Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Syrphid self-portrait

with 50 comments

Don’t let the title mislead you. It wasn’t a syrphid fly that did a self-portrait, but me, inadvertently, when leaning in to take a picture of this hoverfly (Toxomerus marginatus) on a Texas yellow star (Lindheimera texana) a couple of miles from home on April 5th. If you’re having trouble seeing my reflection on the thorax in the main picture, below is an enlargement. These tiny flies are about a quarter of an inch (6mm) long.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 13, 2020 at 4:32 AM

50 Responses

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  1. This reflects well on your observational skill and ability. Is this the first time you have entered your own work through the back door, as it were, as a “bonus bug?”


    April 13, 2020 at 4:40 AM

    • “Reflects well” reflects well on your ability to play with words. I imagine each of us has played around with his own shadow in a photograph. I know I’ve caught my own reflection at times, too, but now that I reflect on it, this may be the first time I’ve noticed myself reflected off an insect’s thorax.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 13, 2020 at 8:13 AM

      • I’ve seen my reflection in a jumping spider’s eyes on a few occasions when I’ve taken the time to haul out my 105/2.8 macro and get really intimate instead of the much handier 85.3.5. And once or twice I’ve been able to make out more than my mirror shadow.


        April 13, 2020 at 2:57 PM

  2. Great picture of such a tiny creature, that’s taking miniature portraiture to an extreme. A self-portrait taken on the fly while hovering over the hoverfly.

    Robert Parker

    April 13, 2020 at 6:34 AM

    • Now why didn’t I think of “on the fly” and “hovering over the hoverfly”? I’ll redeem myself by pointing out that “over” is contained in “hover.” And let me add that I hovered over this fly not on the east or west coast but in what is appropriately referred to in this case as flyover country. Over and out.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 13, 2020 at 8:24 AM

      • I had to smile at your ‘over and out.’ Here’s an explanation from a different kind of flyer on why the phrase is inherently illogical. See the third paragraph, especially. I learned the lesson when I was learning how to participate in radio nets while cruising.


        April 14, 2020 at 6:30 AM

        • Here’s my hypothesis about “over and out.” “Over” probably did start out with the sense “now it’s over to you.” Over time, however, people took it to mean “I’m finished with my utterance.” The “and out” then got added to distinguish the final utterance from just the latest one in a continuing conversation.

          Steve Schwartzman

          April 14, 2020 at 6:46 AM

          • That’s a plausible explanation for the phrase’s acceptance among the general public. I suspect that its frequent use in films also was an influence, despite the fact that the difference between ‘over’ and ‘out’ was maintained among aviators, mariners, Ham radio operators, and such. The popularity of CB radios probably helped to conflate the terms.


            April 14, 2020 at 7:00 AM

            • It’s one more example of the difference between how specialists use a term and how the general public uses the term. It’s also an example of how a redundancy makes its way into common speech. Photographers talk about “post processing” even though all processing of an image necessarily takes place post, i.e. after, the taking of the photograph. I’m a holdout who insists on saying just “processing.” I also just log out of websites, I don’t “successfully log out” of them.

              Steve Schwartzman

              April 14, 2020 at 7:13 AM

  3. It is interesting to see what these coincidences can produce, Steve. I once discovered myself in the reflection of a horse’s eye, very clearly actually with my Canon camera in my hands.

    Peter Klopp

    April 13, 2020 at 8:51 AM

  4. Beautiful shot, but I can’t say much for the syrphid’s optics: lots of barrel distortion. 😉

    Michael Scandling

    April 13, 2020 at 11:47 AM

  5. haha that’s funny! Great shot, too!


    April 13, 2020 at 3:46 PM

  6. stunning photo


    April 13, 2020 at 8:20 PM

  7. You know, I did not see your selfie! Probably because I was SO mesmerized by the detail you captured and the color, the iridescence on the abdomen. What’s the sound…GAH! I’m not exaggerating, I’m justified in my dramatics. That little pop of pinkish purple grabbed me. Well done! And I think it’s cool you got a selfie into such a cool macro. I often have noticed things like that while taking pics. Much of the time it frustrates me when I can’t get out of my own dang photo! 😉


    April 13, 2020 at 9:11 PM

    • A good macro lens gets much of the credit for the details that please you here. So much is going on in nature that our unaided eyes can’t detect. Even so, I didn’t notice my reflection when I first looked at the picture, either, much less when I took it. There have been other times when I did catch a reflection or shadow of myself, and either lived with it or moved to eliminate it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 13, 2020 at 9:36 PM

      • Wound up being a pretty cool thing I think, little humor in there too. I agree, macro lens are awesome, though you still have to have the eye to care to catch the detail. Even then we’re often surprised in finding more than…what meets the eye…. 😉


        April 14, 2020 at 1:51 PM

  8. I first read your title as ‘sylphid self-portrait.’ Given that you were hovering in the air above the little fly, that might have worked, too. It’s an amazing photo: the sort that always makes me grin when I realize something I didn’t notice at all is the most interesting part of the photo.

