Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography


with 43 comments

When I was in the greenbelt north of Spicewood Springs Rd. on March 2nd, and while I still had a telephoto lens on my camera from photographing the upper reaches of sycamore trees, I experimented with a few abstract pictures of the creek. After I noticed a water strider, I took this photograph:

Creek Surface Abstraction 6941

Viewing the picture back home later and enlarging on my monitor, I realized there were two water striders, one atop the other:

Water Striders 6941

The next morning, zooming in even more closely on the same picture, I noticed that what I’d thought was the upper water strider had two pairs of antennae, so in total there were three insects. The top two were apparently mating, but what the one below was doing is anyone’s guess.

Water Striders 6941 Detail

UPDATE: Prompted by Dee Smith’s comment, here’s an even closer view of the same photograph, though this degree of enlargement begins pushing the limits of resolution:

Water Striders Detail 6941

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 16, 2016 at 5:06 AM

43 Responses

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  1. A voyeur, perhaps (the third insect, not you)?

    Mike Powell

    March 16, 2016 at 5:48 AM

  2. I’ve spent many an hour watching water striders, so I find the collection of little blue, circular dimples in the water particularly fascinating.

    As for that stack of bugs, I’m almost sure I can hear the bottom one saying, “He ain’t heavy; he’s my brother. As for that one on top, I don’t have a clue who he is.”


    March 16, 2016 at 7:04 AM

    • Isn’t the surface tension of water fun? Here, in conjunction with the water striders’ extremities, parts of the surface became little convex mirrors that reflected the blue of the sky coming through branches overhead.

      I’ve wondered if the bottom insect is waiting for a chance to mate with the female.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 16, 2016 at 7:12 AM

  3. wonderful photos, you have captured this in a unique way.


    March 16, 2016 at 9:43 AM

  4. I think there are only two striders, the top two. The bottom one is simply a virtual reflection of the bottom of the two above the water surface.

    Dee Smith

    March 16, 2016 at 9:59 AM

    • Wow, that’s something I never considered. I may have fallen for an optical illusion. I’ve added one more degree of enlargement above.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 16, 2016 at 11:18 AM

  5. I agree with Dee Smith.

    Jim Ruebush

    March 16, 2016 at 10:11 AM

  6. Bug love. Out in the open. With mirrors. A whole ‘nuther degree of XXX on Portraits with Wildflowers! Thank you, Steve. 😀

    Your zoom in and zoom again makes me slap myself for all the awesome insect pics I miss because I don’t post-process (yet).


    March 16, 2016 at 1:13 PM

    • You’re welcome, Shannon. This follows my “Fiery Passion” post by just 10 days, and it adds an optical illusion.

      Even if you aren’t yet processing your photographs, I encourage you to set your camera to take pictures simultaneously in RAW mode and jpeg. That way you’ll have the RAW to come back to for best quality and greatest flexibility when you’re ready.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 16, 2016 at 1:33 PM

  7. Yup, the bottom one is a reflection…the body shape is reversed. At first I thought it was a photographer making a XXX sex tape for them. Sort of the Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee of the water strider world.

    Steve Gingold

    March 16, 2016 at 1:32 PM

    • You’re funny. The truth is that there’s a lot more money in that kind of photography than in what we do. In any case, the illusion certainly worked its spell on me.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 16, 2016 at 1:41 PM

      • Yeah, we would both be rich if we did that kind of shooting. But I couldn’t even do a boudoir session much less the harder stuff. The entire room would have a red glow from my blushing.

        Steve Gingold

        March 16, 2016 at 2:29 PM

        • But wouldn’t the red glow add to the romantic effect?

          Steve Schwartzman

          March 16, 2016 at 4:00 PM

          • I suppose. When I used to hang out in the Adobe Photography forum one of the regulars there was a retired Playboy photographer. He didn’t have much to say about it, but always seemed to have the latest gear so he must have been well paid. I also know (slightly in passing) a guy down in Florida who photographs co-eds at bars. He manages to get shots of himself arm in arm with them along with the publicity stuff. Personally…creepy is how it seems to me. I’d much rather shoot flowers or cascades or bugs…yeah bugs. 🙂

            Steve Gingold

            March 16, 2016 at 4:56 PM

  8. I hope you appreciated the fact that this image provides a wonderful example of the collective strength of hydrogen bonds!

    Pairodox Farm

    March 16, 2016 at 6:08 PM

  9. These are lovely photos! Steve, if three can remain suspended on the water’s surface together, then I wonder how many it would take to break the surface tension? Leave it to a school teacher to think of these things.


