Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Archive for December 2015

Day’s end, year’s end

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Ocotillo Silhouetted Against Sunset in Big Bend National Park 0190

Let’s end 2015 with a photograph taken as the last light of the day I spent in Big Bend National Park on November 22 silhouetted some stalks of ocotillo, Fouquieria splendens.

May the coming year find you in your prime, even if 2016 = 2 • 2 • 2 • 2 • 2 • 3 • 3 • 7 and is therefore far from prime.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 31, 2015 at 5:16 AM

Broom snakeweed

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Broom Snakeweed 0123

On November 22nd I noticed this densely flowering plant in a wash* not far from Santa Elena Canyon in Big Bend National Park, so I pulled over at the first opportunity and walked back to take pictures. I sent one of them to Dr. Michael Powell at Sul Ross State University in Alpine, who suggested three species the plant might be. With those possibilities in mind, I looked closely at some of my other photographs and concluded this was probably broom snakeweed, Gutierrezia sarothrae. Later, while preparing today’s post, I realized that I’d seen broom snakeweed in New Mexico last fall. This is clearly a plant that thrives in arid places.

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* In the western United States, a wash is the dry bed of a creek or stream.

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 30, 2015 at 4:38 AM

Study Butte

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Terlingua Formations 9769

There’s a little settlement just west of Big Bend National Park called Study Butte, whose first word is pronounced as if it were Stoody. On November 22nd I took this view of the geological formations there, whose strata now remind me a little of the Pancake Rocks in New Zealand.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 29, 2015 at 5:21 AM

Hot off the presses, so to speak, genetically speaking

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Skeletonleaf Goldeneye Flowering by Ocotillo 0014

The plant shown prettily flowering away here in Big Bend National Park on November 22, skeletonleaf goldeneye, used to be classified as Viguiera stenoloba, making it a genus-mate of the sunflower goldeneye, Viguiera dentata, that you saw recently. However, Prof. Michael Powell of Sul Ross State University in Alpine, who identified this flowering bush for me, pointed out that molecular research has recently caused botanists to reclassify skeletonleaf goldeneye as Stanleya tenuifolia. According to a 2011 article, all that seems to remain in the genus Viguiera is V. dentata, while four newly described genera—Dendroviguiera, Gonzalezia, Heiseria, and Sidneya—have been created to hold the other species formerly included in Viguiera. Welcome to a new world of botany in which the common name for a species is sometimes more stable than the scientific name.

The scraggly plants behind the skeletonleaf goldeneye are ocotillo, Fouquieria spelendens.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 28, 2015 at 4:43 AM

Look the other way

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Mountain Across from Cerro Castellan 0086

“To look the other way” often means ‘to purposely not pay attention to something,’ but when I stopped to photograph Cerro Castellan in Big Bend National Park on November 22, as you saw last time, I looked the other way and was rewarded with this view across the road. In a few other photographs I took of this formation I zoomed in closer, but here I wanted the mountains farther away at the lower right to serve as a counterbalance.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 27, 2015 at 5:08 AM

Cerro Castellan

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Cerro Castellan and Prickly Pear 0091

One natural landmark in Big Bend National Park is Cerro Castellan, which you can read about in The Handbook of Texas Online. You can also gaze upon it in this picture from November 22. The cactus in the foreground looks like it could be Opuntia rufida, known as blind prickly pear, which mostly lacks the long spines common to almost all of its genus-mates.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 26, 2015 at 4:46 AM

A different red and green

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Guayacan with Fruit 0038

Many of you may be seeing or thinking about the red and green of holly today, but here’s a different bearer of those colors, a diminutive evergreen tree called guayacán, Guaiacum angustifolium. I’d seen the species on previous visits to arid west Texas but never at a time of year when it had bright red seeds on it the way it did in Big Bend National Park on November 22.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 25, 2015 at 5:00 AM

The difference that processing can make

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Wispy Sunset Clouds over Santa Elena Canyon 0140B

Wispy Sunset Clouds over Santa Elena Canyon 0140A

Here are two versions of the same photograph showing pre-sundown clouds over Santa Elena Canyon in Big Bend National Park on November 22. The first view was the default that Adobe Camera Raw presented me with, while in the second I adjusted that default to bring out the details in the shadows that my eyes had easily seen when I took the picture. Click the thumbnails to enlarge them. The first view, a quasi-silhouette, is more abstract and therefore perhaps more dramatic. The second offers much more information about the cliffs and canyon. Favor either view or both, as you wish.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 24, 2015 at 4:53 AM

Closer and closer looks at Arizona ash trees turning bright yellow

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Arizona Ash Turned Yellow by Cliffs 9118

Above is a closer look at some Arizona ash trees, Fraxinus velutina, turning bright yellow along TX 17 between Balmorhea and Fort Davis on November 19. Once again cliffs serve as a backdrop.

Below is a still-closer look at this kind of tree on the following day along TX 118 just north of the town of Fort Davis.

Arizona Ash Tree Turned Bright Yellow 9572

And here’s an even closer look from the same stretch of road as the last.

Arizona Ash Leaves Turned Yellow 9575

I’d better stop closing in and just close.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 23, 2015 at 5:19 AM

More fall foliage

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Arizona Ash Tree Turned Yellow 9152

The best fall foliage on our Trans-Pecos trip came from Arizona ash trees, Fraxinus velutina. While driving along TX 17 from Balmorhea to Fort Davis on November 19th I spotted this Arizona ash that had partly turned yellow by the side of a creek with dramatic cliffs behind it and the blue of the clear sky reflected in front of its own reflection.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 22, 2015 at 4:57 AM

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