    I enjoyed seeing the Texas yellow star, too. I’ll be so glad when I can get to the hill country again to enjoy favorites like that.


    April 14, 2020 at 6:38 AM

    • Your mention of sylphid reminded me first of the ballet Les sylphides, with music by Chopin, and then of the fact that a Japanese speaker learning English has a hard time hearing the difference between sylphid from syrphid.

      As for the portrait, yes, the reflection is the latest find in my collection of photographic objets trouvés. And for your sake, let’s hope the quarantine ends while there’s still time for you to find wildflowers in the central part of the state.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 14, 2020 at 7:02 AM

  9. Great up-close shots. I was getting some photos of my Rough-leaf dogwood blooms (yay! my original tree, given to me by a friend, is blooming for the first time!), and two syrphids showed up for mug shots. My shots aren’t quite as good as yours…:)


    April 14, 2020 at 7:46 AM

    • That’s good news about the first-time blooms on your rough-leaf dogwood, especially because a friend gave you the tree. The last time I saw those flowers was a year ago in St. Edward’s Park.

      It’s always fun to see syrphid flies, which I suspect the general public doesn’t even know exist; I sure didn’t for most of my life. It takes a macro lens to do them photographic justice, given their tiny size. It also often takes patience, as they tend to hover for quite a while before finally landing. I wonder if anyone knows what they wait so long for.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 14, 2020 at 8:12 AM

      • I’m so tickled about the blooms. I need to take a photo of the tree for my friend, who has since moved out of Austin a bit, into the Hill Country. The tree was a stick with leaves for the longest time, sprouted up last year and now blooms! Woo-hoo!!

        It was on another Rough-leaf (purchased from Barton Springs Nursery) that I took the photos of the syrphid flies. I agree that most people have no idea that they exist. Like native bees; except for bumbles, most people don’t realize the huge variety of native bees that exist.


        April 14, 2020 at 9:07 AM

        • Then it’s good that your “stick with leaves” roughed it out and is now smoothly blooming away.

          Of course you’re right: when most people hear “bee” they immediately think honeybee, or occasionally bumblebee, but almost never any of the hundreds of kinds of native bees we have. And speaking of honeybees, from a program on KLRU-Q the other night I learned that most “honey” sold in the United States in the late 1800s and early 1900s was actually corn syrup fraudulently passed off as honey.

          Steve Schwartzman

          April 14, 2020 at 9:54 AM

  10. Amazing closeup on that self portrait, makes one reflect on what other details one might be missing in one’s own photos…


    April 14, 2020 at 3:53 PM

    • I’ve often reflected on all the interesting things I must’ve failed to see. Sometimes I’ll find something worthy on the way back that I walked right past on the way out. We can’t be looking in all directions simultaneously. We have to be thankful for the things we do notice.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 14, 2020 at 4:06 PM

  11. Superb macro with a bonus reflection!


    April 14, 2020 at 7:12 PM

  12. I’ve photographed a few syrphids over time but never got to be in the picture also, frogs eyes yes but no bugs. Nice and I see you were wearing a hat. I guess you could say in this instance that the adage about photographers is true, our images are reflections of ourselves.

    Steve Gingold

    April 15, 2020 at 6:49 AM

    • That’s a good one: our images are reflections of ourselves.
      Yes, I always wear a hat when I’m out in nature. Gotta limit exposure to those UV rays. The sunscreen that I also always put on doesn’t show in the reflection.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 15, 2020 at 7:44 AM

  13. I love the clarity of the syrphid in that image! It’s always a wonderful surprise to find something you didn’t expect when taking a photo.


    April 16, 2020 at 3:26 PM

  14. Crazy! :-0 There are times when I miss an insect until I get home and look at the screen…I wonder how often this has happened, too?


    April 26, 2020 at 6:14 PM

    • I just mentioned in another reply to you that previously unnoticed things have a way of turning up later on my computer screen when I process pictures. Usually, however, the hidden thing isn’t a little image of myself.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 26, 2020 at 9:06 PM

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