    March 16, 2016 at 10:27 PM

    • Hi, Lynda. It seems I was wrong in my counting (bad news for a math teacher, right?). Check out Dee Smith’s comment above, which was then echoed by other commenters. Some ancient philosophers held—and modern physicists confirm—that everything in this world of ours is illusion.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 17, 2016 at 3:45 AM

      • I did think the bug on the bottom looked oddly dissimilar in coloration, but was fooled nonetheless! Looking with new information I can now see it as a reflection. 😉


        March 17, 2016 at 10:35 PM

        • I can and I can’t at the same time!

          Steve Schwartzman

          March 17, 2016 at 10:55 PM

          • Now I’m wondering just how many people have ever even seen the downside of a waterstrider?; )

            Deb Weyrich-Cody

            March 19, 2016 at 12:23 PM

            • It’s like the hull of a boat, and that’s one thing that threw me. I somehow assumed the bottom would be flatter.

              Steve Schwartzman

              March 19, 2016 at 12:27 PM

              • But they don’t float on their bellies, it’s all about the ends of their legs, yeah? Now THAT I’d like to see a macro of…

                Deb Weyrich-Cody

                March 19, 2016 at 1:21 PM

                • My impression (based on very little) is that you’re correct and these insects don’t float on their bellies. That’s why when I saw the upward-bulging upper surface of the lower water-strider, I assumed it was the top of the insect.

                  Like you, I’d enjoy seeing a macro image of the place where a water strider’s leg meets the water, but I don’t have the necessary equipment even if I could get a water strider to hold still.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  March 19, 2016 at 1:38 PM

                • Yeah, good luck with that! I’m guessing you already caught them at the only time they stay still; )

                  Deb Weyrich-Cody

                  March 19, 2016 at 1:40 PM

                • But I do recall reading somewhere (many moons ago, when I was a kid) about their “feet” enabling them to not break the surface tension and ski (snowshoe; ) on top of the water

                  Deb Weyrich-Cody

                  March 19, 2016 at 1:42 PM

  10. I was thinking today how often I come home from walks and discover hidden objects on my photos once they are blown up on a computer screen – things like a spider on a tree trunk or a tiny ant on a mushroom. It’s always a little exciting. Once I discovered a large spider sitting on the top of my hat during a rare selfie shot. I enjoyed many aspects of your shot, Steve. I’m a big fan of water reflections, abstracts, insects and mysteries. The bottom insect does seem to be a reflection now that others have mentioned it, but it certainly fooled me! I’ve not been able to capture an image of a water strider yet. It’s a beautiful shot.


    March 17, 2016 at 4:19 AM

    • As it is for you, the discovery on my computer screen of previously unnoticed things is a common phenomenon (and only in part can I attribute it to having had sharper vision when I was younger). A spider on one’s hat in a selfie might frighten some people, but I expect not intrepid Jane. In any case, the spider is better off for having sat on your hat than it would have been if you had sat on it. Come to think of it, given the venom of some Australian spiders, you’re better off too.

      In the case of this water reflection, I was completely taken in, and to some degree still am by the illusion even after it’s been pointed out to me. Long live abstractions and mysteries indeed.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 17, 2016 at 5:38 AM

  11. Super images Steve .. Enjoyed reading the comments. 2 or 3?


    March 18, 2016 at 1:24 PM

  12. You might say we’re admiring the ups and downs of your waterstrider?; )

    Deb Weyrich-Cody

    March 19, 2016 at 6:44 AM

    • And we can add that I didn’t know what was up down there.

      Following up on the reply I left a few minutes ago to your comment about a 2012 anemone post, I see that one of WordPress’s automated suggestions at the end of this post was to “When one becomes two as two become one.” That title fits this water strider image quite well.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 19, 2016 at 7:12 AM

  13. Gorgeous shots! Nature working no matter what. Biologists (zoologists) would hang these pics on their walls! 🙂


    March 19, 2016 at 10:19 PM

    • This was a strange one, that’s for sure. I originally had no hint of the questions that closer and closer looks at this photograph would raise. It’s good that commenters helped out.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 19, 2016 at 10:39 PM

  14. Talk about Public Displays of Affection! Pretty fantastic photography, when you can zoom in so tightly before losing any significant resolution. But especially, a terrific original photo. Love the water textures and reflections and the contrasts of stillness and motion.


    March 21, 2016 at 11:50 AM

    • In this case the PDA was an expensive Personal Digital Assistant in the form of a camera that take 50-megapixel pictures. That’s what enabled me to zoom so far in here and still have resolution enough for a decent image. Abstract images like the overall photograph aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, so I appreciate your appreciating the textures and forms and the contrast between movement and stillness.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 21, 2016 at 10:18 PM

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