Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

First bluebells for 2016

with 50 comments

Bluebell Bud and Flower from Side 9853

On June 28th I came across my first bluebells (Eustoma exaltatum ssp. russellianum) of the year when I went walking along the Northern Walnut Creek Trail. As I took pictures, a Korean man and his wife who were also walking the trail stopped nearby. The man told me that he knows these native American wildflowers from Korea, where they’ve apparently been cultivated for some time, as they have in Japan as well.

On the aesthetic side, don’t you like the way the bud and its stalk arc across the flower below them? I do. And if you’re interested in the craft of photography, point 20 in About My Techniques is relevant to today’s image. So are points 1 and 2. So is 18.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 10, 2016 at 4:29 AM

50 Responses

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  1. When I first looked at this image, my eye was drawn to the color … I looked again and it was then that I noticed the beautiful arc of that developing bud. Nice sense of softness and movement … a floral ballet, if you like.

    Pairodox Farm

    August 10, 2016 at 4:58 AM

    • You’re hired as my P.R. director. I appreciate your analysis of the image. As many times as I’ve photographed some of the native species here, I’m naturally keen to find new ways to see them. This edge-on view, with its “arc of the covenant,” was a first for me with bluebells.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 10, 2016 at 5:27 AM

  2. I was surprised by this graceful curve, since I remembered the first bluebells I found as resolutely vertical. Not so. Another look at my photos revealed several bending buds; I simply didn’t see them at the time. The freshness of the greens in your photo surprised me, too. That may be due in part to your photographing them more than a month earlier, in quite a different location.

    My favorite detail? The frayed and nibbled edges of the flower, with the fresh, new bud bending above it. The pair seem to suggest that, though time and circumstance may take their toll, nature will continue to bloom.


    August 10, 2016 at 6:36 AM

    • How much we don’t see when we look at something. I’ve often made discoveries in photographs of things I didn’t realize were there at the time I took the pictures. That’s better than thinking I’ve photographed something and then finding I didn’t.

      The freshness of this bluebell may have come from rains earlier in June. (On the trip from Austin to Tulsa on June 2 we barely had a rain-free moment in Texas, and sometimes we had downpours that made driving difficult.) In addition, this bluebell was in a partly shaded area, so more moisture might have remained in the soil than in open places. Finally, I was looking out toward a brighter area, and that brightness may have contributed to a fresh appearance. O the other hand, I’ve sometimes seen wildflowers looking great even during droughts, so I don’t know.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 10, 2016 at 7:37 AM

  3. Steven: A really neat POV. The colors are fantastic.


    August 10, 2016 at 7:26 AM

    • So much depends on the point of view. That’s why I usually get down low, which is where most of my subjects live, and aim outward or upward.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 10, 2016 at 7:39 AM

  4. The right things are in focus in your lovely macro shot.

    Sherry Felix

    August 10, 2016 at 7:56 AM

  5. Oh, yes, I certainly do like the way the bud arches over the bloom. It is fun to learn of a native of ours being adopted by Korea and Japan. I know England also harbors quite a few of our plants.


    August 10, 2016 at 7:57 AM

    • As I recall, the Russell in the subspecies name of the plant was a British aristocrat who cultivated this flower in England in the 1800s. I assume bluebell cultivation spread from there to east Asia.

      Bluebells were so popular as a cut wildflower in Texas in the 20th century that people ended up largely eliminating the species from certain areas. That kind of popularity we can do without.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 10, 2016 at 8:15 AM

      • Indeed. Same here~lotuses were once quite plentiful in some of our lakes. What a glorious sight they must have been, until rich idiots from Chicago found them.


        August 10, 2016 at 8:17 AM

  6. Enjoyed your interpretation of these delicate flowers.


    August 10, 2016 at 8:10 AM

  7. An exquisite photo, Steve – line, color and form perfectly combined – bravo!


    August 10, 2016 at 8:31 AM

  8. How lovely! Such precision here in color, light, light, clarity, depth of field… everything comes together for a beautiful composition.

    Lemony (Gr)Egghead

    August 10, 2016 at 8:57 AM

    • Thanks for appreciating what went into this image. Sometimes things come together in a harmonious way. With your comment and others about this photograph, I’d say I’ve got several publicity agents.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 10, 2016 at 12:21 PM

  9. Urging ourselves to see old friends in new ways is a very worthy goal. I strive to achieve it ever more as time goes on. I envy, though, those who are still able to get down low, comfortably–I still can, but it takes a lot longer, with much greater care, than it used to. A right-angle finder was a wise addition to my gear.


