Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Sunflowers on the prairie

with 45 comments

Behold the flower head of a “common” sunflower, Helianthus annuus,
on the Blackland Prairie in northeast Austin on August 24th.

Sunflower seed head remains also have their appeal, whether from the front or from behind.

As much as I normally don’t like shooting up into a white sky,
once in a while it serves as a good way to isolate a subject.

You may imagine the stem at the bottom of the second image continuing on into the stem
at the top of the third image. I didn’t do that on purpose but I like the way it came out.

©2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 9, 2019 at 4:41 AM

45 Responses

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  1. Sooooo wondered. LOVE the white background.


    September 9, 2019 at 8:06 AM

    • In portrait studios photographers often use a white backdrop to isolate a subject. It’s harder to make that happen outdoors. This is one time when it became possible. It’s good to know you find it so appealing.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 9, 2019 at 8:15 AM

      • Oops- that’s supposed to say wonderful. Ha ha. I like the idea that the white is possible outdoors. I used to work for a commercial processing lab and we developed slides (before digital took over) for photographers who were shooting catalog and magazine work, so the products had white backgrounds. It’s a treat to see a wild sunflower presented that way. It’s fun to black out the background behind flowers, too. I used to love doing that and forgot all about it until just now. 🙂


        September 9, 2019 at 8:23 AM

        • I assumed you meant “wonderful” and was about to change it. I often correct obvious typos and thinkos in people’s comments. It seems other bloggers rarely do that.

          A common technique of mine is to pick a vantage point that lets me line up a sunlit wildflower against a dark background, often trees in the shadows, as here:


          I’ve never done what some nature photographers do, which is carry a black backdrop to put behind a wildflower.

          As for white backgrounds, I know a photographer who has a whitebox at home, into which he puts botanical subjects he’s found in nature.

          Steve Schwartzman

          September 9, 2019 at 8:51 AM

          • Cool and thanks for the link! Hope you have a nice day!


            September 9, 2019 at 8:54 AM

            • Sure. Here in Texas people are hoping for rain to ease the drought.

              Steve Schwartzman

              September 9, 2019 at 9:00 AM

              • What part of Texas?


                September 9, 2019 at 9:08 AM

                • Austin.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  September 9, 2019 at 10:15 AM

                • Wow- didn’t know. My sisters are in north Dallas. Fingers crossed for rain. We’ve had so much rain since last winter. Really hurt the economy here- this is a floating/ canoeing area.


                  September 9, 2019 at 10:28 AM

                • With that personal connection, you understand the effect the drought is currently having on Texas. Our spring, like yours, was a wet one, but that seems like ancient times now.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  September 9, 2019 at 1:32 PM

  2. The white background on these shots looks great.


    September 9, 2019 at 9:36 AM

    • A whiteground instead of a blackground for a change, and it worked well.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 9, 2019 at 12:42 PM

      • A change of pace is a good thing.


        September 10, 2019 at 8:29 AM

        • A change of pace can indeed be a good thing. The pace of change in the modern world is sometimes not a good thing.

          Steve Schwartzman

          September 10, 2019 at 9:00 AM

          • Well put. Most of us long to escape, which causes me to wonder, why don’t we do something about it? It would be good if we could create oases of calm, like deep pools in a river.


            September 10, 2019 at 9:20 AM

            • There are relatively isolated places people can go to to relax, especially outside the tourist season. Or people can stay home and turn off the television, the smartphone, and social media.

              Steve Schwartzman

              September 10, 2019 at 6:45 PM

              • I’m pretty dedicated to living outside the mainstream, but I feel for the commuters.


                September 11, 2019 at 7:40 AM

                • Ah, yes. For my first three years of college I commuted from the suburbs an hour and a half each way. That wore me out to the point that for my senior year I stayed in the city, even though it meant having to pay for an apartment (which I split with a fellow student) rather than living for free at home. It also meant I had to get a party-time job to pay for my share of the apartment.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  September 11, 2019 at 7:52 AM

                • Did you just say “party-time” job? That puts things in an entirely different light…


                  September 12, 2019 at 8:49 AM

                • Call it a typo or a thinko. The job was shelving books in the law library, definitely not something one does at a party.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  September 12, 2019 at 9:29 AM

                • oh, I like that, a thinko. I suspected as much. I would have loved a job like that. When I was in college I worked for a lawyer and quite liked it.


                  September 13, 2019 at 8:15 AM

                • I came up with the term “thinko” when I was teaching. I don’t remember the course or the exact circumstances.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  September 13, 2019 at 8:54 AM

  3. The stages of the wild sunflower in the prairie are well documented, Steve. Of course, I like the flowering stage best.

    Peter Klopp

    September 9, 2019 at 9:50 AM

  4. Very Nice Steve!! I really like the ones with the White background! The details are amazing!

    Reed Andariese

    September 9, 2019 at 10:33 AM

  5. A spontaneous happening at the intersection of Art Avenue and Specimen Street. The white backgrounds work very well. Very well indeed.

    Michael Scandling

    September 9, 2019 at 10:44 AM

    • That’s an original way to put it. Some have looked upon art as a transformation or transcending of the actual, and I often gravitate toward that view. Less loftily, I couldn’t help noticing that Specimen Street shares my initials.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 9, 2019 at 1:38 PM

      • It doesn’t have to be entirely transformative or transcendent. It can simply be an aesthetically minded presentation of something that’s scientific, for example. It’s still art. It still involves creativity and creation.

        Michael Scandling

        September 9, 2019 at 2:37 PM

  6. The “common” sunflower is uncommonly beautiful.. that particular yellow is really striking and relentlessly cheerful 🙂

    Ms. Liz

    September 9, 2019 at 3:12 PM

  7. Beautiful details! I enjoyed the way you show the different stages of this wonderful flower.

    Birder's Journey

    September 9, 2019 at 5:59 PM

    • Showing different stages is an approach I’ve been using since I began these posts more than eight years ago. I usually don’t do so systematically, in part because I often lack pictures—or at least good pictures—of every main stage for a given species. As a result, I tend to show things not long after I find them, in whatever order they come to me.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 9, 2019 at 6:27 PM

  8. Nice shots, Steve. I’ve often enjoyed similar views to your high key background images but they’ve been captured in the winter. I’ve never shared them online but will see what I can do this next winter season.

    Steve Gingold

    September 10, 2019 at 7:19 PM

    • Yes, do. It would be a change of pace, as this was for me, and as snow would be for me too if we ever got more than a smidgen once every five years or so.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 10, 2019 at 9:36 PM

  9. Your addition of the color-coordinated frame and signature are nice touches. They’re not at all obtrusive, and the framing somehow seems to help focus attention on the seedhead. I like the way the white background is echoed in the bits of white in the seed head, too — especially in that last image.


    September 10, 2019 at 9:58 PM

    • I figured you’d notice the brown frames and names on the white-sky pictures. It feels right to do that every once in a while. The fact that these two images contained almost no color other than brown led me to think this was one of those whiles.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 10, 2019 at 10:05 PM

  10. Is the common sunflower the state flower of Kansas? I know that with any states, such designations are vague, like the ‘yucca’ of New Mexico.


    September 15, 2019 at 3:58 PM

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