Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

More cardinal flowers

with 29 comments

Ms. Liz, MelissaBlue and Michael Scandling were up for seeing more cardinal flowers, so here are two group portraits of Lobelia cardinalis that I made along the upper reaches of Bull Creek on September 26th. Notice how the quality of the red ends up different depending on where the sun is coming from, what’s in the background, and how the camera’s sensor and computer render those things. Then, of course, the processing software adds its interpretation, as does the processor, a.k.a. me.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 2, 2019 at 4:30 PM

29 Responses

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  1. Very Nice Steve! Love the pop of the red flowers!

    Reed Andariese

    October 2, 2019 at 4:51 PM

    • That saturated red sure is welcome here in the drought that has beset us but that clearly hasn’t deterred the cardinal flowers.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 2, 2019 at 4:54 PM

  2. Fantastic thanks Steve! Really interesting to see the flowers in two distinctly different contexts and the ‘red’ in each. Awesome.

    Ms. Liz

    October 2, 2019 at 4:55 PM

    • You’re most welcome. The groups of cardinal flowers stood near each other along the bank of Bull Creek. For the first picture I stood in the water and aimed back toward the land. For the second photograph I did the opposite so that Bull Creek could put in an appearance.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 2, 2019 at 4:59 PM

  3. Thank you very much! Very interesting comparison. The Reds really do render differently according to how the light hits them. I really love the red against the blue in the second image. The complementary colors really do, well, complement each other.

    Michael Scandling

    October 2, 2019 at 6:25 PM

    • I’ll say another “you’re welcome.” The red in the first image is truer to the way I most often see cardinal flowers in Austin. At the same time, I really wanted to include a view with the blue from the creek, which, as you pointed out, changes the effect. We’re in a drought here, so the creek is getting stagnant in places; too bad I couldn’t have had deeper, fresher water as a background.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 2, 2019 at 6:55 PM

      • Not a whole lot of fun to go mucking about in stagnant water. All the more reason to admire the photograph.

        Michael Scandling

        October 2, 2019 at 7:11 PM

        • I came prepared, having put on thigh-high rubber boots so I could walk in the creek. Even with the drought I still had to be careful because in some places the water remained deep enough to swamp my boot tops.

          Steve Schwartzman

          October 2, 2019 at 8:53 PM

  4. Great photos again of the fireweed look-alikes, Steve! I am grateful to you for always providing some photographic know-how that accompanies your pictures.

    Peter Klopp

    October 2, 2019 at 7:50 PM

    • You’ve probably heard me say: once a teacher, always a teacher. Sometimes I talk about the plants, other times about photographic techniques. Once in a while I say nothing.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 2, 2019 at 8:57 PM

      • Nach dem alten deutschen Sprichwort: Reden ist Silber, Schweigen ist Gold. Well, it does not quite fit, when I like to read your interesting post. Haha!

        Peter Klopp

        October 3, 2019 at 9:30 AM

        • I think it fits quite nicely. English has a similar saying but on a different subject:

          Make new friends but keep the old;
          One is silver, the other gold.

          Steve Schwartzman

          October 3, 2019 at 10:05 AM

  5. How tall are these? I seem to remember seeing some of these on the way to Marble Falls once that were almost as tall as I am. They were growing along a railroad right of way.

    Judy Baumann

    October 3, 2019 at 7:38 AM

    • I checked a couple of field guides and both gave a maximum height of 4 ft. The ones in the photographs might have been 3 ft. tall. I also saw some pretty low cardinal flower plants, though how much taller they were going to grow, I don’t know. If I see any more tall ones this season I’ll try to measure them.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 3, 2019 at 8:17 AM

  6. One can’t have too many cardinal flowers.


    October 3, 2019 at 4:35 PM

  7. Where I usually find these in a local reservoir they would also be water-hosted. But our dearth of rain put them on the bank which made shooting this year a bit easier. Well, they are where they are, but the water wasn’t where it was. That said, I like the second image with the water background

    Steve Gingold

    October 3, 2019 at 7:04 PM

    • Your comment that the water wasn’t where it was could apply to Bull Creek, too. We share not only cardinal flowers but a drought.

      I think of the first picture as informational, and of the second as less-conventional and a little artsier.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 3, 2019 at 9:11 PM

  8. From what I can tell, our blue-to-lavender version of this beauty is Lobelia puberula. The few times I’ve found it, it’s been in moist ground either at the edge of wooded areas or in open but shaded areas. The combination of the cardinal flower and the water is wonderful, especially since the addition of the trees’ reflections gives the entire image an impressionistic feel.


    October 5, 2019 at 6:25 AM

    • Reflections in water sure do lend themselves to the impression of Impressionism. Instead of cropping to center the cardinal flowers, I kept the extra area at the right in part to have more reflected trees and in part to create a more panoramic look.

      Thanks for your identification of the Lobelia puberula.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 5, 2019 at 4:53 PM

  9. That’s such a knock-out flower, Cardinal flower, and you made a good point about the variation in the shade of red, depending on so many things.


    October 14, 2019 at 6:49 PM

    • The first picture shows the red that I most often see in cardinal flowers. The second provided a welcome alternative.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 14, 2019 at 8:57 PM

  10. The lobelias are unusual in that they give us true blue and true red. You’re right, different conditions affect the color. These are great~I particularly like the one against water.


    October 28, 2019 at 7:47 AM

    • The second picture seems to have been the general favorite because of the contrast between the red of the flowers and the blue of the water. The first picture shows the kind of red I most often see it in cardinal flowers.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 28, 2019 at 7:55 AM

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