Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Wet sunflower with dark clouds

with 34 comments

Six years ago today I took some pictures of a sunflower (Helianthus annuus) against dark clouds after a rain. Until recently I assumed I’d shown one of those photographs here in 2014, but a search proved that somehow I never did. Today’s post makes up for my negligence. What I unfortunately can’t make up for is the loss of the property where I photographed this sunflower and many other native plants for a couple of years before a Wendy’s and a Holiday Inn Express finally occupied that land.

Given this picture’s small size, you may have trouble recognizing a crab spider at about the 9 o’clock position on the sunflower. If you’re interested in the craft of photography, points 3 and 8 in About My Techniques apply to today’s image.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 25, 2020 at 4:37 AM

34 Responses

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  1. Before anyone beats me to it, this so reminds me of Ansel Adams portrait of Georgia O’Keeffe and Orville Cox, albeit in color. Actually maybe no one else will see it the way I do.

    This is a very dramatic and enjoyable shot, Steve.

    Steve Gingold

    June 25, 2020 at 4:49 AM

    • Yay, drama! I knew which Ansel Adams portrait you had in mind even before looking. That picture and mine share dark clouds. I take it you’d cast Georgia O’Keeffe rather than Orville Cox in the role of the sunflower.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 25, 2020 at 11:32 AM

  2. This could be used as proof that sunflowers shine with internal, as well as external, light. It’s gorgeous, and a wonderful reminder that not only blue skies make for a fine photograph.


    June 25, 2020 at 5:47 AM

    • Whenever I see pictures of dramatic clouds from elsewhere in the country, I wish Austin had more of them. As for sunflowers’ internal light, I’m always happy to bask in it, or at least to have my camera do so.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 25, 2020 at 4:39 PM

  3. I love the darkness of those clouds. The clouds themselves don’t appear so threatening, but the darkness of them is what was striking to me. Can a sunflower ever look anything but bright and happy?


    June 25, 2020 at 7:16 AM

    • Because we don’t often get such dark clouds in Austin, I was grateful for the chance to use them as a backdrop for the sunflower. You can see this one was a little bedraggled from the rain, but it still conveys the brightness and happiness you mentioned.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 25, 2020 at 5:28 PM

  4. You have the eyes of an eagle, Steve. I would have never noticed spider if you had not pointed out where it was located. Too bad that sunflowers can no longer grow at this location!

    Peter Klopp

    June 25, 2020 at 8:05 AM

    • If you’d seen a full-size version of the photograph you’d have noticed the spider, too. Not long after after the hotel and the Wendy’s were both open, a few sunflowers remained in a little area between them, and I could still take some pictures. Eventually, though, the landscapers got rid of even those few wild sunflowers and replaced them tame alien plants that didn’t belong there.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 25, 2020 at 5:32 PM

  5. I didn’t see the spider until you told us where to look for it. I bet that was a cheerful sight on a gray day. It looks beautiful. Too bad they aren’t growing there anymore.


    June 25, 2020 at 9:19 AM

    • Yes, it is too bad. I was glad that clearing the site and putting up the building dragged on for a couple of years, during which time I could still take pictures. Sometimes inefficiency has a silver lining.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 25, 2020 at 5:53 PM

  6. Wow, striking. That bright sunflower could be the poster child for “Contrast,” I love the stormy-, almost menacing-looking background.

    Robert Parker

    June 25, 2020 at 9:21 AM

    • Because the picture makes such a striking contrast between dark and bright, menacing and sunny, I still don’t know how I failed to show it at the time. Better late than never.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 25, 2020 at 6:54 PM

  7. What an amazing shot! Sunflower is glowing! Spider is actually visible! 😉

    marina kanavaki

    June 25, 2020 at 1:47 PM

  8. I have to admit that I did notice the spider, but I’m always keeping an eye out for the minutiae. The light you managed to get here is really outstanding.


    June 25, 2020 at 6:45 PM

    • This was one of those times when the daylight was so gloomy I felt I had to use flash to get the sunflower to live up to its name.

      Good for you for noticing the spider on your own. I sometimes notice little critters in my photographs only when I see the images on a large screen during processing, rather than at the time I took the pictures.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 25, 2020 at 8:35 PM

  9. Nothing takes the happy out of a sunflower like dark stormy clouds. (But the photo still makes me happy.) This sunflower is everywhere it seems, as most lots aren’t being mowed. It and giant ragweed are Nature’s solution to recently disturbed fields.


    June 25, 2020 at 7:19 PM

    • This has been a good season for sunflowers in the Austin area, as I’ve shown in some recent posts. Just two days ago I photographed some more of them in two places. I’ve also noticed the giant ragweed plants coming up, though the pictures I took of that species this past week were of old dried-out stalks from 2019. I’m glad to hear there’s been a reduction in mowing near you. I’m surprised, because nothing normally stops mowers. Maybe the pandemic has a silver lining.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 25, 2020 at 8:40 PM

  10. Another great shot Steve .. I’m a huge fan of sunflowers .. I wouldn’t have spotted the spider though 🙂


    June 27, 2020 at 3:00 AM

    • You might have spotted the spider if you’d seen the sunflower in person or if you viewed a full-size version of the image.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 27, 2020 at 7:33 AM

  11. That kills me about the loss of this habitat. It happens all too often.


    July 2, 2020 at 7:54 PM

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