Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Rust and paint patterns on the Sibonga pier

with 35 comments

Late in the afternoon on December 23, 2019, we walked out to the tip of the Sibonga pier that juts into the Cebu Strait in hopes that we might enjoy a good sunset. While waiting, I got intrigued by the rust and paint patterns on the structures that boats tie up to. Not knowing what those things are called, I searched online. A few sites call objects like these bollards. A few other sites refer to them as mooring dolphins. Perhaps there’s not one universally accepted term in English. Anyone who knows is welcome to tell us.

Here’s a closer and more abstract view of the first one:

Could patterns like these have inspired the Abstract Expressionist painters?

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 18, 2020 at 4:39 AM

35 Responses

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  1. It’s possible, certainly. I like these patterns too.


    February 18, 2020 at 4:56 AM

    • Have you ever acted out of character and painted something in an Abstract Expressionist style?

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 18, 2020 at 9:16 AM

      • I’ve been reading biographies of the abstract expressionists, and that is what has inspired several of my recent works. It is, in fact, the direction I’m taking my work and yes, it does feel out of character so it isn’t easy. From what I can tell, Abstract Expressionism is a portmanteau for a very large range of styles. For example, you might have a look at the work of Nell Blaine. I’ve been reading a book on the teachings of Hans Hofmann and finding it very interesting.


        February 19, 2020 at 10:21 AM

        • I took a look at many paintings by Nell Blaine, whom I’m not sure I’d ever heard of. From what I see online, the term Abstract Expressionist has indeed come to include artists whose works vary a lot from one another.

          Steve Schwartzman

          February 19, 2020 at 11:10 AM

          • I’m thinking it would be cool to paint an interesting background, and then just suggest the subject with an expressive line. I have two on the easel at the moment that I’m going to try that with. We’ll see if it comes out at all.


            February 20, 2020 at 9:58 AM

            • We’ll be looking forward to find out how you’ve expressed yourself.

              Steve Schwartzman

              February 20, 2020 at 11:09 AM

              • Sigh. It is going well, but I cannot stop myself from fleshing out the birds. They are just so nice looking for me to be satisfied with just an expressive line.


                February 21, 2020 at 9:34 AM

  2. Bollards seems to be the norm here. Love the patterns.


    February 18, 2020 at 6:07 AM

    • The second image looks like a sheep’s face 😊


      February 18, 2020 at 6:08 AM

      • Ah, what is so rare as an ovine bollard? You won’t be surprised to hear that when I did an Internet search for “ovine bollard” just now I got no hits.

        Steve Schwartzman

        February 18, 2020 at 9:21 AM

    • If I ever make it back to England (which I hope to someday), I’ll know what to call these things there. Regardless of the name, I couldn’t resist the patterns, even if they don’t come entirely from nature.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 18, 2020 at 9:18 AM

  3. Beautiful photos, that last one especially. I think I want one of these ‘goes-by-several-names’ for my back garden.


    February 18, 2020 at 7:25 AM

    • Then you’ll have to construct a little canal alongside it so you can tie a rowboat up to it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 18, 2020 at 9:25 AM

  4. The rust spots look indeed like an abstract painting. One needs to see the pattern they form.

    Peter Klopp

    February 18, 2020 at 8:02 AM

  5. You made the most of this moment.


    February 18, 2020 at 9:06 AM

    • I went out on the pier for sunset pictures alone. The bollards provided a chance to do something different, and I couldn’t refuse.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 18, 2020 at 9:37 AM

  6. Old man looking out to sea. But he doesn’t see an abstract. He is an abstract.

    Michael Scandling

    February 18, 2020 at 10:05 AM

    • That’s quite a metaphysical (and possibly Hemingwayesque) take on the subject. In any case, better abstracted than distracted.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 18, 2020 at 10:26 AM

  7. It may be different in England and Europe, but around here ‘bollard’ is more associated with ships, and ‘mooring cleat’ with pleasure craft. Size is one obvious difference, but there’s an interesting difference in language, too. As far as I know, a bollard always is a thing: a noun. Mooring can be a noun, a verb, or an adjective. In anchorages, the permanent structures at the bottom have a mooring ball attached to them, while in a marina, people tie up to dock cleats with mooring lines. Along the intracoastal waterway, there are places for barges to tie up to bollards — not cleats — in inclement weather; large ships and barges usually have bollards like this one on deck, in order to moor securely.

