Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Another close look at a creek

with 24 comments

Brown Sycamore Leaves Fallen on Green Algae 3266

On the bright and clear morning of January 29th I spent more than an hour photographing at a tributary of Bull Creek. In contrast to the fast-flowing Bull Creek of a few weeks earlier, this tributary was drying up, so the water in it was mostly shallow and without a noticeable current. Here you see two sycamore leaves (Platanus occidentalis) that had fallen on some still-green algae. Look over my shoulder and the algae may strike you too as preternaturally green. All I can say is that was really their color. At the same time the submerged rocks in the shallows shone yellow in the sunlight, while onto this little tricolor scene a few trunks and branches of nearby trees contrarily cast their shadows.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 15, 2016 at 5:05 AM

24 Responses

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  1. Love the contrasting: vivid & alive against lifeless & pale. Wonderfully expressive image, speaks of circle of life. Nice capture!


    February 15, 2016 at 6:52 AM

    • This natural still life is different from any I recall photographing. Thanks for letting me know you find it wonderfully expressive in depicting the circle of life. But set a short date for the vivid and alive: over the next two posts the vividness will turn to pallor, the life become death.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 15, 2016 at 7:11 AM

  2. It as though the algae is revving its engine, then. Your image does make for a nice contrast, both in color and in life stage.


    February 15, 2016 at 7:21 AM

    • If I can toot my own horn, I’ll say that I’ve also been revving my engine. This has so far been a year of abstract patterns for me, especially in algae, which I’ve spent hours looking at and photographing. I suddenly wondered just now if anyone’s ever written a play about algae. A weird thought, a weirder thing if anyone’s ever done it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 15, 2016 at 7:28 AM

      • I don’t know about a play but algae did play a part in the movie “Keeping Mum”, with Maggie Smith. Have you seen it? Very funny in a sort of alarming way.


        February 15, 2016 at 7:32 AM

        • No, I’ve not seen it. The Austin Public Library has one copy, which is checked out. There’s one hold on it and I’ve just added a second one, so the DVD should come my way in no more than six weeks. There’ll be lots of algae under the bridge between now and then.

          Steve Schwartzman

          February 15, 2016 at 7:41 AM

      • I don’t know of a play, but can you imagine a performance by Weird Algae Yankovic?


        February 16, 2016 at 8:59 PM

  3. I love the colours and the details.


    February 15, 2016 at 8:53 AM

  4. Your photo is amazing…There is so much that is beautiful and to be grateful for in this world. My one wish is that more would stop even for just a moment and take a look.

    Charlie@Seattle Trekker

    February 15, 2016 at 10:53 AM

    • This is an algae-ic (and some would say elegiac) version of “stop and smell the roses.” Over the past six weeks I’ve spent more time than ever before looking at the algae in my local creeks—and finding rewards.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 15, 2016 at 12:30 PM

  5. Very artistic nature. Beautiful Steve

    Raewyn's Photos

    February 15, 2016 at 12:12 PM

  6. Algae are such an integral part of the life cycle. I really miss the opportunity to savor them at this time of year, in this part of the country. It’s a pleasure to relax into contemplation of those available in your neck of the woods. And sycamores are among my favorite trees. Aaaahhh…


    February 15, 2016 at 9:09 PM

    • Because I live just a mile inside the Texas Hill Country, there are several creeks not far away. All of them are intermittent to some degree, so I get to see algae in their various stages—from greenly waving in the current to pale and thoroughly dried out—during large parts of the year. The next two post will show the progression.

      The existence of those creeks entails the existence of sycamores, some quite large.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 15, 2016 at 10:08 PM

  7. You stopped me with this: “All I can say is that was really their color.” I’ve never thought of algae as singular or plural. Interesting.

    The color is other-worldly. I know it’s natural, but it looks like the super-saturated color some people like to create with processing. It makes the leaves even more important. They remind me of yogurt served with a hot Indian curry: a nice contrast, and useful for cooling things down a bit.

    Here on the coast, we have other, less benign algae blooms: red tide, brown tide, and golden alga. Here’s a great site about some of those, both toxic and non-toxic. The image that should pop up is of a non-toxic red tide in New Zealand.


    February 16, 2016 at 9:24 PM

    • Algae is one of those Latin plurals that some English speakers recast as a singular, like datum ~ data. The singular, alga, exists in English


      but tends not to be used nearly as much as the plural form (which is frequently construed as a semantic singular). Having had three years of Latin in high school, I usually observe the pluralness of Latin plurals when they’r carried over into English.

      I’ve never heard of a non-toxic red tide, but I wish I’d seen one when I was in New Zealand. As for the toxic ones, your first linked article refers to them as HABs, and coincidentally they harm the HABitats they occur in.

      I was glad for the sycamore leaves as a color control to show that the saturation of the picture as a whole hadn’t been cranked up.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 16, 2016 at 10:00 PM

  8. This algae makes a great background for the dried leaves. I remember an earlier algae shot of yours that you posted on the now defunct WhyTake of which I have great appreciation. I searched for it, but couldn’t sort it out amongst the myriad offerings from the search.

    Steve Gingold

    February 21, 2016 at 3:59 AM

    • I’ve been fascinated by algae and bubbles and fallen leaves for years.

      I’d forgotten all about WhyTake. I wonder if you could be thinking of this picture:


      Steve Schwartzman

      February 21, 2016 at 7:46 AM

      • I thought I had responded but I guess not. Yep, this is the one. I think it’s a wonderful image and should be hanging on a wall somewhere. Probably not everyone’s cup of algae, but it works wonderfully for me and quite often popped up in that site’s “Inspire” views.

        Steve Gingold

        February 24, 2016 at 4:01 AM

        • That happens to me too from time to time: I think about doing something, plan it out to some extent, and then later come to believe I’ve done it when I haven’t actually. In any case, my recollection of which picture you had in mind did turn out correct this time. It’s one of my favorite algae pictures as well. I’ve never again found bubbles with such nice algae lines criss-crossing them.

          Steve Schwartzman

          February 24, 2016 at 6:39 AM

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