    August 10, 2016 at 10:13 AM

    • Sounds like your accessory is an energy saver. So far I’ve been my own right angle finder: I scrunch down and move around, sometimes in contorted ways, until I find the right angle for the picture. It’s true that getting back up takes a little more effort than it once did, but it’s still not a burden.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 10, 2016 at 12:26 PM

  10. Beautiful sinuosity. I would not have guessed a bluebell, but I haven’t spent nearly the amount of up close and personal time as you.

    Steve Gingold

    August 10, 2016 at 2:53 PM

    • The common name bluebell applies to various wildflowers, and perhaps you’re familiar with a different kind. People sometimes refer to this one as a bluebell gentian to distinguish it from unrelated bluebells.

      I have indeed spent a fair amount of time with bluebells. Unfortunately one of the prime pieces of prairie I relied on for them over the years became a construction site a few months ago.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 10, 2016 at 3:52 PM

  11. Stunning.

    Birder's Journey

    August 10, 2016 at 5:18 PM

  12. Bluebells must flower much later where you are. Our first bluebells appear in April in London. Great photo.

    Emily Scott

    August 11, 2016 at 12:23 AM

    • I wonder if we’re speaking of the same flower, Emily. From what I’ve been able to tell, the bluebell that’s famous in England is Hyacinthoides non-scripta,


      which is in the Asparagaceae. In contrast, the bluebell I’ve shown here from Texas is in the Gentianaceae. If we are speaking of different species, that would explain the different bloom times. If you’re referring to cultivated specimens of the Texas species in England, then I’d have to assume that the soil and climate over there bring on earlier flowering.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 11, 2016 at 7:04 AM

      • Ah yes different species sorry 🙂

        Emily Scott

        August 11, 2016 at 7:10 AM

        • Now you’ll have to visit Texas one June or July so you can say you’ve seen both kinds of bluebells in their native habitats.

          Steve Schwartzman

          August 11, 2016 at 7:31 AM

  13. […] of bluebells (Eustoma exaltatum ssp. russellianum), which my eyes and brain see as violet or purple, I’ll […]

  14. My first thought was, ” that looks like a lisianthus.” I have silk ones in the vase on my desk.The real ones are popular in NZ for bouquets. http://www.burwoodnurseries.co.nz/PRODUCTS/Lisianthus/Lisianthus+-+Purple.html Ha! To think I have had a Texas bluebell on my desk for 10 years and didn’t know it.


    August 11, 2016 at 5:41 AM

    • Next thing we know you’ll start speaking with a Texas accent. Yes, Lisianthus is an old name for the genus of this flower:


      Let’s hope someday you get to see some Texas bluebells growing in their native habitat.

      You’re last sentence reminded me of a passage from Molière’s Bourgeois Gentilhomme:

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 11, 2016 at 7:17 AM

      • If I were in the company of Texans long enough I am sure I would start to speak with a Texas accent.

        I would be the would be Texas Gentlewoman.


        August 11, 2016 at 11:14 PM

        • And I would be a would-be truth teller by saying I would be happy for you to keep speaking like the Gentlewoman from New Zealand.

          Steve Schwartzman

          August 12, 2016 at 4:53 AM

    • In 2004 I had a couple of students in my advanced math class read this passage aloud, but I no longer remember what mathematical point I was making. Ah, wait, it just came to me: all real numbers are automatically complex numbers, so the students have been using complex numbers their whole lives without knowing it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 11, 2016 at 7:41 AM

  15. I was drawn to the colour also .. And the background. The flower looks so delicate, and I do love the way the bud folds over. Art Steve 😃


    August 12, 2016 at 2:20 PM

  16. This is the most beautiful Eustoma exaltatum I’ve ever seen! I love the intelligent use of depth-of-field, combined with the brilliant color combination! I love the way the bud and the stalk arc across the flower in a symphony of line, texture, harmony, and color. Warmest congratulations, Steven Art Schwartzman!

    Ariana Vincent

    August 14, 2016 at 7:03 PM

  17. Beautiful thanks for sharing 🙂


    March 3, 2017 at 11:42 AM

  18. […] Walnut Creek Trail to see if any bluebells (Eustoma exaltatum ssp. russellianum) had come up where I’d found them last year. Sure enough, a few had, and they were adjacent to some Maximilian sunflowers (Helianthus […]

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