Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Rain-lily with white sky

with 43 comments

Here’s another getting-on-the-ground-and-aiming-toward-a-white-sky picture, this one from March 26th in my neighborhood. We’d gotten enough rain a few days earlier to bring up a few rain-lilies, Cooperia drummondii. Intermittent rain since then has caused modest numbers of these flowers to keep coming up.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 11, 2020 at 4:39 PM

43 Responses

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  1. While I wouldn’t have thought a white background would complement one of these flowers, it works wonderfully well in this instance. I especially like the way the veins are so sharp and detailed, and the grayish tone of the bloom is perfect with the subdued green and red. It’s interesting to see how the ‘design’ of the tepals and the sheath are so similar, with parallel veins in each. I think this might be my favorite of all your rain lily photos, although I’ve probably said that about a couple dozen images!

    The treasures you keep finding in your neighborhood astonish me. I think there might have been treasures at the Dudney Nature Center today, since I found the meadow they’re developing there in full bloom. I caught a glimpse of flowers I’ve never seen in this area, like partridge pea. Unfortunately, about 20 minutes after I arrived, some League City officials arrived, kicked fewer than a dozen of us out, and locked the gate. It seems the mayor decided this morning to close every park and nature center in the city, after announcing yesterday they’d be open for the weekend. With Armand Bayou, Dudney, city and county parks, beaches, and Nature Conservancy sites closed, I’m going to have to get creative to stay ahead of the commissars. (Yes, I’m a little grumpy at this point.)


    April 11, 2020 at 5:07 PM

    • Austin announced early in the week that all parks and trails would be closed for the Easter weekend. I suspect many other municipalities have taken the same approach, even with no warning, as you found out in League City. Let’s hope the Dudney Nature Center reopens next week so you can get a close look at the wildflowers you got a brief glimpse of.

      As you’ve noticed, rain-lilies are the gift that keeps on giving. I was skeptical about white on white and figured the flower would turn out too dark without a flash, which I didn’t want to use. Lo and behold, things worked out okay, although I had to make some adjustments in Photoshop. I was quite pleased with the way the venation in the tepals came out.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 11, 2020 at 8:58 PM

    • As for my neighborhood, for the past year or so the ground crew in charge of the strip of land along Floral Park Dr. where I found this rain-lily has been doing more trimming and weed-eating than before. If not for that, I’d probably have even more treasures to show.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 12, 2020 at 6:24 AM

      • Neat and tidy has its place, but every time I hear again about the importance of mowing and weed-eating in the service of tidiness, I remember the contrast between the various Broadway cemeteries in Galveston: a couple trimmed within an inch of their lives (interesting idiom there) and a few allowed to bloom.

        Speaking of which, I’m not sure the bloom is going to overtake the place this year, but it’s improved over the past couple of weeks, so we’ll see.


        April 12, 2020 at 6:28 AM

        • An apt comparison, indeed. “Your” cemeteries in Galveston remind me now of the spectacularly flower-covered one in Floresville last year. A woman in the city office building told us that the man in charge of the cemetery, to his credit, had resisted calls from people who found the wildflowers unsightly and wanted to have them all mowed down prematurely. Good luck with Galveston.

          Steve Schwartzman

          April 12, 2020 at 6:51 AM

  2. In this photo of the rain-lily, the white background is well chosen. It adds a delicate touch to the floral composition, Steve.

    Peter Klopp

    April 11, 2020 at 5:43 PM

  3. NICE! I like the simplicity and limited color!


    April 11, 2020 at 6:47 PM

  4. This is exceptional, Steve. Nice work.


    April 11, 2020 at 9:20 PM

  5. Oh my!

    Michael Scandling

    April 12, 2020 at 2:46 AM

    • Suc-cinct!

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 12, 2020 at 6:38 AM

      • I could see (and enjoy) you doing a portfolio of shots like this. Each picture a single flower in this stage of development, against plain white. Elegant.

        Michael Scandling

        April 12, 2020 at 11:08 AM

        • I know a photographer who’s built a light box so he can take flowers home and photograph them against white. I did the rain-lily picture the hard way, in situ with low light, not knowing if it would turn out okay. I wouldn’t mind doing a portfolio of the type you suggested if I luck out with enough pictures of this type.

          Steve Schwartzman

          April 12, 2020 at 12:30 PM

  6. Your white-on-white choice was a fine one, for my eye, minimalist and magical.


    April 12, 2020 at 4:42 AM

  7. Very simple and elegant – lovely!

    Ann Mackay

    April 12, 2020 at 6:16 AM

  8. Is this backlit? Seems like that would allow the petals to “gray” a bit and stand out well against the high key background. It’s a lovely flower.

    Steve Gingold

    April 12, 2020 at 10:06 AM

    • Yes, I aimed toward the light. I was worried that without flash the rain-lily would be too dark against the white sky, but I ended up with the right amount of graying to bring out the venation in the flower.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 12, 2020 at 12:23 PM

  9. Reminds me of a botanical illustration, simply lovely. Hope that you are healthy and safe.


    April 12, 2020 at 10:53 AM

    • I hadn’t thought of it as an illustration but now I see what you mean.

      Other than finding a tick embedded in my skin the other day for the first time in years, I’m okay. Thanks. Hope all’s well with you.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 12, 2020 at 12:26 PM

  10. So simple, yet so elegant, Steve. Just goes to show that true elegance does not need frills.


    April 12, 2020 at 2:21 PM

  11. ? That is the sky? It is too white.


    April 13, 2020 at 12:49 PM

    • The sky in some parts of this picture ended up slightly off-white. For uniformity, I pushed those areas to white.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 13, 2020 at 12:57 PM

  12. What absolute serenity!

    kackymuseKathryn Hardage

    April 15, 2020 at 4:31 PM

    • I wasn’t serene when taking the picture, having to contort myself to get a good angle, so I’m happy to hear that the end result as you see it is serenity.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 15, 2020 at 4:38 PM

  13. Delightful!


    April 17, 2020 at 5:28 PM

  14. […] I also claim—and I think you’ll agree—that this is quite a different take on a rain-lily from the March 26th one that appeared here not so long ago. […]

  15. This is very striking. You are convincing me to reconsider my stance against white backgrounds.


    May 13, 2020 at 8:09 AM

    • I’m not sure I’ve convinced myself of it, at least not as a general rule, even though this was one of two successes with white skies at around the same time. I think you’ll recall the other portrait, which I made eight days earlier:


      I’m glad I overcame my longstanding resistance and experimented on those two occasions.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 13, 2020 at 8:16 AM

      • I do remember that one, and I agree. I probably won’t start making them as a rule, either, but I’m glad you did on these two occasions.


        May 13, 2020 at 8:18 AM

        • In both cases I felt it important to use a thin black border to keep the white from merging with the page.

          Steve Schwartzman

          May 13, 2020 at 8:28 AM

          • I normally put a 2-pixel black border around my photographs here anyway, but the white made that especially necessary.

            Steve Schwartzman

            May 13, 2020 at 8:32 AM

          • I see that, yes. You’re right, that makes all the difference.


            May 13, 2020 at 9:05 AM

  16. […] a white background I’ve posted since a winecup in December 2021, and that was the first since a rain lily in March 2020. The portrait below shows some bluebell buds beginning to […]

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