Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

You don’t have to travel far

with 31 comments

You’ve been seeing scenic pictures from faraway New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, along with plants from Massachusetts. As rewarding as traveling to exotic locales is, we needn’t travel long distances. On July 12th I went as far as my front yard in Austin, sat myself down next to a Turk’s cap plant (Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii), and at the price of two mosquito bites over half an hour took several dozen pictures. Here’s one of those portraits, which plays up color and shape while slighting detail, thanks to the maximum f/2.8 aperture of my macro lens.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 2, 2018 at 4:46 AM

31 Responses

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  1. I can so relate to the mosquito bites. You will recall my image of Wing’s Neck (07/26/18) … that one cost me at least a dozen midge bites … nasty little things. The resulting bites were just as itchy as that of the mosquito, but the effect seems to be somewhat less long-lasting.

    Pairodox Farm

    August 2, 2018 at 6:00 AM

    • No biting midges in Austin that I’m aware of. The commonest itch-maker in these here parts is the chigger. Probably the only reason I didn’t come away with any chigger bites is that I was sitting on a mat on the paved walkway rather than on the grass. From what you say your midge bites are short-lived; in contrast, chigger bites keep itching for days.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 2, 2018 at 7:28 AM

  2. Looks like an oil painting.


    August 2, 2018 at 6:08 AM

    • The picture does have that feel, doesn’t it? I never try for an oil-painting effect; happening of its own accord, as here, is fine with me.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 2, 2018 at 7:31 AM

  3. Beautiful. I guess I’ll take another look at my Turk’s Cap.

    automatic gardener

    August 2, 2018 at 7:43 AM

    • I’ll bet another look proves worthwhile. Mostly I’ve photographed Turk’s caps with a prominent stamen column, the flowers’ most prominent feature. It’s rewarding to get a good portrait even without it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 2, 2018 at 7:59 AM

  4. This looks like a painting. Excellent!


    August 2, 2018 at 8:55 AM

  5. Been shooting in my yard for years. More insects than flowers but the travel time is awesome.

    Steve Gingold

    August 2, 2018 at 5:40 PM

  6. Looks like a painting, beautiful!


    August 2, 2018 at 7:55 PM

  7. The rich color in this photograph alone was worth your travel time—and even the mosquito bites.

    Susan Scheid

    August 2, 2018 at 9:19 PM

  8. The texture in this photograph is extraordinary! So very lovely.


    August 2, 2018 at 10:20 PM

  9. It has the richness and sheen of a beautiful Turkish carpet. Here is a living one made with tulips. https://www.yenisafak.com/en/video-gallery/life/worlds-largest-tulip-carpet-in-turkeys-istanbul-2184510


    August 3, 2018 at 5:04 AM

    • That’s a good segue from Turk’s cap to Turkish carpet in Turkey. I doubt anyone could ever gather 585,000 Turk’s cap flowers the way they did tulips.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 3, 2018 at 7:17 AM

      • The segue mainly came from the fact that the Turk’s cap flower reminded me a little of a tulip. So I googled Turkish Tulips and discovered that tulips were a design element of Turkish carpets. Also the word tulip has its origin in a different type of headgear, the turban.


        August 3, 2018 at 7:23 AM

        • Good sleuthing. The Turk’s cap flower was named for its resemblance to a turban. Whoever did the naming probably didn’t know the word turban and so used cap. The resemblance to a turban may be more apparent in a picture like this one:


          Steve Schwartzman

          August 3, 2018 at 8:03 AM

          • Ah! The 2016 photo is more like a turban but I also see a strong resemblance to a hisbiscus flower, which is understandable since they are both mallows. Presumably this means that the turk’s cap flower, like the hibiscus, is edible.


            August 3, 2018 at 8:52 PM

            • You’re right: Turk’s cap flowers are edible, and so are the small, pithy fruits. I’ve tried both but don’t find either to have much of a taste. Some people might use Turk’s cap flowers as a colorful and edible garnish, a red parallel to parsley. Just as most parsley served as a garnish goes uneaten, so I’m afraid would these red flowers.

              Steve Schwartzman

              August 3, 2018 at 9:55 PM

  10. The absence of the stamen is unusual. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a Turk’s cap photographed without it. I like it; the texture and color of the flower taking center stage here is nice, especially with the darker tones.

    Your mention of f/2.8 stopped me. I checked my lens, and sure enough: same lens, same capability. I did notice that with that quick check of the aperture settings, the ISO shot up to 3200. Above 800, I can spot some graininess and it’s a real issue at 1600. The more I look at this photo, the more I think I see a bit of noise — but the interesting thing is that, in this photo, it enhances the appearance of the flower, giving it a velvety texture.

    If I understand it right, your full-frame camera probably does better at a high ISO, too — yes?


    August 3, 2018 at 8:27 AM

    • Even at the high ISO of 800 and light-letting-in aperture of f/2.8 I used, the picture came out a little underexposed. Adding brightness in the processing made the noise a bit more visible. All in all, I didn’t find that amount of noise annoying. And I’m seeing what you’re not: the full 50-megapixel image. The version posted here suffers in at least three ways. At half a megapixel, it has only 1% the area of the original! Saving the reduced version at a jpeg setting of 7 (on a scale of 12) causes noticeable “plaid” artifacts; that’s because the jpeg algorithm divides an image into many little squares and works on each square apart from its neighbors. The lower the jpeg setting, the less storage space an image takes up but the splotchier it gets. I’ve settled on 7 as a happy medium. Finally, WordPress does other things that I don’t know the specifics of, but I’ve often noticed that those things can further degrade an image.

      You’re right that a full-frame camera, because its sensor elements are physically larger than those of a cropped-sensor camera, produces less noise at any given ISO.

      In my experience, it’s not unusual to find an occasional Turk’s cap without a stamen column. Possibly the column got damaged during development and never emerged, or possibly something broke it off or pulled it out after it had emerged.

      And finally, with regard to aesthetics, in the world of “art,” photographers often print images on the dark side. While I usually crave light, in this case I’m quite fond of a darker rendition.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 3, 2018 at 9:15 AM

  11. This flower is also called ‘sleeping hibiscus’ because it doesn’t open. This plant is less drought tolerant so I never saw it in San Juan, P.R., although it could grow in elevated areas with more precipitation. In Florida it’s common, although not as much as other drought tolerant plants in the family.

    I read that Canon is planing to release a full frame mirrorless camera, with plans to compete with the Sony ones. It’s due at the end of this year or next. The big question is the lens mount. If it’s the EF mount then it could be a deal, but if it’s the other mount (the one for the smaller camera they make) then it’s not worth it for me.


    August 4, 2018 at 8:57 AM

    • I haven’t run across the term ‘sleeping hibiscus’ but I noticed online just now that another vernacular name corresponding to the fact that the flower doesn’t open is ‘Scotchman’s purse,’ based on the supposed thriftiness of the Scots.

      I hadn’t heard about plans for a Canon full-frame mirrorless camera. The article at

      says this:

      “It’s currently unclear what lens mount Canon will include in its mirrorless camera line, but Canon Rumors says there are murmurings that Canon has developed a ‘sexy solution’ to the problem of making its mirrorless cameras compatible with EF lenses.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 4, 2018 at 9:27 AM

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