Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

The advantage of a vantage point

with 28 comments


Cattail Seed Heads Turned Fluffy 5845

If I got low to the ground and looked down to portray the southern dewberry flower you saw last time, I’d lain on the ground a few minutes earlier on February 22nd and aimed upward enough to align these cattails (Typha domingensis) with the cumulus clouds overhead while excluding the power lines and buildings adjacent to the Arbor Walk Pond that hosted these plants. The central cattail reminded me of Auckland’s Sky Tower, which I visited in February of 2015.

Below is a closer look at one of the unraveling cattails. This time I was standing and aimed slightly downward to bring in the pond but keep out the buildings on its far side. All those segments beyond the cattail were bulrushes.

Cattail Turned Fluffy by Bulrushes 5732

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 5, 2016 at 5:08 AM

28 Responses

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  1. Steven: This is a special image. Kind of reminds me of me. Unraveling sooner than later these days.


    March 5, 2016 at 6:34 AM

  2. Our views of life rely on our perspectives. They can be changed.

    Jim Ruebush

    March 5, 2016 at 6:45 AM

    • That raises the philosophical question of whether there’s a reality apart from one’s perceptions and perspectives, and if so how much.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 5, 2016 at 7:18 AM

      • Let me ponder that over my second coffee and get back to you. 🙂

        Jim Ruebush

        March 5, 2016 at 7:24 AM

        • Better make it a grande and take tiny sips.

          Steve Schwartzman

          March 5, 2016 at 7:44 AM

          • Too late. I made a half cup and it’s gone.
            I vote for there being reality without me. I have no philosophical argument to support that position.
            The world/universe will go on without me as it has before me. It doesn’t care.
            What does matter to me is whether I leave my ‘home’ better for being here.

            Jim Ruebush

            March 5, 2016 at 8:01 AM

            • That’s a laudable goal in your fourth observation. What you said in the third may well be true, yet I think many people throughout history have been saddened by the thought and have hoped (or believed) that there’s more.

              Steve Schwartzman

              March 5, 2016 at 8:09 AM

  3. The Sky Tower! That was the first thing that came to my mind, before I actually read your description.

    Great shots, Steve.


    March 5, 2016 at 6:47 AM

    • I take it you’ve been to the Sky Tower. If so, the fact that we both thought of it isn’t such a coincidence after all.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 5, 2016 at 7:22 AM

      • Oh! No, no. I have not been there. But I have seen it many times in pictures.


        March 5, 2016 at 7:27 AM

        • You’re more aware than I was. I don’t recall knowing about the Sky Tower before I started doing research in preparation for my trip to New Zealand. I hope you get to see it in person someday.

          Steve Schwartzman

          March 5, 2016 at 7:49 AM

  4. I’m thinking that your title could have been “The Advantage of a Good Vantage Point.” Everyone sees the cattail from a vantage point, but not every vantage point helps to reveal the beauty of the plant, or its relationship to the world, or its essential characteristics.

    In any event, this is a great pair of images. The first reminds me of those old metal desk spikes. Instead of paper, your cattail could hold clouds.


    March 5, 2016 at 8:17 AM

    • Good would have been a good addition. It was only a few years ago that I learned vantage arose as a shortening of Old French avantage ‘advantage.’

      As a photographer I always look for a vantage point that will enhance my subject. Given that I work so much in Austin, that often means hunting for a way to exclude human things like buildings and wires. As you’ve heard so many times, lying on the ground and aiming upward often does the trick.

      I wonder how often office workers got stuck by or even impaled by those old metal desk spikes.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 5, 2016 at 8:39 AM

  5. Thank you for this image Steven and thank you to all those who commented. It offers food for thought what others write, perhaps next time I walk where unravelling plants grow I will go more carefully and think about their aging beauty better.


    March 5, 2016 at 11:29 AM

    • You’re welcome, Lindylou. I agree that people’s comments are an important part of this blog and I learn a lot from them. As for decomposing seed heads, I’ve been fascinated with them for a long time; they’ve provided many a picture over the years.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 5, 2016 at 12:50 PM

  6. Lovely images! I haven’t tried lying on the ground yet, but I do kneel quite a lot. Yesterday I knelt down to take a picture forgetting it had been snowing, which meant wet jeans from the knee down for the rest of my walk.


    March 5, 2016 at 12:06 PM

    • I’m glad you like the photographs.

      Kneeling can often be good enough for an effective portrait, but sometimes only getting all the way down on the ground does the trick. Both kneeling and lying down make us more vulnerable to inhospitable things on the ground, so I always carry a mat with me for at least some protection. If I anticipate walking on wet or muddy ground, or if I expect to walk in a creek, I put on a pair of hip-high rubber boots (which I keep in the trunk of my car).

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 5, 2016 at 12:59 PM

  7. How pretty is that cattail unraveling? Love the hues …


    March 7, 2016 at 12:21 PM

    • I’ve been fascinated for years with the way these seed heads unravel and have often photographed the phenomenon.

      You have a species in New Zealand known natively as raupō but I don’t remember seeing it during my visit last year.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 7, 2016 at 12:43 PM

  8. Once again, whether going or coming, up or down, straight on or sidewards, it’s all about perspective and how one’s eye perceives the phenomenon of composition. In both cases here, you controlled your environment in a desirable way for pleasing photographs.

    Steve Gingold

    March 7, 2016 at 3:41 PM

    • Your comment made me imagine singing “Yes, I’m the great controller…” Perhaps my pretend audience sang back with “Please please me.” At least that’s my perspective on this.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 7, 2016 at 3:47 PM

      • Nothing pretend about the images.

        Steve Gingold

        March 7, 2016 at 3:50 PM

        • Thanks. The Platters sang “Too real is this feeling of make believe,” but I’ll agree with your that these images aren’t make believe.

          Steve Schwartzman

          March 7, 2016 at 4:01 PM

  9. […] was making a vivid contrast with the blue sky (at least when looked at from down low, about which vantage point I’ve already given you the lowdown). Another name for this wildflower is trumpet honeysuckle; […]

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