Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Shimmering light

with 28 comments

One stretch of a Bull Creek tributary in my neighborhood flows beneath a limestone overhang. There are times when morning light filters through the trees, reflects off the surface of the water, and shimmers on the limestone wall of the overhang. July 8th at 9:04 was one of those times.

For the photographically curious: I took these pictures with a simple old 50mm lens wide open at f/1.4. Understandably, given the optics and the flowstoned face of the rocky overhang, not everything came out sharp, but somehow that hasn’t bothered me.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 16, 2019 at 4:46 AM

28 Responses

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  1. I wouldn’t be bothered, either. These are compelling images. At first, I assumed they were water — what wonderful visual tricks! The blue-green tint in the first photo has to be due to algae or some other growth on the rock itself; at least, I assume so. While light can infuse the landscape with color at sunrise and sunset, I’m not sure it can reflect in color. I’ve never thought about it. I can only see these on my iPad at this point, since (a bit ironically, given my recent blackout post) my home internet connection has failed me. I’m looking forward to seeing them writ large when Xfinity sees fit to solve my problem.


    July 16, 2019 at 5:14 AM

    • When I showed these pictures to some fellow photographers last week, one suggested I make a video so people could see the shimmering in action. I expect I’ll go back and do that at some point.

      Yes, light does reflect in color.

      There’s irony indeed in your computer contretemps following so closely after your blackout post. That suddenly made me realize we say blackout but not blackin. Ah, the ins and outs of a language. Maybe the thought came from having noticed that although Xfinity is an obvious take on Infinity, the ex that is the Latin word for ‘out’ is not the opposite of the in in infinity. The in in infinity is a negative, so that infinite means ‘not finite.’ It’s also interesting that while infinity is a common word, finity is an uncommon one. Yes, we’re finicky about finity.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 16, 2019 at 5:43 AM

      • What a great etymological riff. It does occur to me that as often as our service goes down, and as many problems as people have with the service, “Ex-finity” would be a useful addition to the lexicon.


        July 16, 2019 at 5:51 AM

  2. Sharp where needed. These are so well-seen and captured, Steve.

    Steve Gingold

    July 16, 2019 at 5:28 AM

    • It’s a great place, one I make a point of going to see every so often for the light show. A few days before I took these pictures I tried going there and found that a good-sized ashe juniper tree had toppled across the creek and blocked me from going all the way to the overhang. I went back the next day with a chain saw and cut away enough branches that I could scoot under the fallen trunk and make it all the way to the overhang. More than the usual amount of work went into these pictures.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 16, 2019 at 5:50 AM

      • Sometimes a lot of unrecognized effort goes into making images. Most people think it’s just point and click. Sometimes it is but often it is not although a chainsaw is a rare tool in the photo kit.

        Steve Gingold

        July 16, 2019 at 1:54 PM

        • It’s not an implement I normally cary with me. In this case my photo technique was saw, point, and click.

          Steve Schwartzman

          July 16, 2019 at 2:22 PM

          • Sounded more like saw, wade, point, click. So far I’ve done all three sans the saw…although my multitool that I carry on my belt does have a saw.

            Steve Gingold

            July 16, 2019 at 2:26 PM

            • The only way to get to the overhang is to walk in the creek, so I wear rubber boots to deal with the wading. Your multitool saw might work for small branches, but in this case even a full-size hand saw would have had me doing lots of tedious work. I thought about it for a few seconds and decided a chain saw was the only way to go. Fortunately I have a strong battery-powered one.

              Steve Schwartzman

              July 16, 2019 at 3:05 PM

              • Mine still is a gas saw. If it ever fails me a battery powered one will replace it…same for my trimmer/brush cutter, pruner/hedge trimmer combo. This yard is quite the taskmaster. Yeah, that little saw has big coarse teeth but would be no match for a tree. I wear a 17″ pair of Muck boots for wading. Uninsulated in the summer and an insulated pair in the winter.

                Steve Gingold

                July 16, 2019 at 4:26 PM

                • As corded implements have failed I’ve been replacing them with battery-operated ones.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  July 16, 2019 at 5:18 PM

  3. Your images have a painterly sensibility.


    July 16, 2019 at 8:58 AM

  4. Oh these images are so cool! At first I thought I was looking at the side of a huge fish.


    July 16, 2019 at 9:07 AM

    • Water, yes. A huge fish, hmmmm. I guess that validates these pictures as good abstractions—and it let your vision run where it would.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 16, 2019 at 2:28 PM

  5. Reading your comment to Linda, I was reminded of a story my Dad told about himself. Back when computers were a fairly new thing and he was endeavoring to set one up for work, he was following along with the directions. When he got to the part where you choose the background color, he thought, hm, black would be cool. So he clicked that. And then awhile later he was asked to choose a text color and naturally he chose black….uh-oh! I think that would qualify as a black-in. There he was in some country where he hadn’t yet learned the language, looking at an utterly black screen, wondering how in the world he was going to undo what he’d just done. That story still makes me giggle to think about because he was far from impetuous. Being an engineer, he did figure out how to retrace his steps and recover the white screen.


    July 16, 2019 at 9:16 AM

    • That’s a great anecdote, and you laid a foundation for blackin to have meaning. Even before I got to the end of the story I figured your father must have found a way out of his predicament. I couldn’t imagine him sitting in front of a black screen indefinitely.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 16, 2019 at 2:34 PM

      • You’re right about that. Now me, I might have resorted to throwing the thing out the window but he was made of sterner stuff.


        July 17, 2019 at 8:25 AM

  6. Certainly sharp enough. You know my mind tends to go toward abstract and these definitely take me there.

    Regarding Linda’s plight, Xfinity always made me think of ex- as in “former” and then finite, i.e. formerly finite now rather vague and imprecise. After numerous calls to their so-called tech-support, this is my interpretation of the word.

    Michael Scandling

    July 16, 2019 at 10:30 AM

    • The first one’s reasonably sharp even when viewed larger. The second seems okay at this reduced size but might be problematic when enlarged—or might not, especially if abstraction is your way of looking at it

      I have no experience with Xfinity. You and Linda make it seem like I’m better off without that experience.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 16, 2019 at 2:51 PM

  7. Beautiful photos; movement comes through ‘loud and clear’. Don’t quite know if the ‘loud and clear’ are in any way. I guess that if you’d taken the photos any earlier in the morning, there wouldn’t have been enough light.


    July 16, 2019 at 1:27 PM

    • Good, I’m glad you picked up on the motion.

      Based on what I’ve observed, the shimmering requires water in the creek (which can get pretty dry in the summer) and it also requires sunshine. The second factor means the possible time is in the morning after the sun has risen high enough to make it through openings in the canopy, and before it gets so high that the overhang is left in shadow for the rest of the day. With an overcast sky, no time of day works.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 16, 2019 at 3:00 PM

  8. I know exactly that effect and have been a fan of it for years – on the bottoms of leaves, the trunks of trees, rocks, etc. I also know how difficult it is to photograph well. This becomes a beautiful abstract with subtle colors, ripples, and shadows, lovely! Sharpness isn’t everything.


    July 22, 2019 at 3:45 PM

    • Well said: sharpness isn’t everything (as much as this math teacher loves clarity). I should’ve known you’d be aware of the effect and have been a fan of it for years. Viva abstraction!

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 22, 2019 at 8:56 PM

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