Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Chiaroscuro times two

with 30 comments

I found myself doing many more chiaroscuro takes than usual this spring, including these two from the Doeskin Ranch on April 8th. Above is a gall, and below an aging four-nerve daisy, Tetraneuris linearifolia.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 30, 2020 at 4:37 AM

30 Responses

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  1. Forgive me for laughing, but — there’s been a lot that’s been galling this spring, and a good bit of it’s been getting on everyone’s nerves. From that perspective, your pair of photos creates a perfect representation of our times.

    From a different perspective, both bring to mind those Dutch still life paintings that favored dark backgrounds and unusual combinations of items. The gall shimmers much like a tankard or pitcher in a vanitas painting. It’s really quite appealing.


    April 30, 2020 at 7:09 AM

    • Well said: lots that’s been galling this spring. Fortunately nature keeps on apace, and I, like you, have found plenty to photograph.

      “Vanitas vanitatum, omnia vanitas,” “Vanity of vanities, and all is vanity.” I had Dutch painting in mind, especially Rembrandt, though I didn’t realize that the art world has applied the name vanitas to still lifes that remind us that all is transient. Speaking of which, one Austin photographer imagined seeing a (partial) skull just to the right of the gall.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 30, 2020 at 3:16 PM

  2. These images are beautifully done. As usual, I have difficulty deciding which I like best. What causes the blue/purple/green effect in the background of the four-nerve daisy?

    Also, you solved a bit of mystery about what has been growing on many of our young oaks.


    April 30, 2020 at 7:19 AM

    • I looked back at the RAW files to try to find out what caused the colors beyond the four-nerve daisy. I think the green was from some far-out-of-focus foliage. My guess is that the cool colors resulted from how the sensor recorded parts of the shaded background when compared to the prominent yellow of the flower head. There are always things in photographs that differ from how our eyes and brain saw the scene at the time. How a picture ends up depends on so many adjustments made during processing; the result isn’t always fully realistic (whatever reality is), but in this case I like the effects.

      So now you know a little about galls. What species of insect instigated this one, I don’t know.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 30, 2020 at 3:27 PM

      • I really liked the cool colors. Whatever happened was meant to be!

        As for the galls, I will take one to the OSU (Oklahoma State University) Extension office and see if they can tell me anything. I’m not confident about their expertise though. I have gone to them for help before and I found better information on the internet on my own. But, I will give it a whirl.


        April 30, 2020 at 8:57 PM

        • I’m into the art of photography, so I welcome things along the way that make a picture more appealing—at least up to a point.

          Let me know if you find out anything about the gall.

          Steve Schwartzman

          April 30, 2020 at 9:32 PM

  3. I do think of Dutch still life paintings. Which I love. Which gives you a clue as to what I think about these two pictures.

    Michael Scandling

    April 30, 2020 at 10:45 AM

  4. Both subjects are perfect for your extreme-contrast choices. The way you’ve caught the petals peeling back in the second is particularly appealing.


    April 30, 2020 at 3:56 PM

    • Thanks. Part of the normal development as four-nerve daisies age is that the rays fold down and back and get whiter. That stage holds a lot of appeal for me as a nature photographer, and I’ve often portrayed four-nerved daisies when they look that way. I’m glad it resonated with you.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 30, 2020 at 4:08 PM

  5. The first, in particular, is really nicely done. I love the mystery of it.


    May 1, 2020 at 9:39 AM

  6. I had to look that one up. It is actually why it is easy to get the impression that the Netherlands is a dark place.


    May 1, 2020 at 9:56 AM

  7. Nicely executed! Of course anyone who has taken an art history class or studied the masters has leaned about Chiaroscuro. These are great examples.


    May 2, 2020 at 12:30 PM

    • I don’t remember the term being applied to photography but some years ago I decided there are photographs for which the term fits and I began using it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 2, 2020 at 2:12 PM

  8. Ahh, they’re beautiful, Steve! I love the way you eased off the focus gradually on the daisy.


    May 2, 2020 at 1:35 PM

    • There wasn’t much light and I didn’t want to use flash (too garish), so I made the best of a limited-focus approach. Thanks for letting me know you appreciate it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 2, 2020 at 2:14 PM

  9. Gall and nerve. Two similar yet different words to accompany two similar yet different subjects.

    Steve Gingold

    May 3, 2020 at 3:20 AM

  10. They are both utterly beautiful, Steve. The way you have used light and shade to create drama in gall and nerve is inspiring.


    May 9, 2020 at 6:38 AM

  11. Both marvelous. I like to imagine looking all the way inside the gall. Do you ever draw your finds with pencil or ink?

    Birder's Journey

    May 16, 2020 at 4:41 PM

    • In March and April I found myself drawn to processing some pictures darker than I usually would. Call it the mood of the month.

      As far as I know, I have no talent for drawing. I appreciate people who do.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 16, 2020 at 4:46 PM

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