Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Backlit flower head of a Texas skeleton plant

with 37 comments

Lygodesmia texana on June 18th along Vaught Ranch Rd. It was the first time I’d ever photographed there.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 20, 2019 at 4:56 AM

37 Responses

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  1. I’m especially fond of these flowers, at least partly because of what I see as their delicacy. This image shows a different side of the bloom; it has a solidity and opaqueness that didn’t immediately shout “skeleton plant!” when I looked at it.


    July 20, 2019 at 7:03 AM

    • Interesting that the lighting led you to see this flower head as different, more solid and opaque, than your usual conception of a skeleton plant. My mind ran to the translucence of the ligules. As always, each to his own perception.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 20, 2019 at 5:53 PM

  2. Yes, it looks very robust in this light. You mention that this was the first time you photographed in this area. Did you find lots of good things there?


    July 20, 2019 at 7:52 AM

    • I’d photographed along the area’s main road, RM 2222, but had never turned off onto Vaught Ranch Rd., which doesn’t go far. Sometimes I follow an unfamiliar road just to see where it goes and what I find. I did photograph a few other things but I’m not home to remind myself what they were. This was probably the highlight.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 20, 2019 at 5:57 PM

  3. Fascinating play with light and dark, and all variations of purple, Steve! Truly a great composition!

    Peter Klopp

    July 20, 2019 at 8:32 AM

  4. I’ve never heard of this flower before, and couldn’t imagine how such a rich purple could be skeletal, but looked it up, and understand it’s the absence of leaves on the stalk. It’s a lovely photo

    Robert Parker

    July 20, 2019 at 8:47 AM

    • Good for you to have pursued the explanation of what’s skeletal about this plant, which certainly isn’t the flowers. I could have put that in the text but decided to be taciturn. There’s no reason you’d have heard of this species, which in the United States grows only in Texas, New Mexico, and Oklahoma.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 20, 2019 at 6:09 PM

  5. Now you’ve gone and done it! As soon as I figure out how to pop my eyes back into my head I’ll continue…

    The back light against black makes the flower look like a light source. Magnificent photograph.

    Michael Scandling

    July 20, 2019 at 10:22 AM

  6. It’s interesting that an out of focus petal creates a sharply focused shadow.Of course it’s more a case of where your focus was placed but still a curious detail. Nice side-lighting.

    Steve Gingold

    July 20, 2019 at 10:24 AM

    • You raise an excellent point: the shadow on the foremost ligule seems sharper than it has a right to be. Or maybe it’s just sharper than what our deluded senses expect based on the fact that the ligules in back are out of focus. Presumably the light rays coming from the back stayed relatively parallel to one another.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 20, 2019 at 6:20 PM

      • I’d say it was that plus the aperture and point of focus you chose. I’d imagine if you focused farther in those rear petals would have been sharp and the shadow soft.

        Steve Gingold

        July 20, 2019 at 6:25 PM

        • I see I focused my 100mm macro on the frontmost ligules at f/11. As you’ve heard me say, I generally don’t allow the frontmost part of a subject to go out of focus.

          Steve Schwartzman

          July 20, 2019 at 6:31 PM

  7. The light has given it the look of a chalice, although not one that would hold water.


    July 20, 2019 at 2:16 PM

    • I don’t mind water leaking out of the “chalice” just as long as the light gets retained.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 20, 2019 at 6:22 PM

  8. Awesome light!!


    July 21, 2019 at 8:10 PM

  9. A gorgeous capture, Steve! I love the shadow on the front petal and the depth seen with the out of focus back petals.

    Ellen Jennings

    July 22, 2019 at 8:41 AM

    • Thanks. Ellen. You make a good point: the out-of-focus parts in the back do create a sense of depth.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 22, 2019 at 8:38 PM

  10. Such wonderful light and shadows, Steve!


    July 22, 2019 at 3:37 PM

  11. Cool; like an album cover from the early 1970s.


    July 22, 2019 at 5:36 PM

  12. The shadows and light are beautiful, the symmetry of the curving petals is appealing as well.


    July 22, 2019 at 8:30 PM

  13. Wow. What a gorgeous capture! Love the contrast of that vivid purple with the black background. Gorgeous!


    August 6, 2019 at 3:30 PM

  14. […] I’m always happy when I can show off a native species that I’ve finally found after reading about it for a long time. So it is with Lactuca ludovciana, which apparently goes by the names western wild lettuce, Louisiana wild lettuce, prairie lettuce, prairie wild lettuce, and biannual (or biennial) lettuce. This view, which comes from September 7th adjacent to Bull Creek, looks downward; the brown is from dried tree leaves on the ground. Prairie lettuce is scattered across much of the central and western United States and Canada. The species is in the same Cichorieae tribe of the sunflower family as the skeleton plant you saw here in July. […]

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