Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Archive for December 2017

Virginia creeper creeping colorfully upward

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Long-time readers have heard me say, and central Texans don’t need me to tell them, that this area doesn’t have a lot of appealing fall foliage. One exception is Parthenocissus quinquefolia, a climbing vine known as Virginia creeper or, to keep the glory from going to another state, five-leaf creeper. On December 1st I was driving south on US 183 in Cedar Park, an adjacent suburb north of Austin, when I glimpsed a vertical band of red ahead and to my right. I knew right away that it had to be Virginia creeper, and I made sure to stop and photograph this unusually good display of it.

As is almost always the case along a main road in a populated area, I had to work at getting myself into positions—typically low ones—where I could exclude poles, power lines, stores, signs, vehicles, non-native trees, and other unwanted things from my pictures.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 16, 2017 at 4:49 PM

Sunwapta Falls: looking upstream and downstream

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On September 6th we spent a little time at Sunwapta Falls in Jasper National Park, Alberta. The first picture may give you the impression that the roaring river was carrying the roughly spherical boulder over the falls. Not so: it stayed put. The dead tree trunk lodged against the boulder was also stable, at least for the duration of our visit. Sooner or later, of course, the river will sweep each one downstream.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 15, 2017 at 4:46 AM

Purple fall asters flowering

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Asters are typically the last of Austin’s wildflowers to appear in quantity each autumn. These are Symphyotrichum oblongifolium at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center on October 25th.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 14, 2017 at 4:34 AM

Rocks and texture

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Oh give me rocks along with texture
And then I won’t incline to vexture.*

I took both pictures in Glacier National Park, Montana, the first on August 30th and the other the next day.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman


* When I searched for vexture in the dictionaries front-ended at OneLook.com, I got asked: “Did you mean: venture, texture, vesture, vecture, vetture, feature, gesture, overture, fixture, lecture, vulture, mixture, verdure, denture, venturi, ventura, aventure, velure, voiture, ventre, esture, vettura, textury, ventuse, textura, vestire, vetere, vettore, vertue?”

No, I really meant vexture. In a separate Internet search I found an instance of someone else using the word: “And curse the mud with vain veritable vexture.”

In any case, each of the links in the OneLook.com response is active, so you can click to pursue as many of the obscure words there as you’d like. I invite you to use some of them in your own communications to see how much esture you can create.

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 13, 2017 at 4:51 AM

Above and beyond the call

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Above and beyond the call of yellow put forth in the lower foreground by camphorweed (Heterotheca subaxillaris), you’ll find leanings and standings of Maximilian sunflowers (Helianthus maximiliani). Reaching in from the bottom left are some branches of paloverde (Parkinsonia aculeata).

This fall prairie display graced an undeveloped property along Joe Barbee Dr. in far north Austin on October 12th. I occasionally saw other Maximilian sunflowers around Austin through November. Just two days ago I found a few in the northern suburb of Cedar Park; while the bit of snow we’d had left their ray flowers bedraggled, the plants still stood erect.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 11, 2017 at 5:28 PM

A welcome imposition

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What better to be imposed on by than the imposing structure that is Castle Mountain? We drove parallel to it along the Bow Valley Parkway in Banff National Park on September 2, one of the few clear days we had on our trip to the Canadian Rockies.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 10, 2017 at 7:40 AM

White

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Only once every so many years does Austin get a little snow. The night from December 7th into December 8th was one of those onces. Yesterday morning I headed down to Great Hills Park, thinking the frostweed plants (Verbesina virginica) at the edge of the woods on the south side of Floral Park Dr. might have done their ice trick. They hadn’t. Nevertheless, their large leaves were appealingly covered with snow, and so were the narrower leaves of the inland sea oats (Chasmanthium latifolium) that formed a colony around the frostweed.

Clematis drummondi, a vine that has no qualms about covering other plants, found itself covered for a change.

Not everything appeared so subdued in color. The fruits of the yaupon tree (Ilex vomitoria) were hard to miss.

I made my first picture at 7:25. By around 9:00, the sun had gotten high enough in a clear sky that warming patches of light increasingly reached the snow.

Within a few hours, all but the most recondite snow had melted.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 9, 2017 at 4:42 AM

Out of season

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Botanical field guides tell us the time(s) of the year when a species normally flowers. “Normally” is the operative word, based on observations over decades. Often what has proved true keeps on being true: books say that our prickly pear cacti bloom in the spring, and sure enough, I’ve never seen a prickly pear flower here in any other season. Some other species are freer in their stirrings, and that was the case with the firewheels I found on December 3 along the Colorado River at Loop 360. Gaillardia pulchella is described as blooming in the spring and occasionally into the summer, but here I found a small group that had put out some very healthy-looking flowers just three weeks before Christmas.

I’d gone out that morning to try for some pictures of fog, a rare occurrence here. I didn’t get any good fog pictures, but the firewheels made up for that. The low light led me to use an uncharacteristically wide aperture of f/2.8. That accounts for the photograph’s shallow depth of field, with only the nearest ray and the closest part of the central disk coming into good focus. At the same time, the limited depth of field caused distracting background details to graciously dissolve into amorphous areas of muted colors.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 8, 2017 at 4:46 AM

Red Rock Canyon

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On August 28th we entered Alberta’s Waterton Lakes National Park and checked out Red Rock Canyon.

Red Rock’s red rocks rock! Graceful grades of gray greatly enhance the red.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 6, 2017 at 7:45 PM

C-ing is B-lieving

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Don’t you think this view of a bespidered grass seed head from far north Austin on October 12th warrants a better grade than the C it proclaims?* Speaking of academics, perhaps the C is an emblem of my undergraduate days at Columbia. Or maybe the C stands for the Canon camera I used to take the picture. If you see the C as standing for something else, here’s your chance to speak up.

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* In case you’re unfamiliar with American schools, work is graded from A, the highest quality, down through D, the lowest that’s still considered marginally passing. Failing work gets a conveniently alliterative F.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 5, 2017 at 4:47 AM

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