Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Yellow bitterweed

with 27 comments

At the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center on September 26th I photographed this flower head of a wildflower called yellow sneezeweed and yellow bitterweed, Helenium amarum var. amarum. (If that wasn’t enough amarums for you, I’ll add that amarum is the Latin word for ‘bitter.’) Because I was there early in the morning and the light was low, I went for a soft portrait in which relatively little would be in focus.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 11, 2018 at 5:45 PM

27 Responses

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  1. Very nice. Beautiful image.

    Pairodox Farm

    October 11, 2018 at 6:07 PM

  2. beautiful even though its name is bitterweed


    October 11, 2018 at 6:09 PM

  3. The somewhat unusual background color complements it so well. I don’t know if it’s an optical illusion or my tired eyes, but there seems to be a faint glow around the flower, as though it’s casting a bit of yellow light on its surroundings. It may just be the soft focus, but it’s very attractive.


    October 11, 2018 at 10:01 PM

    • I suspect artifacts of optics and digital processing account for the faint glow you sense around the flower. Of course tired eyes may add a bit of their own to the interplay between seer and seen. Some say that everything is illusions.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 12, 2018 at 6:14 AM

  4. tee hee, sneezeweed


    October 11, 2018 at 11:57 PM

  5. great treatment, love the color


    October 12, 2018 at 5:37 AM

    • Now that you mention it, I don’t recall any other photo with background colors quite like these.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 12, 2018 at 6:16 AM

  6. And an exquisite soft focus portrait it is. I have Helenium autumnale here. I love everything about it, including its name.


    October 12, 2018 at 7:55 AM

    • Then that’s another wildflower in common: we have Helenium autumnale here, too, though it’s not as common as the species in today’s picture. Glad you like its soft portrait.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 12, 2018 at 8:01 AM

  7. For me it’s really shallow DOF (depth of field) rather than soft. I like it and I’m glad to see it. I know I got into the habit of not wanting to post my shallow DOF images because I insisted in getting the whole object in focus simply to convey more information. When I see yours I feel like posting some in the future.

    When you say amarum is the Latin word for ‘bitter’, I remembered ‘amargo’ in Spanish. ‘A veces, la vida puede ser ‘amarga’.


    October 12, 2018 at 9:18 PM

    • You’re correct that the shallow depth of field that accompanied the f/5 aperture in this picture caused most of the disk and ray flowers to go out of focus. I often try for greater sharpness but in this case, short of using flash, that wasn’t possible, so I played up the shallow depth of field. That’s what I meant by “soft.”

      Like you, I thought of amargo in Spanish and amer in French as two descendants of Latin amarum. From Italian there’s also the almond-flavored liqueur called amaretto.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 12, 2018 at 9:28 PM

    • Here’s la ‘Vida Amarga’ (https://youtu.be/uceR_jRHqJI) performed by Carlos Gardel, French Argentine singer, songwriter, composer and actor, and the most prominent figure in the history of tango.


      October 12, 2018 at 9:31 PM

      • I first encountered the music of Carlos Gardel in New York City in 1967. I’ve still got the album of his greatest hits that I bought way back then.

        Steve Schwartzman

        October 12, 2018 at 9:37 PM

        • So nostalgic for me, but your flower is soothing. Thanks for the post!


          October 12, 2018 at 9:39 PM

          • Sure thing. I can feel that nostalgia for the tiempos que fueron.

            Steve Schwartzman

            October 12, 2018 at 9:49 PM

            • He goes even further back to my father’s time. He died on 24 June 1935 in an airplane crash in Medellín, Colombia.


              October 12, 2018 at 9:59 PM

              • Yes, I was aware of his death in that airplane crash, which of course took place in my father’s time, too, though I don’t think he knew about Carlos Gardel.

                Steve Schwartzman

                October 12, 2018 at 10:02 PM

  8. […] blooming clump in Bull Creek on September 7th. You may recognize the species as a genus-mate of the yellow bitterweed you saw here last […]

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