Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Archive for May 2020

Three approaches to portraying basket-flower “baskets”

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On the Blackland Prairie in Pflugerville on May 7th I tried various approaches to photographing basket-flower “baskets” in a search for new ways to portray the familiar species Plectocephalus americanus (even if the new genus name isn’t yet familiar). For the first picture, I cast my shadow on the subject to create soft lighting while a wide aperture of f/3.5 kept the background well out of focus. I also had no aversion to a version in which f/8 let a background basket-flower reveal more of its shape:

For the third portrait I used the familiar technique of aiming toward a deeply shaded area:

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 31, 2020 at 4:29 AM

Engelmann daisy flower head and bud

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From April 26th along Old Lampasas Trail comes this gialloscuro* portrait
of Engelmann daisies (Engelmannia peristenia).

* The Italian term chiaroscuro means literally bright-dark. I replaced the first part with giallo,
the Italian word for yellow, to get gialloscuro. In Englitalian that’s yellowscuro.
And let me add that gi in Italian represents the same sound
as j in English, so giallo is pronounced jáhl-lo.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 30, 2020 at 4:38 AM

An unobstructed view of a pickerelweed colony in bloom

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The previous post teased you by allowing only a faraway glimpse of a flowering pickerelweed colony through a thick frame of giant bulrushes. Today’s post parts the veil and zooms you across the water to see those plants as they looked on May 19th when they brightened the edge of a Blackland Prairie pond in far northeast Austin. For a closeup of a Pontederia cordata flower spike, you can check out a 2015 post from the same location.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 29, 2020 at 4:37 AM

A lot going on: another instance of “more is more”

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On May 18th I spent an hour and a half at a pond on the Blackland Prairie in far northeast Austin. Giant bulrushes (Schoenoplectus californicus) grew lushly in places around the pond, as you see in both of these busy photographs. In the second picture the bulrushes formed an eccentric* frame for the purple flowers of a pickerelweed colony (Pontederia cordata).

Click to enlarge.

* Eccentric is literally ex-centric, which is to say ‘off-center.’ The familiar sense applies here too.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 28, 2020 at 4:37 AM

Dark lenticular clouds

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On May 24th Jane Lurie put out a post with six photographs. One showed lenticular clouds, and I commented that I’ve hardly ever seen clouds like that in Austin. Two days later I went out in the morning to do some nature pictures on the soggy land in the northeast quadrant of Mopac and US 183. I found plenty of flowers to photograph and quickly got caught up in what I was doing. After maybe half an hour I was startled to hear thunder. When I looked up to the south I saw that the sky had gotten very dark and dramatic clouds had formed, including some I took to be lenticular. (Coincidentally or not, the last time I’d seen clouds like those was in the very same part of Austin.) As I was standing out in the open on wet ground, I figured prudence was the better part of valor and high-tailed it out of there, stopping only briefly to take some pictures of the clouds on my way back to the car.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 27, 2020 at 4:37 AM

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Horsemint flowering among firewheels

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By May 19th, when I took this picture at a “vacant” lot in northwest Austin, horsemints (Monarda citriodora) were coming into their own. In the background was a good colony of firewheels (Gaillardia pulchella).

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 26, 2020 at 4:34 AM

A closer look at a clasping-leaf coneflower

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The inflorescence of a clasping-leaf coneflower (Dracopis amplexicaulis) superficially resembles those of a black-eyed susan (Rudbeckia hirta) and a Mexican hat (Ratibida columnifera). In fact all three are in the sunflower family’s Heliantheae tribe. One easy way to distinguish the species is to look at the plants’ leaves. Of the three wildflowers, only the clasping-leaf coneflower has leaves that clasp the stem, as the common name indicates. You can see that below—or at least you can imagine how the leaf clasps the stem beneath the mass of spittlebug froth. Actually you can see a bit of the clasping below the bubbles.

These pictures come from the Blackland Prairie in Pflugerville on May 7th. You’ve already seen what a whole colony of clasping-leaf coneflowers looked like there on that date.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 25, 2020 at 4:33 AM

A world turned upside down

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The post’s title may go for our human world, too, but it’s meant for this four-nerve daisy (Tetraneuris sp.) that I found along Q Ranch Rd. on May 2nd. The ray florets in these daisies normally fold back and turn from yellow to white as they age. Whether any of that process happened after the stalk got broken and the flower head was upside down, I don’t know. I do know that the fast-moving clouds and the breeze made lining things up the way I wanted difficult. As a result I took about 30 pictures from various angles, expecting that in at least a few frames both the focus and the composition would come out okay. You’re looking at one that worked for me.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 24, 2020 at 4:43 AM

White snail on a developing firewheel

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Here’s an abstract view of a mostly white snail on an opening firewheel (Gaillardia pulchella) on the Blackland Prairie in Pflugerville on May 6th. An open flower head of the same species accounts for the red and yellow. If the green in the lower right suggests a bird on the wing, it’s probably just my imagination taking flight.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 23, 2020 at 4:38 AM

First good sunflower for 2020

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I saw the my first really nice sunflower (Helianthus annuus) for 2020
when I visited the Blackland Prairie in Pflugerville on May 7th.
It was a welcome early arrival for this species.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 22, 2020 at 4:21 AM

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