Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Archive for January 2016

A loss of color and a chance for progeny

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Do you remember how appealing flameleaf sumac (Rhus lanceolata) can be when its leaves turn colors in the fall? Here’s a reminder from an undeveloped property behind Seton Northwest Hospital on December 4 of last year.

Flameleaf Sumac Turning Colors 0556

I went back to that property on January 12, well after all the sumacs’ leaves had fallen, and had a clear shot at this cluster of tiny fruits on one of the trees.

Flameleaf Sumac Fruit Cluster Drying Out 1786

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 31, 2016 at 4:46 AM

Water flowing quickly in Bull Creek

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Ripples and Algae in Bull Creek 2199

It wasn’t just the algae and other aquatic plants that I found intriguing in Bull Creek on January 17th. No, it was also the bright but ephemeral rippling of the fast-flowing water. Its speed led to my sensing it more than really seeing it, so for some pictures I set my shutter speed at 1/2000 of a second and blazed away. The abstract picture above is one result, and the little waterfall at the end of the post is a second one. I took many other abstract photographs of the creek at various shutter speeds, but after three days in a row on this subject I’d risk wearing out my welcome if I showed any more of them, so it’s on to something else tomorrow.

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Small Waterfall in Bull Creek 2483

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 30, 2016 at 4:59 AM

Longer strands of life

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Yellow-Green Algae Strand Patterns 2090

It wasn’t just the pastel-green-colored rock in Bull Creek that fascinated me on January 17th, but also the many long strands of algae that the flowing water pulled out into varied patterns. The algae above seemed almost like a textile. The central subject below (is it algae?) looked feathery as it and all the growing things around it undulated in the current.

Feathery Algae in Bull Creek 2122

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 29, 2016 at 5:10 AM

A pastel rock in Bull Creek

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Rock and Algae in Bull Creek 2163

On January 15th I glimpsed a pale peach and green rock in a portion of Bull Creek accessible from the Smith Memorial Trail. I took some pictures from the creek bank but went back on January 17th with rubber boots so I could wade in to get a closer and straight-down look. The bits of algae adhering to the upper surface of the rock reminded me of tadpoles or little fish, and they even seemed to be swimming as they squiggled in the current. In this picture I used a shutter speed of 1/400 sec. to arrest the swaying motion.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 28, 2016 at 4:30 AM

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Belated color

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Colorful Oak Leaf Against Blue Sky 0773

I didn’t show you a lot of fall foliage in 2015, so here, belatedly, is an oak leaf I photographed along Rain Creek Parkway on December 6th last year.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 27, 2016 at 5:04 AM

Blazing-star blazed out

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Liatris Spike Turned Fluffy 1550

Do you remember what blazing-star, Liatris mucronata, looks like when it’s flowering? In contrast, here’s what a spike of this plant looks like after it has gone to seed, dried out, and turned fluffy. This photograph is from the Riata Trace Pond on January 7.

UPDATE: It seems that botanists have reclassified Liatris mucronata as Liatris punctata var. mucronata.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 26, 2016 at 5:18 AM

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Dead Crawfish on Greenbrier Vines 1842

Surrealism was an early-20th-century literary and artistic movement that promoted the juxtaposition of incongruous things. I think you’ll agree with me that surrealistic is a good way to describe this little scene that I found near Tejas Camp in Williamson County on January 23. How a dead crawfish came to be lying upside down on a bunch of greenbrier vines (Smilax bona-nox) I don’t know. This spot was several hundred feet from, and considerably higher than, the nearest water, which was the north fork of the San Gabriel River, so I doubt a crawfish would have managed to walk here, much less climb up on these vines. In fact I doubt crawfish climb vines at all, but some knowledgeable reader may want to disabuse me of that idea. So what’s left? Did someone who was hiking near the river find a dead crawfish, carry it around for a while, then decide that was a strange thing to be doing and dump the crawfish on top of these vines? Could a bird have caught and killed the crawfish, started flying away with it, and then accidentally dropped it? Your suggestions are welcome.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 25, 2016 at 5:11 AM

A cheerfully floral asymmetry

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Maximilian Sunflower Flower Head Opening 1721

Another holdover from the latter part of 2015 was the Maximilian sunflower (Helianthus maximiliani), a few groups of which I photographed along US 183 in northwest Austin on January 12. I’ve mentioned that the flower heads of some members of the sunflower family tend to open asymmetrically, and here you’ve got another good example.

Since I took this picture and the one of the greenthread that you saw two days ago, the mowers have cut everything down.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 24, 2016 at 5:02 AM

Black and grey

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Vulture Atop Dead Tree 1824

Compare the colors (except for the red) and textures of this vulture with those of the dead tree on which I found it sitting at Tejas Camp in Williamson County on January 13. If you’d like to zoom in on the vulture, you need only click the excerpt below.

Vulture Atop Dead Tree 1824 Detail

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 23, 2016 at 5:02 AM

A January wildflower holdover

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Greenthread Flower Head 1674

Greenthread (Thelesperma filifolium) is one of the most common wildflowers in Austin, and you can see at least some of these yellow daisies from the spring (when they often form large and dense colonies) until near the end of the year. The lack of a freeze so far this season meant that I kept seeing greenthread flowers in December and then January, primarily along the margins of expressways. Eve conjectured that the carbon dioxide from all the passing cars has acted as a tonic for these plants, which seems likely. What’s certain is that all those whizzing cars put a lot of noise in the ears of the photographer working not far away from them.

Today’s photograph is from January 12th at the edge of US 183 in northwest Austin.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 22, 2016 at 5:00 AM

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