    In short, the linguistic uses of ‘bollard’ and ‘mooring’ resemble the rust on these bollards. They’re well mixed, and bleed into one another in interesting ways.


    February 18, 2020 at 10:15 AM

    • I knew you’d have a take on this. In my Internet search I came across the term mooring cleat, but the pictures showed low-slung structures like these,


      so I ruled that out based on the difference in shape, eve though the purpose is the same.

      As for the grammatical question, moor began as (and still is) a verb. Like any verb in English, we can make a gerund (a verbal noun) out of it: Mooring is an important skill for sailors to learn. The gerundive (a verbal adjective) has the same form as the gerund but functions as a different part of speech: The permanent structures at the bottom have a mooring ball attached to them. In contrast, bollard is a noun, probably related to bole. Complicating the situation is that English structure is loose enough that we often turn nouns into verbs: His answer floored me. One conversion from noun to verb that came about in our lifetime, and that still bugs me (there’s another example) is impact. Who knows, you may yet hear of someone bollarding a ship.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 18, 2020 at 10:51 AM

  8. Gotta love these photos. The colours are amazing. For me the two images of the full bollard almost resemble an animal, maybe a seal.

    Otto von Münchow

    February 18, 2020 at 11:04 AM

    • Like you, I sometimes enjoy breaking out of character and showing something different, which for me means non-nature. Where you saw a seal, a commenter from England saw the object in the second photo as a sheep. I also learned from the Internet that some people call these objects mooring dolphins.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 18, 2020 at 11:08 AM

  9. The first shot reminded me of “Kilroy Was Here,” WWII graffiti, but I could definitely see dolphins, too.

    Robert Parker

    February 18, 2020 at 12:32 PM

  10. Wonderful photos. The objects remind me of parts of Henry Moore sculptures.


    February 18, 2020 at 8:21 PM

  11. Hallo Steve, I have called them capstans since I was old enough to speak. We lived by a ferry which we had to use to get to my grandparents’ homes at weekends. So it was a word in general use in our home. Good memory subject matter, thanks for this, Best regards, Lindy


    February 20, 2020 at 2:35 PM

    • I’d thought about capstan but when I looked up the definition it didn’t seem to fit, even though the shape could be appropriate: ‘A broad revolving cylinder with a vertical axis used for winding a rope or cable, powered by a motor or pushed around by levers.’ Of course people in different places sometimes call a thing by different names; think of all the differences in vocabulary between British English and American English. In any case, I’m happy that these objects in the Philippines sent you back through time and space to some pleasant memories.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 20, 2020 at 5:20 PM

  12. These are indeed interesting with some strong colors and indefinable abstract patterning. They remind of the sorts of things Linda Grashoff does.

    Steve Gingold

    February 20, 2020 at 4:43 PM

    • Very much so. For once I got to meet her on her own turf, so to speak. No one has said they mind the occasional departure here from nature per se.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 20, 2020 at 5:22 PM

  13. […] you heard a few posts back, on December 23rd last year I wanted to see what the sunset along Sibonga’s waterfront might […]

  14. The first two images do have a very animated look to them – they’re so much fun, just wonderful shots. Only the last one has an abstract expressionist look. I’m sure that the inspirations for ab. ex. works were as varied as the artists were but I’d guess many of them had keen eyes for this kind of scene.


    February 23, 2020 at 2:19 PM

    • I’ve lately been showing some non-nature pictures for variety. Photographing these objects is not what I’d set out to do, but I couldn’t resist focusing on how the elements had transformed them.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 23, 2020 at 5:44 PM

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