Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

A tiny fly on narrowleaf penstemon flowers

with 21 comments

It was late in the afternoon on May 28th and the wind had picked up at the top of Scott’s Bluff National Monument in western Nebraska. Concentrating on the tiny fly that became my subject once I noticed it, I had to let most of the flowers fade out of focus in order for the fly to stay sharp. The flowers are Penstemon angustifolius, called narrowleaf penstemon or narrowleaf beardtongue. Call the photographer Nimbletongue Beardface and you might not be far wrong.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 2, 2017 at 5:00 AM

21 Responses

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  1. I would also call the photographer steady handed and sharp-eyed.


    August 2, 2017 at 5:09 AM

  2. Penstemon is a lovely flower, we have a variety here that flowers from time to time. I’m glad I’m not the only one who likes to photograph flies… I like to think of them enjoying their habitat… well, the ones that stay outdoors anyway. Love the photo!


    August 2, 2017 at 9:00 AM

  3. This photo would be good to use with little children. “What do you see in this photo?” They, as we, would
    feel proud to recognize the “bug” inside the beautiful blue blossom. Art students could discuss the words for
    the purplish blue. I don’t know what made me think along the education lines. I guess it is that I saw photos of small boys at Cedar Mesa posing before some rock art. Their site on FB is KIDS SPEAK FOR PARKS. They are adorable. I’m so glad they are learning about nature and conservation, respect for the environment.
    We don’t love what we don’t know. I want children to learn about the wonders of this land and respect for
    all living things. That is why sites like yours are very important to many of us. We may not be able to see beautiful plants and animals of all the states and their natural wonders, but we can experience so much visually. I’ve said it before, but I love opening your post every day and seeing the flowers and features in nature.


    August 2, 2017 at 12:30 PM

    • Thanks for your testimonial, Dianne. Over the past year I’ve been showing lots of scenic places, the fruits of three major trips. Even so, this blog still mostly features the small things close to home that anyone can go out and see without needing to invest the time and money required for a trip. Another advantage of subjects close to home is that we can see them through the changing seasons in their stages of growth and decline.

      With me there’s no need to justify thinking about education. As someone who taught for decades, I’d feel strange if I didn’t identify the things in my pictures, tell a little about them, and provide links to more information.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 2, 2017 at 1:12 PM

  4. This is one of the prettiest combinations of lavender, purple, and blue that I’ve seen. I think the soft focus adds to the attractiveness, and gives the image a much different feel than it would have had if everything was in sharp focus.

    Have you ever seen a really large hoverfly — maybe 2″, or maybe more? I’ve had something flying around a bush here for weeks, and I finally realized it wasn’t a wasp. It only hovered, it wasn’t aggressive, and it was solitary. It was yellow and black banded, and it never left the area or landed anywhere.

    I was going to photograph it (my camera’s back home), but another one showed up, and after two days of dancing around each other, they both disappeared. So, no photo. I’m hoping it comes back, because I’m pretty sure now that it’s some kind of hoverfly — or, at least, not a bee or wasp.


    August 2, 2017 at 7:42 PM

    • You know that I don’t normally go for soft focus. That said, I do like the way this came out.

      From what you say about your mysterious insect being 2 inches long, I’m inclined to think it can’t be a hoverfly. A likely candidate is a hummingbird moth, so called because these insects are easily mistaken for hummingbirds in the way they can hover. The only one I can point you to in this blog is at


      That moth was injured and couldn’t hover, but it gives you an idea of what one type of hummingbird moth in Texas looks like. You can do a search for others and see if one matches what you saw.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 2, 2017 at 9:03 PM

      • No, that isn’t it. I found one of those hummingbird moths in Kerrville, and it definitely isn’t the same as my little black and gold hoverer. I wish my moth photo were better; I had the ISO way too high and the images are really noisy. But at least I have the images for ID purposes, and will know what I’m looking at the next time one of those comes along. Now, I just need to find my mystery flyer again.


        August 2, 2017 at 9:29 PM

        • Right. The one I pointed to wasn’t black and gold but it was just a handy example of one kind of hummingbird moth. How about one of these?

          Steve Schwartzman

          August 2, 2017 at 10:02 PM

          • If my eye had been able to pick up some of the details, I could have identified my mystery insect sooner. Now, I know. By appearance and behavior, it clearly was a cicada killer wasp. I saw one last year, too, in roughly the same area, and in both years they appeared when the cicadas did. As for its sudden disappearance? The life span is two months, so that explains that. I’ll have to take a look and see if I can find the burrow.


            August 3, 2017 at 6:31 AM

            • A successful quest. There’s no way anyone would mistake that for a hummingbird moth. Its sting would be quite a differentiator.

              Steve Schwartzman

              August 3, 2017 at 6:46 AM

  5. What a pretty little flower and a bonus bug is always good


    August 2, 2017 at 8:14 PM

    • There are many sorts of bonuses on flowers. I often find insects, and just as often the spiders that prey on those insects.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 2, 2017 at 9:57 PM

  6. Splendid!


    August 2, 2017 at 10:16 PM

  7. Another great shot Steve .. I would say the photographer is rather clever 😃


    August 5, 2017 at 12:09 AM

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