Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

What I’d actually stopped to photograph

with 26 comments

First one and then another recent post showed things I photographed along the northern end of Spicewood Springs Rd. on February 6th. What I’d actually stopped to take pictures of there is the possumhaw (Ilex decidua) that you see below. My intention on that overcast and drizzly morning was to make a rich but subdued portrait using a telephoto lens, and that’s what I did.

On the way home I checked out a creek in the northern part of my neighborhood. There I found a few more fruit-laden possumhaws and also noticed that some of the trees’ red drupes had fallen on the limestone creekbed. Here’s a downward view of one that ended up isolated on some subtly colored rocks.

Bright green mosses cushioned other fallen possumhaw drupes nearby.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 19, 2019 at 4:28 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , , ,

26 Responses

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  1. It drizzled all day Sunday, but I went down to the San Bernard refuge anyway. I was surprised to see how vivid the possumhaw seemed even in those conditions. Like you, I looked around a bit for unusual portraits of the drupes. I especially like the third photo, with them in various stages of decay. I’m working on a post about a different kind of artist who would have found them as appealing as you did.


    February 19, 2019 at 9:06 AM

    • Good for you for going to San Bernard and braving the drizzle. That word describes Austin on the day I photographed these possumhaws and also again now. Having gone out into nature at several sites yesterday, including one where I photographed a fruit-laden possumhaw beginning to leaf out, I’ll yield to the drizzle and breeze by staying in this morning.

      I look forward to your post about a different kind of artist that possumhaws would’ve appealed to.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 19, 2019 at 9:20 AM

  2. Aw, just look at those pretty drupes nestled in the moss. Yes, you did succeed in a rich portrait. Grey skies bring out the color.


    February 20, 2019 at 11:27 AM

    • As a painter of nature, you know how the soft light on an overcast day can bring out saturated colors. A photographer under those conditions often deals with a shallow depth of field, but this portrait came out as I hoped it would.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 20, 2019 at 3:11 PM

      • Oh, I didn’t know that about it affecting your depth of field. Interesting. The neat thing about what you and I do is there is no end to the learning.


        February 22, 2019 at 9:06 AM

        • The less light there is, the more the aperture has to open up to compensate, and the wider the aperture is, the shallower the depth of field. I had to throw out several of the pictures I took of this possumhaw because some of the little red fruits were too far forward and came out blurred.

          Steve Schwartzman

          February 22, 2019 at 12:00 PM

          • Our eyes and minds are always working to compensate for that, and an artist has to guard against having everything in a painting being too sharply defined.


            February 23, 2019 at 7:40 AM

            • Yes, it’s a great mental illusion. When we look at something, only what’s in the center of our visual field is in focus, and everything else is in low resolution and out of focus.

              Steve Schwartzman

              February 23, 2019 at 8:20 AM

              • Yes, exactly!


                February 24, 2019 at 11:27 AM

  3. The last photo resembles a nest with red eggs.


    February 20, 2019 at 4:59 PM

  4. This is another one of those plants that we tried to grow, but could not sell enough of. We actually grew a few hollies for while. They are just too unpopular here.


    February 21, 2019 at 10:40 PM

    • Possumhaws grow naturally here, and people also plant them because of the fruit (on the female trees). The same goes for yaupon, Ilex vomitoria.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 22, 2019 at 4:49 AM

  5. It’s amazing (to me anyhow) how often I go to photograph something and come home with something else that I like even better! Each time I go to the botanical gardens, I try to find something new I haven’t noticed before. It’s not easy after seven years of walking around there, but I do so more often than not.



    February 22, 2019 at 10:01 AM

    • You make an excellent point, that even after seven years in the same botanical gardens you’re finding new things. You’ve reminded me of the essay “In the Laboratory With Agassiz,” by Samuel H. Scudder. If you haven’t read it, I recommend it:


      Steve Schwartzman

      February 22, 2019 at 2:20 PM

      • That was a good article! I took a class from Bryan Peterson a few years ago. In it he’d mentioned how he’d stopped to take pictures of something (rust, I think) and asked if anyone else wanted to. No one else did. Later, of course, they were sorry they hadn’t.

        I was a bit puzzled by that. Why wouldn’t you have taken pictures of the same thing your teacher did? Even if you didn’t like it later, what was there to lose?

        Ken and I do that to each other all the time. I’ll see him taking pictures and think hmmm. . . maybe I should too. Or he’ll see me looking the other way with my camera and he’ll start paying attention to what is over there. We’ve learned over the years that our eye and vision is so different, it’s worth investigating what each other is up to.


        February 24, 2019 at 7:50 PM

        • How nice, how symbiotic, that you and Ken take photographic clues from each other, especially because, as you say, your ways of looking are so different. I wonder if that difference could be a clue to answering the question you asked about why no one in the class with Bryan Peterson (is this him? https://bpsop.com) wanted to take pictures of the same thing he did. Perhaps, with individual interests, the subject didn’t appeal to them. Or maybe they figured any photographs they took would compare unfavorably to those of the teacher; on the other hand, you’d expect most of the teacher’s photographs to be better than most of the students’. Whatever the reason, it’s interesting that later the students were sorry to have missed out.

          Steve Schwartzman

          February 25, 2019 at 6:24 AM

          • Yep, that’s his website. He’s also written a number of books on photography subjects.

            I think the students were sorry later (as I recall) because it was more photogenic than they thought when they stood there looking at it. I’d have fully expected his pictures to look better than mine, but I still would have tried. And I know that as my skills get better, some pictures that were ho-hum can get improved by quite a bit.

            Ken and I working together was a long time coming. I wrote about it over five years ago (!) here: https://livingtheseasons.com/2013/07/17/sharing-a-passion-for-photography/.

            Since then, it’s gotten even better between us when we’re working, whether in the field or in front of our computers.


            February 28, 2019 at 9:02 PM

            • That was quite an interesting post you wrote about the two of you working together. It could be part of an anthology about the ups and downs of husbands and wives collaborating in various endeavors. Maybe you’ll even be the compiler of such an anthology.

              As a long-time teacher, I can confirm that it’s hardly unusual for students to ignore their teacher’s suggestions.

              Steve Schwartzman

              March 1, 2019 at 3:35 AM

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