Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Newer isn’t always better.

with 28 comments

Walnut Creek in February 1881

On January 7th I went walking in Balcones Regional Park in north Austin and took a few photographs of Walnut Creek. The pictures turned out just so-so, so here From February 4, 2007—nine years ago today—is a view that I do like of that same part of the creek, primarily because of the superimposed layers in the lower half of the image. There’s the water, and what’s reflected in the water, and the way the shadow of the prominent rock cancels the reflection there. The result is that I feel I’m peering into an opening through a dense lattice of trees, yet I can’t shake the impression that things have been turned inside out, as if I were looking at a stereo pair in which the two halves had been accidentally reversed.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 4, 2016 at 4:59 AM

28 Responses

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  1. Absolutely! I had to blink (several times) before I was able to see this correctly (truth be told, my understanding required your explanation). Very cool effect. Still having trouble convincing myself I’m not looking into a cave or hideaway! A, literally, thought provoking shot.

    Pairodox Farm

    February 4, 2016 at 5:06 AM

    • Thanks for your validation, Dave. You sound like someone who’s had experience with side-by-side stereo pairs, which I made in the 1970s and ’80s.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 4, 2016 at 7:03 AM

  2. Intriguing as well as very beautiful.


    February 4, 2016 at 6:04 AM

  3. Fascinating effect

    Chas Spain

    February 4, 2016 at 6:13 AM

  4. Yes, or like an opening. I’m working on a small painting right now of a spiderweb lit up against shadowy garden background, and the effect is similar but reversed.


    February 4, 2016 at 8:31 AM

  5. I see that reversal, too. I like viewing stereo pairs without the special glasses. Cross the eyes or stare straight ahead. Here are some examples on the google machine. Many of them are reversed, not all tho. http://bit.ly/1S2FR9o

    Jim Ruebush

    February 4, 2016 at 9:02 AM

    • When the images are small enough, like those on the page you linked to, I can free-view them (i.e. view them in 3D without a viewer). With larger images I need a stereo viewer. I’ve always used what’s called parallel viewing: the left eye sees the left half of the pair and the right eye sees the right half. I’ve never been able to view stereo pairs cross-eyed; my mind gets boggled and my head hurts if I even try to do that. I assume the pairs that Google shows that seem reversed to me are intended for cross-viewing rather than being mistakes, although a few could still be mistakes.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 4, 2016 at 9:20 AM

  6. It is a very engaging photo, I really enjoyed walking with you through your thoughts on the image.

    Charlie@Seattle Trekker

    February 4, 2016 at 10:16 AM

    • I’ve been fascinated by optical illusions for a long time. Like many of us, as a kid I had a ViewMaster, and that influenced me to do some 3-D photography later on.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 4, 2016 at 10:24 AM

  7. This would make a gorgeous puzzle! Your photographs are just awesome.

    Rachel Eggleston

    February 4, 2016 at 12:59 PM

  8. Very trippy as my son would say. Love reflections and this is stunning

    Raewyn's Photos

    February 4, 2016 at 1:04 PM

    • Trippy: a word from the same era as hippy (or hippie). I’m surprised your son is using it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 4, 2016 at 1:46 PM

  9. This is one of the best examples of photographic trompe-l’œil I can remember. When I first saw the image, I couldn’t interpret it at all. Even after reading your accompanying text, it was hard to make sense of it. Finally, I saw a cave.

    When I look at it now, I don’t see a stereoscopic image, but one image superimposed on another. It looks to me like Java Man in profile, facing to the left. I like the hint of open-mouthed amazement. Those early ancestors surely responded to the world around them, too.


    February 4, 2016 at 9:15 PM

    • My œil was certainly tromped. The scene has never looked this way again, at least not at any time I’ve revisited the place over the years, so I’m at a loss to understand why it looked so strange that day. I’m glad that it worked its magic that one time.

      Like you, I readily see this as one image superimposed on another. The turned-inside-out effect, as in a reversed stereo pair, hit me just for the central part of the picture, the “cave” that you saw. I had to refresh my image of Java man, but now I see him there too, just as you described.

      Summary: this is one strange picture.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 4, 2016 at 10:01 PM

  10. This picture certainly played with my mind. A very interesting and unique capture, Steve. Once I’d worked out what I was actually looking at, other thoughts sprang to mind such as looking through a hole torn in a dust-covered spider’s web or looking through a foggy or web covered glass window that has had a clean patch made for a peephole, in which case it’s like looking into another world. When I let my imagine run wild, the central “hole” is like a dark pupil and the tree reflections, the patterns in an iris. It’s certainly a weird one! 🙂


    February 5, 2016 at 3:04 AM

    • Thanks for all your visions, Jane. You’ve reminded me of the biblical image of looking through a glass, darkly. (Coincidentally, I’m planning to mention the similarity to cobwebs in a photograph of a different thing a couple of weeks from now.) It’s fun to be a visionary, isn’t it? That’s especially easy with a picture as strange as this one.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 5, 2016 at 7:25 AM

  11. The more I look at this, the more I am drawn into the rabbit hole and another dimension.

    Steve Gingold

    February 5, 2016 at 5:58 PM

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