Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Archive for March 2020

Four-nerve daisy portrait 2

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Here’s a portrait of a four-nerve daisy, Tetraneuris linearifolia, that I made by getting on the ground at the West Pickle Campus in north Austin on March 18 and aiming up into a gray-white sky, which I normally hate to do. The low light would allow only a shallow depth of field; I chose to focus on the fuzzy green center of the flower head, knowing that little else would come out in focus.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 30, 2020 at 4:30 PM

Four-nerve daisy portrait 1

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At the West Pickle Campus on March 18th I made portraits of several four-nerve daisies, Tetraneuris linearifolia. Because those wildflowers are among the most common in the Austin area and I’ve portrayed them many times over the past two decades, I’m always looking for different ways to photograph them. In today’s post and two more you’ll see what I came up with. All the images have limited focus because I was working beneath trees on an overcast morning. Not wanting to include junk on the ground, I least often aim straight down at my subjects; in this case the lighter patches corresponding to other things below were far enough out of focus and amorphous enough to make a pleasant background.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 29, 2020 at 4:42 AM

In a Pickle, literally but not figuratively

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On March 18th I took what I think were my first pictures ever on the grounds of the West Pickle Campus of the University of Texas in north Austin. The fact that the place had shut down, like almost everything else, made my work easier, and at one point I even sat in what would normally have been the busy entrance road to take closeups of bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis) right by the curb. I was standing, though, for this post’s two colonial views, the first atypically vertical. This floral density is common in a bluebonnet colony.

Oh well, might as well include one of the closeups I sat in the road for.
It has nothing in common esthetically with the first two views.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 27, 2020 at 4:40 PM

Dioxyna picciola

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During my time on the wildflowery embankment along Mopac at Braker Lane on March 18, I got in close to photograph the bud of a greenthread, Thelesperma filifolium. That’s when I noticed a tiny insect on it, not much more than 1/8 of an inch long (3mm). In looking more carefully, I realized I was seeing two insects, one on top of the other. Not recognizing them, I turned to Val Bugh, who quickly identified these for me as “the almost perpetually mating fruit flies… Dioxyna picciola. I think they don’t mate ALL the time, but they are so small that it is easier to notice them as a pair.” On the esthetic side, note the way the bud lines up with the center of a greenthread flower head. Note also the pleasant colors, including a little indigo from nearby bluebonnets. Below you get a better look at the action in a side view from a different frame.

Given the insects’ tiny size, the low light due to overcast skies, and the fact that the breeze moved the greenthread bud even as the flies sometimes moved about on it, I set a high ISO and a fast shutter speed and adopted the strategy of taking a bunch of pictures in the hope that a few of them would turn out okay. My minimally acceptable rate ended up being only one in six.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 26, 2020 at 4:26 AM

Bluebonnet pod forming

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Soft hairs cover the seed pods of bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis), as you see in this pod that’s still forming.
I lucked out in getting one of the palmate leaves to serve as a pleasantly unfocused background
in this March 18th portrait from the embankment of Mopac at Braker Lane.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 24, 2020 at 4:49 PM

Nutant, not mutant

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From the present participle of the Latin verb nutare, which means ‘to nod,’ comes the fancy adjective nutant. Botanists use it to describe a bud like that of greenthread (Thelesperma filifolium), which typically droops. The stalk shown here had also uncharacteristically looped over itself and gotten caught, so how could I resist taking some pictures of it? I did my best to kneel in a place where I could line up the greenthread plant with a bluebonnet (Lupinus texensis) beyond it. This March 18th portrait comes from the same mixed wildflower colony at Mopac and Braker Lane that you saw last time.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 23, 2020 at 4:49 AM

Greenthreads among the bluebonnets

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One of Austin’s most common wildflowers is Thelesperma filifolium, which has yellow-orange flowers but is called greenthread because of its threadlike leaves. This year greenthread flowers began appearing along the edges of highways in my part of town in January; the flowers have become more conspicuous since then. The view above is from March 18th at the intersection of Mopac and Braker Lane. Last spring the people in charge of mowing prematurely cut down all the wildflowers along the entire length of Mopac, so in spite of overcast, occasional slight drizzle, and a breeze, I went out to get some pictures in case the opportunity didn’t last.

The arc of greenthreads shown below especially caught my attention.

Of course the bluish-purple flowers are bluebonnets, Lupinus texensis.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 21, 2020 at 4:31 PM

Flowering huisache tree on a cloudy day

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I’d gotten to thinking that 2020 was one of those years when the huisache [wee-sáh-chay] trees (Vachellia farnesiana) in my area weren’t going to put out any flowers. Finally on March 16th I noticed some on the two trees I’d been keeping an eye on in my neighborhood. Encouraged, the next day I drove around and found several fully blooming trees in Round Rock. Normally I’d have waited for a clear day to play off the blue of the sky against the saturated yellow-orange of these trees’ flowers, but we’d had weeks of mostly cloudy weather and the forecast was for more of the same. “If you can’t beat them, join them,” so I incorporated clouds into some of my pictures, as you see here.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 20, 2020 at 4:41 AM

Bluebonnet colony with Engelmann daisies

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Click to enlarge.

Here’s a colony of bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis) along I-35 in far north Austin yesterday.
The few yellow flowers are Engelmann daisies (Engelmannia peristenia).
Below is a closer look at one of the Engelmann daisies.
Notice the buds’ pinched look as they open.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 18, 2020 at 4:33 PM

Texas groundsel with phlox

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Click to enlarge.

From March 6th along TX 71 east of Bastrop, here’s a closer look at some Texas groundsel (Senecio ampullaceus) in a mixed colony with phlox (probably Phlox drummondii). The scattered bits of blue are bluebonnets (Lupinus sp.).

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 17, 2020 at 4:45 AM

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