Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Archive for November 2018

Return to Meadow Lake Park

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On November 15th I returned to Meadow Lake Park in Round Rock to see what the morning light could do for the large stands of bushy bluestem (Andropogon glomeratus) that had caught my eye there but that I hadn’t photographed during my afternoon visit 11 days earlier. This is the showiest of the native grasses I regularly see in central Texas as the end of each year approaches. And speaking of native, that’s what this grass is on damp or wet ground in parts of many American states, as you can confirm on the USDA map (use the slider there to zoom in to the county level).

In the first photograph the light came mostly from in front of the camera,
and in the second photograph mostly from behind the camera.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

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Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 29, 2018 at 4:29 PM

Fall foliage at Meadow Lake Park

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I try to go to Meadow Lake Park in Round Rock at least once a year because I always find some good native plants to take pictures of there. On the afternoon of November 4th I visited the park and photographed this colorful bald cypress tree, Taxodium distichum, set off by fleecy clouds. (From a month-ago post you may remember an earlier stage in color change.) The trees beyond the bald cypress are black willows, Salix nigra.

By the stand of black willows visible at the left edge of the first photograph I found a tall, slender stalk with yellowing leaves that Joe Marcus of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center identified as likely a species of Morus, which is to say mulberry. What the vine whose leaves were turning warm colors was, I don’t know, but the combination of yellow and red and orange against the blue sky certainly appealed to me.

Click to enlarge.

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 28, 2018 at 4:34 AM

More than I bargained for

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On October 27th I was driving east on Louis Henna Blvd. in Round Rock when I caught a glimpse of some Maximilian sunflowers (Helianthus maximiliani) way up at the top of a tall mound of earth at a construction site. After parking on Roundville Ln. I walked around to photograph the sunflowers, as shown here:

I’d barely taken any pictures, though, when I noticed a raptor perched on a highway sign not far away. I put on my longest lens and managed to get two pictures before the bird glided down to the ground in a place where I couldn’t easily photograph it; then it flew away altogether.

Knowing practically nothing about birds, I checked with Shannon in Houston, who said she thought it was most likely either a “Red-tailed hawk (all season) or Swainson’s Hawk (immature, migratory),” and that she was leaning toward the former.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 26, 2018 at 4:46 AM

Multitudinous snout butterflies and two kinds of white*

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Where the previous post showed you a close and then an even closer view of an individual American snout butterfly (Libytheana carinanta), look at the swarm I found on some frostweed flowers (Verbesina virginica) on November 1st along River Place Blvd. I count at least two dozen butterflies in this picture. The autumn of 2018 has proved a good season for the species, which I’ve continued seeing in other parts of Austin as well.

This multitude of snout butterflies came as a bonus because what I’d stopped to photograph was some poverty weed (Baccharis neglecta), as shown below with another bonus in the form of native grape vines (Vitis spp.) climbing on the bushes. If you look carefully, you may also pick out one or two or three bits of breeze-wafted poverty weed fluff in the air; that’s how this species spreads its seeds.

* A search for “multitudinous snout butterflies” got no hits, so you are probably the first people in the history of the universe (after me) to be reading that phrase. Happy novelty to you.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 24, 2018 at 4:37 PM

American snout butterfly on goldenrod flowers

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On October 29th I photographed this American snout butterfly, Libytheana carinenta, on some goldenrod flowers that were growing around the pond at Central Market on North Lamar Blvd. If you’d like an even closer view from another frame that will better reveal how hairy the snout and head are, click the thumbnail below.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 23, 2018 at 4:55 AM

Cardinal flower: a cluttered view and one that’s less so

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On the pleasant afternoon of November 1st we traipsed along the boardwalk around one side of the pond at River Place. I was surprised when I looked down over the railing and saw bright red atop a lone cardinal flower plant (Lobelia cardinalis). In photographing plants I rarely aim straight down because that’s the most likely way to end up with lots of clutter in a picture, as you see here in the photo I took with my 24–105mm lens zoomed to its maximum focal length:

Normally I reduce background clutter in a wildflower portrait by getting close and aiming horizontally, or by getting low and aiming upward. In this case the plant was growing in shallow water, in addition to which the railing and the raised boardwalk prevented me from getting close to the cardinal flower. What to do? I switched to my 100–400mm lens, zoomed it to its maximum, leaned as far as I could over the railing, and then even stretched my arms out so my eye was no longer at the camera’s viewfinder. Guessing at framing my subject and relying on the camera’s autofocus, I ended up with this portrait:

The cardinal flower ranges across an enormous territory from Mexico to Canada, including California through Maine in the United States, as you can verify on a map. You’ve got to hand it to a plant that tolerates the winters in Quebec as well as the summers in Nevada. That last location strikes me as especially surprising, given that this species has to grow near water.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 21, 2018 at 4:55 PM

Fluffy poverty weed and fleecy clouds

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Sometimes you get clouds that mimic your subject. That’s the way it was on November 2nd when I went over to a poverty weed bush (Baccharis neglecta) I know in my neighborhood that had matured to the stage where it was casting its seed-bearing fluff into the breeze.

After the seeds and fluff from each tuft blow away, a little “star” gets left behind.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 20, 2018 at 4:43 AM

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