Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Archive for July 2020

Ithaca Falls revisited

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On this date last year we spent some pleasant time at Ithaca Falls in Ithaca, New York. I really don’t like shooting up toward a white sky, and the one we had that morning led to me take most of my pictures as tight abstractions of the rocks and water. In this one I used a shutter speed of 1/2000 of a second in an attempt to stop the water in mid-fall and mid-splash; it worked pretty well. If you’d like a closer look at some of the Hokusai action, click the excerpt below.

It wasn’t just the falls that were impressive. Adjacent to them I photographed a natural (I assume) rock formation so geometric you could be forgiven for thinking that people had had a part in creating it:

And now that geometry has entered the picture, here’s a semi-related observation for today: If a person says that the diagonals of any rectangle bisect each other (which they do), the statement remains true no matter who the person is, what background the person has, what day of the week the statement was made on, what the weather was at the time, what town or country the statement was made in, why the person made the statement, who it was said to, or what use someone else might put the statement to. Offering up those irrelevancies or any others as reasons to deny the truth of the statement is folly, or worse, malice.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 31, 2020 at 4:44 AM

Two takes on square-bud primrose flowers

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Along the Capital of Texas Highway on June 13th I found some bright yellow flowers of Oenothera berlandieri, known descriptively as square-bud primroses and poetically as sundrops. How could I not get down low and make abstract portraits of such sunny wildflowers? The first picture shown here plays up the idea of “a light shining in the darkness.” In the second, I was intrigued by the way one of the plant’s leaves curled into a spiral and turned reddish-brown as it dried out. A spider had been intrigued enough to hang out inside the spiral.

Unrelated proverb for today: You can’t unring a bell.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 30, 2020 at 4:41 AM

Well, come on, yucca, let’s do the twist

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It’s the distinctive torsion that gives the central Texas endemic called twistleaf yucca (Yucca rupicola) its common name. I can’t explain the bits of red but they add interest to this otherwise yellow-green portrait from northwest Austin on July 13th.

Speaking of twistleaf yucca, I just realized I’d never shown you a portrait of one I made way back on May 1st with a four-nerve daisy (Tetraneuris linearifolia) that had nestled against it. Better late than never.

Update to yesterday’s post: I’ve added a closeup showing details in the damselfly’s abdomen and wings.

And here’s an unrelated thought for today: “The pessimist stands beneath the tree of prosperity and growls when the fruit falls on his head.” (This unattributed saying circulated in various American newspapers in the first decade of the 20th century.)

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 29, 2020 at 4:40 AM

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Damselfly on western ironweed

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I’ve always found western ironweed (Vernonia baldwinii) hard to photograph. Not so this dameslfly on the buds thereof along Bull Creek on July 1st. In looking at John Abbott’s book Damselflies of Texas, I figured this damselfly was in the genus Hetaerina but I wasn’t sure about the species. Yesterday on bugguide.net entomologist T. Hedlund identified the species as Hetaerina americana, known as the American rubyspot. The one I photographed seems to have been a female.

UPDATE: from a different frame I’ve added a closeup showing the details in one segment of the abdomen and a part of the wing. Till now I hadn’t paid attention to the transverse black markings on the iridescent blue.

American Rubyspot Damselfly on Western Ironweed Buds by Buttonbush Flower Globe 1831 Detail

Unrelated thought for today: “Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” — George Santayana in The Life of Reason: The Phases of Human Progress. The last sentence is famous but often gets misquoted. Much worse, many people refuse to learn that lesson.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 28, 2020 at 4:40 AM

One shade the more, one ray the less

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As you’ve heard, I’ve been pursuing abstraction a lot this year. My entry into the field has been primarily through the shapes and colors of Austin’s native wildflowers; the two shown here, both members of the sunflower family, are the Mexican hat (Ratibida columnifera) and the firewheel (Gaillardia pulchella). The title of today’s post is a line from Byron that conveniently lets me allude to the one remaining ray flower on the Mexican hat, which I photographed in the little wildflower area at the Floral Park Drive entrance to Great Hills Park on July 8th. And below from the same outing is an edge-centric, eccentric (ex-centric, off-center) portrait of a firewheel in its own right and my own rite.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 27, 2020 at 4:39 AM

Austin’s diurnal answer to Comet Neowise

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My imagination ignored the time of day and told me that a long wispy cloud stretched out over northeast Austin on July 24th was Comet Neowise, which other people have been showing pictures of. This is the closest I’m going to come to portraying that comet, which won’t be back for 6000 years. Somehow I don’t think I’ll still be here then, even if my mind super-optimistically assures me that I will.

