you say you have.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 24, 2015 at 8:48 PM

      • You stopped it down then?

        Maria F.

        October 24, 2015 at 8:58 PM

        • From the metadata I see that the aperture was f/10, small enough to render details at slightly different distances in the front of the cobwebbed seed head, but not further back into the seed head, and of course the background was way out of focus.

          Steve Schwartzman

          October 24, 2015 at 9:29 PM

          • You got the out-of-focus polygonal shapes formed by the aperture blades. I get them with the 70-200mm zoom on rare occasion, with backlit shots such as these

            Maria F.

            October 24, 2015 at 9:53 PM

            • I used to get very hard-edged polygons with my film SLR many years ago, I think the lens’s blades were built differently.

              Maria F.

              October 24, 2015 at 10:02 PM

            • Yes, the aperture blades create the out-of-focus polygons. I’ve gotten them with both lenses, depending on the lighting.

              Steve Schwartzman

              October 24, 2015 at 10:03 PM

  7. Oh what fun 😀

    • One reason I had fun is that I was photographing along a trail where I’d never before taken pictures.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 24, 2015 at 8:50 PM

  8. I like the way the web has blanketed the flower. It looks remarkably like a fishing net that’s been hung to dry in a shrimper’s backyard: or perhaps a cast net used to capture some seeds before they escape.

    Here’s a bit of a coincidence. My first photos of broomweed were taken in a spot very near a reproduction of Van Gogh’s famous painting. And, yes, I got a photo of the “Starry Night,” too. There are plans to post it, soon.


    October 24, 2015 at 7:49 PM

    • Great, we’ll look forward to your take on “The Starry Night.” As you’d expect, I don’t have any of the nautical associations that might have led me to see what you saw here. You might say that’s a net loss for me.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 24, 2015 at 8:53 PM

  9. I loved the background, the subject and the reference to Van Gogh’s “Starry Night.” What an interesting find. After looking at it for a while, it gave me thoughts of elderly French craftswomen painstakingly creating lacework pieces. Who knows why these things pop into my head, Steve? 🙂 By the way, I hope you aren’t being flooded out. I saw dramatic photos of flooding in Texas, including Austin.


    October 25, 2015 at 12:49 AM

    • For me, the background in a photograph is often as important as the foreground, especially in an image like this one that leans toward the abstract.

      People have so many associations, not all of them even conscious. That seems to be the case with your “thoughts of elderly French craftswomen painstakingly creating lacework pieces.” I wonder if the mention of Van Gogh brought up memories of having seen his painting “Head of a Peasant Woman with Greenish Lace Cap”:


      As for the rain, it’s been coming down intermittently in central Texas for the last couple of days. Some areas have had “rain bombs” of several inches in a short time:


      The Camp Mabry mentioned in that story is about 7 miles from the part of town where we live, and right across the highway from where my wife worked until recently.

      Still, I don’t believe there’s been flooding in Austin as drastic as what we experienced at the end of May.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 25, 2015 at 4:46 AM

      • I think you are right about the Van Gogh painting, Steve! Your mention of him, the webbing, the title “Old and New” and even something about the colours and lighting in the painting of the woman probably all contributed to my thoughts. You solved the mystery! Super-sleuth Steve. 🙂


        October 25, 2015 at 6:24 AM

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