Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Two takes on bumps

with 53 comments

Some Mexican hats (Ratibida columnifera) have a bump on the tip of their column. Here are two quite different takes on that theme: the first pastel, on a mostly straight stalk, and with the column still developing; the second darker, on a stalk that took a right-angle turn, and with its column already going to seed. The background color in the picture above came from another Mexican hat, and below from a horsemint (Monarda citriodora). I made these contrasting portraits in Great Hills Park on June 2nd.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 28, 2020 at 4:23 AM

53 Responses

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  1. Your special take on these beauties is just getting better and better. As we say in Minnesota (and Wisconsin), I look forward to having a beer and a bump with you some day!


    June 28, 2020 at 5:57 AM

    • You’ve reminded me of that aspiration phrase put forth a century ago by Émile Coué: “Tous les jours à tous points de vue je vais de mieux en mieux,” which translates into English as “Every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better.” According to the Wikipedia article about him, “Working as an apothecary at Troyes from 1882 to 1910, Coué quickly discovered what later came to be known as the placebo effect. He became known for reassuring his clients by praising each remedy’s efficiency and leaving a small positive notice with each given medication.” If only we could now say “Every day, in every way, the pandemic virus is going away.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 28, 2020 at 8:05 AM

      • We can pretty much say that here now, though caution is still the watchword, but the powers that be in other places have not effectively embraced the necessary preventive measures, and that’s negatively impacting us all.


        June 28, 2020 at 4:34 PM

        • Yeah, it’s complicated here. With respect to the pandemic, New Zealand has the great advantages of geographic isolation and a small population. In terms of attitudes and beliefs, the United States is several countries physically intermingled over a large area, and those de facto countries don’t seem to want to cooperate on much of anything.

          Steve Schwartzman

          June 28, 2020 at 5:14 PM

  2. Beautiful!

    Sonali Dalal

    June 28, 2020 at 6:31 AM

  3. Your success in getting these centered on a second bloom in the background is impressive. I don’t actually drink a beer and a bump, but definitely cheers.

    Robert Parker

    June 28, 2020 at 8:37 AM

    • Nothing succeeds like success. I concentrate on concentricism (or concentrism for short) when I take pictures like these. Careful can lead to cheerful. (And sometimes a person who’s sitting is a cheerful chairful.)

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 28, 2020 at 9:40 AM

      • Better than just being a bump on a log.


        June 28, 2020 at 4:31 PM

        • But some bumps on logs are photogenic. And some logs are mathematical.

          Steve Schwartzman

          June 28, 2020 at 5:05 PM

          • And some documentary. I have, close to my left elbow, my treasure of eight little notebook logs of hand-entered metadata from my photography from 1991 through 1998, and I still refer to them fairly often.


            June 28, 2020 at 7:06 PM

  4. Using other flowers as a bokeh seems to be your specialty, Steve. The effects are truly spectacular.

    Peter Klopp

    June 28, 2020 at 8:42 AM

    • You’re right that I often do that. Sometimes I think I have to resist overdoing it. Other times I’m happy to overdo it: how else to form a bouquet of bokeh?

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 28, 2020 at 9:43 AM

  5. Isn’t it cool that you could achieve two such different feels from the same subject on the same day. I would almost have thought they were in different weather conditions. Both are vey nice.


    June 28, 2020 at 9:37 AM

    • I spent the whole time with one group of flowers, mostly Mexican hats. From the metadata I see that I took these two pictures half an hour apart. What surprises me a little is that although the two almost share the same aperture, f/4 in the first and f/4.5 in the second, so much more came out in focus in the second picture. The different angles at which I shot, and the fully developed ray flowers in the second case, account for the diverse results.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 28, 2020 at 2:54 PM

      • That is surprising. I thought for sure you were going to tell me you did some complicated wizardry.


        June 29, 2020 at 11:37 AM

        • Nope, just old-fashioned composing. The bent stalk in the second specimen made composing and focusing on the flower head easier. I see I took 10 pictures of it.

          Steve Schwartzman

          June 29, 2020 at 11:44 AM

  6. I applaud your bokehcentric composition. And the beautiful subjects.

    Michael Scandling

    June 28, 2020 at 10:47 AM

  7. These are such lovely captures. I really like the clear and defined closeup of the blooms–sharp, in focus–juxtaposed with the softer glow of distant neighbors. Beautiful!


    June 28, 2020 at 12:14 PM

    • This year I’ve felt I’m really onto something with Mexican hats, so I appreciate your validation.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 28, 2020 at 2:59 PM

  8. Hi Steve, As usual, all of your floral images are spectacular!! I’m no longer updating my old site here, but I am active elsewhere. I just ordered a new Canon camera, about high time as my old one is from 2010, still works — takes a lickin’ but keeps on tickin’—-but it’s very basic. I’ll keep it for quick casual photos. I’m hoping with the new one I can photograph closeups like yours!


