Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Far West

with 32 comments

Near the far west end of Far West Blvd. in west Austin on June 1st I found a twistleaf yucca (Yucca rupicola) leaning out and flowering beyond the leaves of an evergreen sumac (Rhus virens).

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 30, 2019 at 4:48 AM

32 Responses

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  1. Beautiful!!


    June 30, 2019 at 4:49 AM

    • For whatever reason, I haven’t photographed or shown as many yucca flowers as I “should” have over the years. This portrait makes up for some of that absence.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 30, 2019 at 5:24 AM

      • Unusual togetherness for yucca flowers AND sumac. I’ve seen yuccas usually isolated from other plants. A banner year for yucca blooms was 2017. I myself blogged about three kinds of yuccas, one of which bloomed a second stalk shortly after the first one. Also created some videos of 22-day cycles of two kinds of yuccas (YT links embedded in articles).


        July 2, 2019 at 11:19 AM

  2. I was tickled this spring (May) when my twistleaf sent up a 2nd bloom stalk. It was shorter than the first, but bloomed as well. Lovely photo!


    June 30, 2019 at 8:21 AM

    • How uncommon is it for a twistleaf yucca to put up a second stalk? I’ve never followed the development of these plants.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 30, 2019 at 10:45 AM

      • I’ve never witnessed this from my twistleaf–it’s a first. I ascribed the second stalk to the plenty of rain in late spring, but I’m guessing. I took it as a little gift: last year I was traveling in May and missed the bloom period. I think the yucca felt badly about that.


        June 30, 2019 at 5:34 PM

      • My twisted-leaf yucca has never sprouted a 2nd stalk in the same season. A soft-leaf yucca (recurvifolia) that I kept track of in 2017 sprouted a second one shortly after the first one. Visit https://whilldtkwriter.blogspot.com/search?q=yucca and read about them.


        July 2, 2019 at 11:24 AM

  3. That’s really lovely. The unusual context is especially nice; it stopped me for a moment while my brain tried to match the leaves with the flowers — and couldn’t. Seeing the flowers reaching out horizontally only increased the effect. It’s a great photo.


    June 30, 2019 at 9:06 AM

    • Thanks. I’m pleased with it, too. This image is part of the darker portrait phase I’ve been going through lately.

      Sorry to have discombobulated your brain with those sumac leaves; that’s why I felt I’d better explain in the text so that people unfamiliar with the species wouldn’t be misled into connecting the flowers with the leaves.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 30, 2019 at 10:57 AM

  4. Outstanding floral composition, Steve! It’s more like a piece of art than a photo.

    Peter Klopp

    June 30, 2019 at 9:31 AM

    • Photographers in the late 1800s began campaigning for photography to be considered an art, which it is. These flowers seemed to fit so naturally into the photographic frame.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 30, 2019 at 11:02 AM

  5. What a great find! Beautiful photo, Steve, the green in the background highlights the creamy beauty of the yucca flowers.

    Jet Eliot

    June 30, 2019 at 9:34 AM

    • It was a great find. I’d say it’s the best portrait of yucca flowers I’ve done. Normally I try to photograph flowers with their own foliage, but that wasn’t possible here; besides, as you pointed out, the sumac leaves worked as an excellent substitute.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 30, 2019 at 11:05 AM

  6. This stopped me and held me for a long time. I really like your darker portrait mode. It brings me light. This is a piece of art. No question.

    Michael Scandling

    June 30, 2019 at 3:58 PM

    • Thanks. I’m pleased at your reaction, a confirmation of the effectiveness a darker portrait can have. The bright white flowers against a dark background made this approach natural here.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 30, 2019 at 5:01 PM

      • Not to go all Zen on you, but life is made apparent by contrasts. There are three here: Light against dark, detail against softness, and saturated color against subtle.

        Michael Scandling

        June 30, 2019 at 5:10 PM

  7. Yuccas are here also but not naturally. Folks plant them in gardens. I remember seeing them along the Garden State (I think, maybe the NJ Turnpike), growing among of all things the Jersey barriers. Those bell-shaped flowers are beauties. I like the moderate brightness of the whites which are still a strong contrast compared to the nice dark background.

    Steve Gingold

    June 30, 2019 at 7:02 PM

    • That sounds incongruous to me: yuccas along the NJT or GSP. Oh well, people plant things in all sorts of places.

      Speaking of these bell-shaped flowers, I made some closer views of them and thought about adding one to this post but then forgot that I’d thought about doing that.

      As you’ve mentioned from time to time, our camera sensors can’t handle as wide a tonal range as our eyes can. With as bright a subject as these flowers, the background went pretty black, which was fine with me.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 30, 2019 at 8:38 PM

      • Yeah, it sure surprised me. That was a good 10-15 years ago though so who knows now. An awful lot of CO spewed during those years.
        Yeah, I forget things like that too. I edited today’s blog title because I forgot to be clever about it.

        I routinely place my exposure evaluation spot on the whitest portion of the flower, assuming it’s white, and then add compensation to be sure it’s white which then darkens the background. Works pretty well. Your exposure worked out great.

        Steve Gingold

        July 1, 2019 at 6:04 PM

        • I see what you mean about Anomalily: well done. And yes, I was happy with the way my exposure worked out on this picture. The RAW file did actually record some details in the shadows but bringing out those details—assuming I wanted to, which I didn’t—would have revealed unacceptable levels of noise.

          Steve Schwartzman

          July 1, 2019 at 7:32 PM

  8. Very elegant. I like the soft light with the contrasting black and white color.


    July 1, 2019 at 11:27 AM

    • Elegance is just fine with me, thanks. One interesting thing is that although the light looks soft here, I photographed the yucca in direct sunlight. Fortunately there’s a lot of leeway in my camera’s sensor at the bright end of the spectrum.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 1, 2019 at 1:21 PM

  9. I so miss yuccas. For a while, I had 48 of the 49 known species of Yucca, including some that might have been the only specimens of their kind in California. It is a long story, but they were all discarded like common trash.


    July 1, 2019 at 5:53 PM

    • Oh, I’m sorry to hear they got discarded. On our last trip to California, in 2016, I learned that Joshua trees are actually yuccas.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 1, 2019 at 7:23 PM

      • Yucca brevifolia. There are other species of Yucca that are also classified as Joshua trees, but they are less common.


        July 1, 2019 at 7:28 PM

        • I didn’t know there were other species also called Joshua trees. I learned something.

          Steve Schwartzman

          July 1, 2019 at 7:32 PM

          • Well, they are collectively known by the generic term of ‘Joshua tree’. However, Yucca brevifolia is the ‘real’ Joshua tree that was first encountered by Mormons migrating through the Mojave Desert. The other ‘Joshua trees’ actually have different local names. For example, the big Yucca filfera trees at Stanford that we know as Joshua trees are actually ‘Saint Peter’s palm’.


            July 1, 2019 at 7:46 PM

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