Related etymology for today: our word comet goes back to Greek komētēs, which meant ‘long-haired,’ from the word for ‘hair, komē. Can you imagine this wispy cloud as long white tresses?

And a bit of biology, too: botanists have borrowed coma, the Latin form of Greek komē, to designate a tuft of hairs on a seed, as for example a milkweed seed.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 26, 2020 at 4:28 AM

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Niagara Falls abstraction

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From this date a year ago, here’s an abstract view of Niagara Falls.

Vaguely related quotation for today: “Ce monde-ci est un vaste naufrage; sauve qui peut; mais je suis bien loin du rivage!” “This world is a vast shipwreck; save yourself if you can; but I’m very far from the shore!” Voltaire wrote those words in a letter in 1754. Unfortunately this quotation often circulates on the Internet in a reworked form with a modern Pollyanna-ish addition about singing in the lifeboats that reverses the sense of what Voltaire said in his letter.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 25, 2020 at 4:46 AM

Clematis drummondii flower viewed edge-on

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I made this portrait on June 25th in Great Hills Park.
You saw a later stage in this vine’s development a week ago.

Related quotation for today: “There is that in the glance of a flower
which may at times control the greatest of creation’s braggart lords.”
— John Muir in A Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf, 1916.

News flash (July 22, 2020): Sierra Club denounces founder John Muir; statues of him to be removed.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 24, 2020 at 4:43 AM

Two riders on velvetleaf mallow

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On July 5th west of Morado Circle I photographed some velvetleaf mallow plants (Allowisadula holosericea) that were beginning to flower, as you see in the first picture. I didn’t notice the little dark insect until I looked at the picture on my computer screen days later. In contrast, I couldn’t help but notice the colorful critter that the second picture shows you on the underside of one of the mallow’s leaves. Don’t you think parts of its body look like they’re riveted together? Val Bugh tells me it’s an immature Niesthrea louisianica. That species is in the family Rhopalidae, whose members are known collectively as scentless plant bugs, though this one apparently lacks a common name (like the Calocoris barberi that you saw here not long ago).

An unrelated saying for today: “Worry is interest paid on trouble before it falls due.”
That thought appeared in William Meade Pegram’s 1909 book Past-Times,
which included a section that offered up various proverbs.
Where the quoted one originated isn’t clear, but I won’t worry about it.
Here’s another along similar lines:
“Anxiety and Ennui are the pencils that Time uses to draw wrinkles.”

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 23, 2020 at 4:42 AM

Svelte

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Whatever created the white enclosure on this Mexican hat seed head, the undeniable fact is that the structure is svelte. I asked local expert Val Bugh if she could tell what made it. “This webbing looks most like a spider. The egg sacs of some corinnids are covered with a very smooth layer that, once it ages just a little, looks sort of metallic to me. Also, the way the silk is so well attached to the substrate looks more the work of a spider than a moth. However, I’ve sometimes found some very odd moth cocoons that look simply like a bulge on a stem. Whatever it is, the silk is probably shiny because of weathering but it can’t be very old as the stem is still green.” Thanks, Val.

This portrait from west of Morado Circle in my neighborhood on July 5th continues celebrating what I’ve dubbed the Year of the Mexican Hat. More images of that species will appear in the weeks ahead.

Unrelated thought for today: “Reality is what refuses to go away when you do not believe in it….” — Steven Pinker in “Groups and Genes.”

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 22, 2020 at 4:29 AM

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