Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Looking more familiar

with 47 comments

By the time we reached the Alabama Gulf Coast on our way back to Austin we were increasingly seeing wildflowers that we recognized because they also grow in Texas. One of those (which actually grows as far away as New York and Massachusetts) was Chamaecrista fasciculata, commonly called partidge pea. Here you see a bud of that species in front of a flower that I believe to be a saltmarsh morning glory, Ipomoea sagittata, based on its leaves (sagittata means ‘shaped like an arrowhead’). I took this colorful picture on August 10 outside the Estuarium on Dauphin Island in the Gulf of Mexico.

If you’re wondering what kind of flower will emerge from the bud, you can check out a post from 2014. And if you’re interested in the craft of photography, today’s portrait illustrates point 5 in About My Techniques.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 19, 2019 at 4:47 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , , ,

47 Responses

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  1. Those glowing colors make for a striking combination. I like the way you’ve centered the bud in front of the morning glory’s throat, too.


    September 19, 2019 at 6:51 AM

    • Your first words brought to mind “Glow, little glow worm, glimmer, glimmer,” which you probably remember, and about which I just learned a bunch at https://www.steynonline.com/7640/the-christmas-glow-worm. But back to native plant photography: in all but a couple of the pictures I took, the bud ended up above the flower’s throat or off to the left of it. I aimed (in both senses) to center it but conditions made that difficult.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 19, 2019 at 8:30 AM

      • I certainly do remember that song. My mother was given to singing it to — and with — me on the nights when I’d catch a few lighting bugs, put them in a jar with grass and air holes punched in the lid, and watch them as I fell asleep. The next morning, I’d let them go back to normal lightning bug business.

        The article was a delight. I didn’t know any of that history. The parodies are fun, especially:

        Nix on the Glow Worm, Lena, Lena
        Play something else on your concertina…

        I’m going to look for Lucy playing it on her saxophone.


        September 19, 2019 at 9:55 AM

        • Yes, it was such a detailed article. I knew the song from the Mills Brothers version and had no idea the original goes back decades earlier. Speaking of lightning bugs, the name Lucy means ‘light.’

          Steve Schwartzman

          September 19, 2019 at 10:29 AM

          • And one of my favorite quotations about writing belongs to Mark Twain, who said, “The difference between the almost right word & the right word is really a large matter–it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”
            (Letter to George Bainton, 15 October 1888)


            September 19, 2019 at 10:38 AM

  2. Fascinating shot of the bud against the background of another flower, which with its blur and colour provides contrast and beauty! Great photo, Steve!

    Peter Klopp

    September 19, 2019 at 7:47 AM

    • Thanks, Peter. Putting an in-focus subject of one color in front of an out-of-focus background of a contrasting or at least different color often makes for an effective portrait.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 19, 2019 at 8:34 AM

  3. Beautiful, the way you juxtaposed it over the morning glory. I just took a picture of this plant blooming away at the surface of a lily pond at the Botanic Garden! How odd, but as it is a plant I want to draw soon I hastened to get it while I could. I used to see this growing pretty commonly in Peoria but up here, although I know it is present, I’m not entirely sure where. Except luxuriating in a lily pond, of all places.


    September 19, 2019 at 8:46 AM

    • A happy juxtaposition indeed, and a colorful one at that. Is it the partridge pea you want to draw, or the saltmarsh morning glory?

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 19, 2019 at 8:56 AM

      • Oh, the partridge pea. I will be drawing Calystegia spithamaea, or low false bindweed, soon. It was discovered at Grant Woods early this summer after a huge tree thinning project.


        September 19, 2019 at 9:06 AM

        • Partridge pea is one of the relatively few native species we share. I look forward to seeing what you do with it. I looked up Calystegia spithamaea, which I wasn’t familiar with and which I see doesn’t make it as far southwest as Texas. It was a happy discovery for you Grant Woods folks.

          Steve Schwartzman

          September 19, 2019 at 9:30 AM

          • I wasn’t familiar with it, either and I think it was a surprise to Joyce, the steward. It’s nice when we can still be surprised.
            How is everything down there? I understand things are a bit wet in the Houston area. Did you get rain?


            September 20, 2019 at 8:18 AM

            • Unfortunately in drought-stricken Austin we got just a slight overnight drizzle that has already mostly evaporated. In contrast, the Houston area, 175 miles east of here, got 15″ in three hours in some places and suffered flooding as a result.

              Steve Schwartzman

              September 20, 2019 at 9:25 AM

              • The news here said that in one locale they got 42″ in a day. That is hard to wrap my mind around. I’m sorry you aren’t getting a share of all that wealth.


                September 21, 2019 at 8:38 AM

                • I saw that on the news last night, and it is hard to imagine that much rain in so short a time. I’m sure the people over there would’ve been only too happy to divert some of their rain to Austin.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  September 21, 2019 at 10:40 AM

                • Yes, I’m sure they would. The more I read about different Native American tribes, the more intrigued I am. They knew their land, and simply picked up and moved to either avoid or take advantage of different seasonal events. That would be pretty hard to implement in the world we have created, though, wouldn’t it? Can you just see entire coastal communities simply picking up their houses and taking a stride (or three) back, today?! Or indeed, heading for the hills when things get too damp?