    June 28, 2020 at 3:15 PM

    • I wish you well with your new Canon camera. Whatever model it is, it’s bound to eclipse a model from 2010, which in technological time might as well be the Dark Ages. You’re right that for flowers it’s hard to do without a close-up lens; of the various lenses I own, the macro is the one I use the most of all.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 28, 2020 at 5:02 PM

  9. Lovely comparisons and contrasts, Steve.


    June 28, 2020 at 5:25 PM

    • That could become a prompt for a high school essay: compare and contrast these two portraits of Mexican hats.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 28, 2020 at 5:28 PM

      • Regardless of the lovely motifs, this prompt would only result in moans and groans, Steve. I think most students have a visceral reaction when they hear the words “compare and contrast.” 😊


        June 29, 2020 at 1:45 PM

        • You’re probably right. Maybe it would work in college. On second thought, maybe not, since many American students in college now don’t even know as much as a competent sixth-grader did when I was in school.

          Steve Schwartzman

          June 29, 2020 at 2:43 PM

          • That’s a sad statement.


            June 30, 2020 at 6:46 PM

            • It’s more than sad to me: it’s horrific. I’d been increasingly convinced that the dissolution of the country was under way, but I didn’t think I’d live long enough to see the culmination. The rate of dissolution has accelerated so much in the past couple of months that I now expect to live to see the end of the country as I’ve known it. History teaches that civilizations often collapse from within, and that’s what’s going on with the mania that has swept the country.

              Steve Schwartzman

              June 30, 2020 at 7:58 PM

              • I, too, feel that the very foundations of this country are being shaken, and we don’t know if they will hold. The problem, simplistically stated, is that the foundations were not sound to begin with. Exploitation and death are not good foundations.


                July 1, 2020 at 6:34 PM

  10. Great colors and separation of foreground and background focus. Beautiful.


    June 29, 2020 at 11:49 AM

    • Thanks. That kind of separation is what I was after here. I went for various effects during that session; in other pictures the flowers beyond my subject retained more detail.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 29, 2020 at 12:52 PM

  11. Morning Steve … I love the way you have used the flower behind as a background! These pop .. 🙂


    June 29, 2020 at 4:22 PM

    • Late afternoon here, tomorrow morning there: what a world of communication across space and time.
      Yes, having colors from something in the background serve as a halo is an approach I’ve found myself drawn to.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 29, 2020 at 5:38 PM

  12. Gorgeous shots and those backgrounds make them even more beautiful, like little saints! 😉

    marina kanavaki

    June 30, 2020 at 5:52 AM

  13. What a great pair these two are! It’s really admirable that you have been able to get to know certain plants so well. I think you know this one inside-out. 🙂


    July 2, 2020 at 7:52 PM

    • This has been my year for a super-duper acquaintanceship with Mexican hats. I’m still at it, as recently as this morning.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 2, 2020 at 8:55 PM

      • Good!


        July 3, 2020 at 2:46 PM

        • And the learning continues along with the pictures. I’m used to thinking of Mexican hat as a Texas plant but I see now from the USDA map that it grows in the majority of American states—yours being one of the few lacking it. The USDA map even has it marked for Westchester County in New York.

          Steve Schwartzman

          July 3, 2020 at 3:32 PM

  14. You are having a good Mexican Hat season. Both of these offer nice views of the bumps as well as being pleasing images.

    Steve Gingold

    July 4, 2020 at 4:16 PM

    • I’ve taken a cue from Lewis Carrol by becoming a mad (Mexican) hatter and making a slew of portraits. Some more are still in the pipeline to appear here.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 4, 2020 at 4:47 PM

  15. I don’t remember seeing such bumps before; they’re an interesting feature. I’ve been looking and looking at that first photo; it’s remarkable how closely the color of the developing column matches the pretty green surrounding it. I can’t get over the feeling that I’m looking through that green to the developing column, and then to the second Mexican hat behind it. It’s probably an optical illusion, but it’s a pleasing one.

    I finally found a few Mexican hats during my trip to Kerrville. There weren’t many that hadn’t gone completely to seed, but I did find one or two pretty ones.


    July 6, 2020 at 7:29 AM

    • I don’t remember paying attention to bumps like these in previous years. I’ve seen my share this season, so they may be more common than either of us realized. Regarding the first picture, the coincidence in colors that you pointed out makes the image unusual; there’s almost always more of a difference in color between the subject and the background. Happy optical illusion to you. I’m also glad you found a few Mexican hats that were still fresh. While the majority here have also gone to seed now, some new ones are still coming up, so I’ll be able to keep on playing. It’s also the case here that at least some Mexican hats will put in an appearance through the summer and fall.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 6, 2020 at 5:24 PM

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