Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Prairie fleabane daisy flower head

with 34 comments

The wind was blowing at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center on February 3rd, so I went to a high shutter speed of 1/640 of a second; even after cranking up the ISO to 2000, I didn’t get as much depth of field as I wanted in this portrait of a prairie fleabane daisy flower head (Erigeron modestus). You saw a bud of this species five posts back.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 10, 2020 at 4:45 AM

34 Responses

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  1. My first thought/impression was of a ballerina skirt.
    Exquisite, especially given its tiny size, not like it’s the size of a sunflower is it!


    February 10, 2020 at 4:58 AM

    • I do see the resemblance to a tutu. As for size, you’re right that with a diameter of between 12mm and 19mm, one of these flower heads is noticeably smaller than that of a sunflower.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 10, 2020 at 8:16 AM

  2. You chose the perfect plane of this subject, given the limitations. Turned out well IMHO


    February 10, 2020 at 6:55 AM

    • I did my best to make the camera’s plane parallel to the flower head’s. Even then, I couldn’t pull all of the ray flower tips into focus.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 10, 2020 at 8:17 AM

  3. These plants have such perfect little flowers, don’t they? I like the ballerina allusion.


    February 10, 2020 at 8:03 AM

    • Ah, another budding ballerina.
      As “perfect” and as frequent as these flower heads are here in the spring, I suspect the general public is unaware of them, just as I was till about 20 years ago.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 10, 2020 at 8:22 AM

      • Thanks for this eye-opener, Steve – a stunning image.


        February 11, 2020 at 3:39 AM

      • I suspect so. All native plants. I have a neighbor who has a somewhat unusual native growing in a fencerow but every year they whack it off before it can bloom. I’ve thought about seeing if I could pry it out of there and transplant it but it is really enmeshed with the fence and a buckthorn. If they were going to cut something back, I wish it would be the buckthorn.


        February 11, 2020 at 8:22 AM

  4. Yesterday, I found three Erigeron philadelphicus, also being blown about by the wind. For once, mowing was my friend. The flowers had popped up on a mowed path, so they were only about 4″ high. Still, it’s hard to get all those tiny ray flowers in focus. You did better than I did, particularly since all of the rays on the cutest flower were curly as could be.

    I am curious about your ISO of 2000. It’s not a choice on my camera’s menu, and I haven’t been able to find any way to select anything but the standard offerings, which jump from 1600 to 3200. Even in the custom settings it doesn’t seem possible; that function appears to only extend the upper limit. I’ll have to spend more time with the book and the manual tonight. It would be handy to be able to set some “in-between” ISO values.


    February 10, 2020 at 8:43 AM

    • Curly may be cute but it’s not a photographer’s friend, as you pointed out.

      In my camera, of the various menus that come up when I press the Menu button, there’s a menu represented by a camera icon. The second item in that menu is called “ISO speed setting increments.” I have it set to 1/3 rather than the other choice, 1/2. I wonder if that would do it for you, assuming your camera model gives you that option.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 10, 2020 at 10:01 AM

      • Unfortunately, I don’t have that option, and I’ll have to keep learning to work around the issue in other ways. I can choose the maximum for ISO auto, and in the custom funtions I can expand ISO to 26500 for video shooting, but that’s it. I can select between 1/3 and 1/2 stop for exposure increments. It’s a camera thing.


        February 11, 2020 at 10:49 AM

  5. Excellent image, Steve. Strong composition, detail and colors.

    Jane Lurie

    February 10, 2020 at 9:51 AM

  6. Splendid. I actually prefer that some of the ray tips are not quite in focus. It makes a simple, elegant statement.

    Michael Scandling

    February 10, 2020 at 10:05 AM

  7. Beautifully photographed! I love the details, and the barely-there pink tips.


    February 10, 2020 at 11:44 AM

  8. You’ve achieved a great shot from this simple daisy flower and I’m also intrigued by the subtle yet colourful background under the flower at the bottom, those shades of green and gold which for me make it a beautiful artwork that I’d gladly hang on my wall.

    Ms. Liz

    February 10, 2020 at 1:11 PM

    • Thanks for your encomium. Sometimes I process a picture in a way that turns dark backgrounds to solid black. In this case, I retained the faint colors in the darker area beyond the bright flower head. I’m glad you appreciate the subtlety of those colors.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 10, 2020 at 4:19 PM

      • ‘encomium’: a speech or piece of writing that praises someone or something highly.

        I’ve never encountered this word before but that’s exactly right. Very praiseworthy indeed. Well done Steve!

        Ms. Liz

        February 10, 2020 at 4:36 PM

        • It’s a word I don’t often use but it seemed apt here so I used it. The word is Latin, taken from Greek, where it originated to describe a speech made during a victory procession.

          Steve Schwartzman

          February 10, 2020 at 4:52 PM

  9. Perfectly flat plane of focus you have there. I have a similar species here in the yard, Robin’s Plantain Fleabane-Erigeron pulchellus that attracts a lot of Syrphid flies along with others. All those ray petals are a challenge but you did them proud.

    Steve Gingold

    February 12, 2020 at 4:54 PM

    • Thanks. You know the difficulties involved in trying to keep things in focus under difficult conditions, in this case wind and shallow depth of field.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 12, 2020 at 5:34 PM

  10. Special Steve .. 🙂


    February 15, 2020 at 5:11 PM

    • And yet common and familiar here. Seeing it from the other side of the earth makes it more valued.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 15, 2020 at 5:31 PM

  11. […] you saw a prairie fleabane daisy flower head (Erigeron modestus) in the “usual” way, from above. Now here’s one that I portrayed from below at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center on […]

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