Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Is this really Austin?

with 31 comments

On the morning of June 10, after I took pictures of wildflowers at a few places on the Blackland Prairie in far northeast Austin, I wandered south and then west to see what I might find by taking a circuitous route home. At one point I gazed out toward the horizon, and rising above the trees I saw a tower that didn’t look like anything I’d expect to find in Austin. It turned out to be the Austin Hindu Temple. I worked my way over there and drove in to take some pictures of the architecture. After I went around to the back I discovered that along the edges of the parking lots native plants were doing their thing, most noticeably basket-flowers (Plectocephalus americanus). I took some pictures of them but it was already late and the wind had come up, so I decided to go back earlier the next morning. That was better because the temperature was cooler, there was no wind, and I even managed to catch the moon directly above the temple. I found that by getting low I could line up individual plants with the temple, which was a different take on my familiar subjects.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 19, 2020 at 4:41 AM

31 Responses

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  1. What a wonderful photo. I especially like the way the color of the fading basket-flower complements the temple. I’m glad you wandered a bit and found it.


    June 19, 2020 at 4:47 AM

    • Something kept nagging at me, and I finally found it, in Book I of Keats’s “Endymion”:

      “…even as the trees
      That whisper round a temple become soon
      Dear as the temple’s self, so does the moon,
      The passion poesy, glories infinite,
      Haunt us till they become a cheering light
      Unto our souls, and bound to us so fast,
      That, whether there be shine, or gloom o’ercast;
      They always must be with us, or we die.”

      I’d say your combination of flower and temple is a thing of beauty, and a joy forever.


      June 19, 2020 at 5:41 AM

      • How apt your nagging recollection turned out to be. There are at least four points of contact: a temple, the moon, cheering light, and at the bottom of the first picture even the crown of a newly planted tree. And of course your concluding line may be Keats’s most famous, and what we hope some of our pictures become.

        Steve Schwartzman

        June 19, 2020 at 6:16 AM

    • Thanks for pointing out the similar shades of tan in the basket-flower and the temple. In the opposite sense, it’s ironic that my botanical subject should appear so much more detailed than the elaborate temple.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 19, 2020 at 6:08 AM

  2. What a lovely effect with that flower and the temple


    June 19, 2020 at 5:29 AM

  3. Wow what a sight to come upon, I assumed you were joking at first, and had inserted a photo from India. Well I cannot think of a poem as lovely as “Endymion” but here’s a bit of modified Gershwin:

    In time the temple may crumble,
    Austin may tumble,
    they are only made of clay,
    but wildflowers are here to stay.

    Robert Parker

    June 19, 2020 at 5:55 AM

    • From the kinds of tongue-in-cheek posts you often write I understand how you were primed to discount this temple really being in Austin. I certainly had a moment of unreality when I first saw it rising above the trees in east Austin. I like your reworking of the famous Gershwin lines. Here’s what Wikipedia says about the song:

      “‘Love Is Here to Stay’ was the last musical composition George Gershwin completed before his death on July 11, 1937. Ira Gershwin wrote the lyrics after George’s death as a tribute to his brother. Although George had not written a verse for the song, he did have an idea for it that both Ira and pianist Oscar Levant had heard before his death. When a verse was needed, Ira and Levant recalled what George had in mind. Composer Vernon Duke reconstructed the music for the verse at the beginning of the song. Originally titled ‘It’s Here to Stay’ and then ‘Our Love Is Here to Stay,’ the song was finally published as ‘Love Is Here to Stay.’ Ira Gershwin said that for years he wanted to change the song’s name back to ‘Our Love Is Here to Stay,’ but he felt it wouldn’t be right since the song had already become a standard.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 19, 2020 at 7:38 AM

  4. The color of the temple and basket flower was the first thing I noted about these images. So I had to laugh at myself that I completely missed the temple in the background of the second photo until I’d scrolled up and down a few times looking at details, and then (as I usually do) went back and read the description. I hope this isn’t the way my day is going to go… I’m usually very observant!!


    June 19, 2020 at 7:39 AM

    • So you were tuned in, like Linda, to the similar color in the basket-flower and the temple. Interesting that you initially tuned out the temple in the second picture; maybe it’s not so surprising, though, because the temple lacks almost all detail there. In any case, you’ve got it straightened out now, and let’s hope that applies to the rest of your day as well.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 19, 2020 at 7:51 AM

  5. What an interesting combination of backgrounds! The white of the Hindu temple for the leaves and the blue sky for the flower head.

    Peter Klopp

    June 19, 2020 at 8:23 AM

    • That’s an astute observation about the dark leaves standing out against the bright temple even as the sunlit “basket” contrasts with the blue of the sky. The two-tone background allowed for a split image, so to speak.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 19, 2020 at 8:39 AM

  6. Really special image with the moon above the temple, Steve!


    June 19, 2020 at 8:31 AM

  7. Oh what fun to come across this. It is exciting to see intricate architecture still being made.


    June 19, 2020 at 9:32 AM

    • My guess is that the congregation used people from India to design and build the temple (or at least supervise the construction).

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 19, 2020 at 12:39 PM

      • I would think so. We have a fairly large population of people from India here in this area. I love the rich culture they bring with them.


        June 20, 2020 at 8:58 AM

        • We have an Indian restaurant in the neighborhood where we would meet friends every now and then for Sunday brunch—before the virus, of course.

          Steve Schwartzman

          June 20, 2020 at 1:30 PM

          • We’re going to venture out to a favorite restaurant to celebrate father’s day…wonder how it will go??? They have outdoor seating and, I assume, limited numbers.


            June 21, 2020 at 7:59 AM

            • Sounds like you’ll be okay. You can choose not to sit too close to other people.

              Steve Schwartzman

              June 21, 2020 at 9:21 AM

              • It was wonderful. They had it set up very well so we felt safe.


                June 21, 2020 at 10:28 PM

                • Glad to hear it. Who’d have thought you’d get excited about something as simple as going to a restaurant?

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  June 22, 2020 at 5:17 AM

                • It isn’t something we do often anyway, and not at all recently.


                  June 22, 2020 at 9:03 AM

            • I hope your dine out experience was good, Melissa. Before the virus we rarely went out to eat and brought food in so now is not very different from before in that respect. But just as with groceries, the containers get a quick Lysol wipe before opening and doling out.

              Steve Gingold

              June 21, 2020 at 9:32 AM

              • Same here: we don’t often go out to eat, the main exception being when we’re traveling, and we haven’t been able to do any of that so far this year.

                Steve Schwartzman

                June 21, 2020 at 10:59 AM

              • We seldom ate out either. It was fun, thanks! 🙂


                June 21, 2020 at 10:29 PM

  8. How low did you have to go to get this memorable perspective? They look great together!


    June 19, 2020 at 4:31 PM

    • I took a bunch of pictures, and the truth is I don’t remember how low I went for this one. Sometimes sitting on the mat that I always carry with me is enough; at other times I scrunch further over to get my head nearer to the ground, or else I lie down entirely.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 19, 2020 at 5:54 PM

  9. What a cool structure. Kind of like a world-class sand castle. That’s an interesting point of view in the second shot.

    Steve Gingold

    June 20, 2020 at 1:59 PM

    • I like your description of it as “a world-class sand castle.” I expect you’d have used it as a backdrop, too.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 20, 2020 at 2:20 PM

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