                  September 23, 2019 at 8:56 AM

                • No, it wouldn’t work in our much larger and permanent settlements. I seem to remember reading about some houses that were built so they could float in a flood, but I don’t know how practical that would be on a large scale.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  September 23, 2019 at 9:27 AM

                • I looked at one, actually, and it seemed very well designed. Well. It wasn’t meant to float. The foundation had been designed to allow water to flow beneath the house without damaging anything. I thought that was pretty cool. The idea of floating houses is kind of fun to think about. I’m picturing a neighborhood of houses bobbing about on tethers….


                  September 24, 2019 at 9:20 AM

              • I’ve been thinking that in areas that are more arid, like Los Angeles, they ought to think about carving big pits, for lack of a more elegant word, to hold the water when it comes. I know that they swing from scary drought to scary flash flooding. Seems to me they ought to try to capture and hold onto that water.


                September 21, 2019 at 8:40 AM

                • That’s a good suggestion. I wonder if it’s been implemented in any places.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  September 21, 2019 at 11:08 AM

                • I think I actually did hear that Los Angeles is at least thinking about this.


                  September 23, 2019 at 8:50 AM

  4. I will go along with all the other compliments. The composition is absolutely spot on and inspired. But I will add this technical point: excellent good exposure control. I can easily see the red sensor completely blowing out with all that magenta. You kept it under control, which is not easy to do and still have the bud nicely exposed.

    Michael Scandling

    September 19, 2019 at 9:49 AM

    • Thanks, Michael. I’m happy to hear you find the composition inspired. One thing I like that no one has mentioned yet is the winding path that leads from the lower left corner to the tip of the bud.

      Your comment sent me looking back at the RAW files for this set of pictures. The lighting must have been quite favorable, because the histogram shows that none of the colors were close to overexposure. I’ve generally observed that in my photographs I have to worry about blowing out the highlights only when there are strong hot spots, as when the sun appears in an image.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 19, 2019 at 10:57 AM

  5. Oh, that’s a heart throb of a shot!!


    September 19, 2019 at 1:24 PM

    • Now that’s a welcome sentence! Can’t say I remember ever getting a comment like that.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 19, 2019 at 1:29 PM

      • No kidding, I gasped when I clicked on your site–it’s gorgeous!


        September 19, 2019 at 1:51 PM

        • Thanks again. I knew I had a winning color combination but getting this much of the bud in focus wasn’t easy.

          Steve Schwartzman

          September 19, 2019 at 1:56 PM

          • I’m a pushover for yellow and pink, what can I say!


            September 19, 2019 at 2:19 PM

  6. It almost looks like an orchid! Very pretty both as a bud and as a bloom.



    September 19, 2019 at 7:52 PM

    • This picture is from Alabama but your comment reminds me that I wish I got to see more native orchids in central Texas, where there aren’t many.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 19, 2019 at 8:29 PM

      • They’re not very common in the wild, I think because people kept digging them to take home. We used to have pink ladyslippers in Wisconsin, but not often enough.


        September 19, 2019 at 8:39 PM

        • It’s not always just orchids, either. Years ago I read that the bluebell gentian, one of the showiest wildflowers in Texas,


          became scarce in some places because so many people picked them or dug them up.

          Steve Schwartzman

          September 19, 2019 at 8:47 PM

          • Years ago, when my husband still shot film, you could find the pink ladyslippers and trout lilies everywhere. It’s a shame people dug them up as they don’t transplant very well and end up just dying.

            That bluebell gentian is gorgeous! It’s too bad that’s suffered the same problem.


            September 19, 2019 at 9:08 PM

            • And the biggest problem here now is loss of habitat. Over the past decade some 30 properties where I used to take nature pictures have gotten developed. Each year I dread finding out which new ones I’ve lost.

              Steve Schwartzman

              September 19, 2019 at 9:26 PM

              • It’s the same here. Each year we see less and less bats at night too. One of these years, there won’t be any.


                September 22, 2019 at 10:31 PM

  7. Great use of the background flowers. Yup, they are as far away as Massachusetts.

    Steve Gingold

    September 23, 2019 at 6:47 PM

    • I see now from the comments there that that was the day four years ago when we simultaneously posted pictures showing partridge pea, though in my photo it was a minor element and in yours it was the subject.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 23, 2019 at 6:55 PM

  8. Wow what an eye you have Steve! Just love this combo … alive with colours 👏


    September 25, 2019 at 2:56 AM

  9. Is this used as cover crop?


    September 25, 2019 at 11:41 PM

  10. What a lovely and pretty captures! I love the shot

    Robert Smith

    January 6, 2020 at 2:58 AM

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