Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

What’s reality, anyhow?

with 26 comments

The last post gave you a vintage red-white-and-blue look at a flowering Ipomopsis rubra, called Texas plume and standing cypress. This year I encountered the species for the first time on April 27th, before flowers or even buds had appeared. On the other hand, the firewheels (Gaillardia pulchella) beyond the standing cypress were blazing away, and I knew they’d complement the standing cypress in color and shape. Any red would come from the firewheels, with none from the standing cypress. I went for the feel of what I was seeing rather than trying to keep as much as possible in focus and recording reality—whatever that is. Here are three of the portraits I made that were new takes for me on Ipomopsis rubra.



© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 6, 2019 at 4:40 AM

26 Responses

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  1. Wow! Your experimentation with the unique background paid off. One can sense the feeling you used capturing the images rather than relying on technical aspects. I am impressed, Steve.

    Peter Klopp

    July 6, 2019 at 7:46 AM

    • After years and years at this, I’m always looking for new ways of looking. Having bright flowers in the background behind a subject wasn’t new—I’ve been doing that “forever”—but the overall feel was different this time.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 6, 2019 at 8:21 AM

  2. Oooo I really like the first and last one. The orang-y background is delicious and sets off the crisp detail in the foreground beautifully.


    July 6, 2019 at 9:03 AM

    • The first and last are of a similar type, with primarily the tip of the plant in focus. In the last I purposely shot closer to straight down, rather than from the side, so that even the greenery in the lower part of the picture would lose detail, like the firewheels in the background.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 6, 2019 at 10:46 AM

  3. Wow. This really works. I like the last one especially. The contrast in color and detail make it shine, almost literally.

    Michael Scandling

    July 6, 2019 at 9:44 AM

  4. The third gets my vote. I think the background in number one is a bit too much but in the third it is out of focus enough so the subject stands out.

    Steve Gingold

    July 6, 2019 at 1:35 PM

    • Your reasoning makes sense, and other people have agreed with you. The firewheels were pretty bright in the first picture; they’re subtler in the last one.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 6, 2019 at 2:01 PM

  5. They feel great to me. I particularly like the first photo with the stronger red background.


    July 7, 2019 at 5:04 AM

    • Might it be the case that the first photo resonates with a part of your personality that is strong or fiery?

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 7, 2019 at 8:05 AM

      • Hmmm…… or that I like looking at warm fiery colour on a cold winter’s evening.


        July 10, 2019 at 5:14 AM

        • That does seem more likely. And it’s still strange to think about this being winter for you when it’s so hot and humid here.

          Steve Schwartzman

          July 10, 2019 at 6:51 AM

  6. Looks like rosemary.

    Judy Baumann

    July 7, 2019 at 7:50 AM

    • Based on based on the way the foliage appears in these photographs, I can see why it would remind you of rosemary. A more conventional, less idiosyncratic photo than these three reveals a different growth habit, with standing cypress standing erect and solitary in a way that rosemary doesn’t.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 7, 2019 at 8:10 AM

  7. Love the foliage, Steve!
    I’ve tried growing this here in PA as an annual but it doesn’t seem to like our heavy acid clay soil 😦


    July 7, 2019 at 4:35 PM

    • I’m glad you mentioned that because it prompted me to take a look at the distribution of the species:


      To my surprise, I found that “Texas” plume has been documented as far northeast as Massachusetts, though not in large quantities. In no part of Pennsylvania, however, has the species been found.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 7, 2019 at 7:08 PM

  8. The first and third photos both appeal, but I’d say the third is my favorite. In the first, the standing cypress seems distinct from the firewheels; lovely, but separate. In the third photo, the plant seems to be rooted in and growing out of the color itself, taking in the pigment that eventually will become its own vibrant blossoms. As long as we’re not worried about reality, ‘color parasitism’ seems like a perfect explanation for the unique view of the plant.


    July 7, 2019 at 5:22 PM

    • You’re with the majority on the third picture, and for the good reason you cited: “the plant seems to be rooted in and growing out of the color itself.” You’ve come up with a great phrase in “color parasitism.” Maybe you’ll work on fleshing out the concept.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 7, 2019 at 9:58 PM

  9. Always the odd duck; I preferred the second photo. It was the blues (cobalt and marine) contrasting with the orange. Your subject seemed a calming influence to the intensity of orange and green background.
    But, that’s just me. I like intense color and contrast.


    July 8, 2019 at 10:01 AM

    • I’m glad someone finally liked the second image, which I’ll admit is unconventional and asymmetric. Those blues from the sky peeking through in the upper right grabbed me, and you too.

      As for being an odd duck, does that mean you’re a quack? (Sorry, you left me an irresistible opening.)

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 8, 2019 at 11:07 AM

  10. “Those blues from the sky peeking through in the upper right grabbed me, and you too.” Yes, they do!

    Regarding Odd Duck…

    Merriam Webster says I am: “a strange person”.
    I say: I don’t follow the beaten path.

    So, if not following the beaten path makes me a strange person, well, I’ve been walking that path forever. Why change now? 😀


    July 8, 2019 at 4:00 PM

    • Right: why change now? Remember what Thoreau wrote in Walden: “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 8, 2019 at 4:04 PM

  11. The “feel” of what we are seeing rather than recording reality, whatever that is – I think that’s what often gives an image the resonance that moves the viewer. The last photo has a strange feeling to it that I like – the way the lower leaves go out of focus and start to blend with the background, even though it’s a totally different hue, is fun.


    July 12, 2019 at 1:50 PM

    • It is fun, and while I can’t swear I’ve never done something like it before, at least I hadn’t done it recently, and so it felt new. You know that feeling of getting excited and expectant at something you see through the viewfinder. I’m glad it came across to you.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 12, 2019 at 3:40 PM

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