Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

New Zealand: flax

with 12 comments

Along with ferns, the other practically ubiquitous type of native plant one sees in New Zealand is flax. At least that’s what the British called it after they arrived and found the Māori using the fibers of the plant to make cloth, just as the Europeans used flax to make linen. The Māori call these members of the lily family harakeke, the most common species of which is Phormium tenax.

On February 12, after driving a few minutes west from the site where I took the picture of sand dunes that you saw last time (and you can still see them in the background this time), I came to the Arai-Te-Uru Recreation Reserve, where I was able to portray these New Zealand flax plants in the stage after they’ve produced and shed seeds.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 31, 2017 at 4:48 AM

12 Responses

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  1. This has the same diorama-like feel for me as your photo of the tree ferns and glacier. The layer-like nature of the landscape is part of what makes New Zealand seem so unusual and appealing. Around here, what we have is what we see, for as far as the eye can see. There, the ability to juxtapose plants with water and a glowing sand dune must have been a special kind of treat. (We can do it here, of course, but it takes a better eye and more skill than I have at present: see the clematis and cloud in your sidebar.)


    March 31, 2017 at 7:47 AM

    • Diorama strikes me as a clever way to describe this effect, even if nature’s the arranger rather than the staff of a natural history museum (like the one in NY I remember from childhood).

      You’ve got it right: New Zealand’s special. At the same time, juxtaposition’s in the eye of the juxtaposer, and you’ve got a fair expanse of Texas coast to play with. You’ve already played a lighthouse off against luminous clouds. There’ll be more.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 31, 2017 at 8:01 AM

  2. New Zealand is definitely special. We have so many different landscapes – rolling hills, native forests, pine forests, rough landscapes as well as the beaches. Since New Zealand really consists of islands, us Kiwis are never far from any form of water – lake or ocean.

    Raewyn's Photos

    March 31, 2017 at 2:49 PM

    • I reveled in the closeness to water, primarily the ocean but also lakes, rivers, and waterfalls.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 31, 2017 at 4:06 PM

  3. Ordinarily the background here would be a distraction, but the combination of light on the dunes and restrained foreground work well together. I think the dark moody sky makes it all go together.

    Steve Gingold

    April 1, 2017 at 12:56 PM

    • Normally, for at least some of the pictures of a subject like this, I would’ve gotten down low enough and aimed high enough to exclude the background for the reason you mentioned: to keep it from distracting from the subject. In looking at my archive now, though, I see that I took eight pictures of the flax, every one of which shows the sand dunes in the background. I think I must have been so excited to see large dunes that I wanted to play them up even in these photographs whose subject was ostensibly the flax. I agree with you that the dunes work well here.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 1, 2017 at 1:52 PM

  4. This is nice!! It looks like you got down low for this one – very effective!!


    April 1, 2017 at 3:27 PM

    • Not as low as sometimes (like lying on the ground, for example), but low enough. Glad you like it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 1, 2017 at 9:46 PM

  5. Wonderful Steve .. much loved by Tuis (birds)


    April 4, 2017 at 1:50 PM

  6. […] bright moment, even with some clouds drifting low, I recorded a view of cabbage trees and flax high above a span of sun-saturated […]

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