Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

A golden basket and a wheel of fire

with 34 comments

A post yesterday in “The World According to Dina” began with a quotation by Cézanne: “La couleur est le lieu où notre cerveau et l’univers se rencontrent,” “Color is the place where our mind and the universe meet.” What a great poetic idea, don’t you think? The post included three of Dina’s photographic experiments in color created by moving the camera while the shutter remained open. Go have a look.

As you know, I’ve also been pursuing color abstraction this year. For me the points of entry have been the colors and shapes of Austin’s wildflowers. The title of today’s post alludes to two of them: the basket-flower, Plectocephalus americanus, and the firewheel, Gaillardia pulchella. The one “basket” and the two firewheels portrayed here were growing in the dedicated wildflower area at the Floral Park Drive entrance to Great Hills Park on July 8th. If you’re burning to read more into the image, the little structures on the basket could be stylized flames.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 11, 2020 at 4:41 AM

34 Responses

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  1. Steve, we feel humbled and honoured about your kind shout-out, thank you so much! 🙂 🙏🏻
    You, for one, have inspired me with your approach to colour and light and darkness and so have Michael Scandling and others being fond of the sea and the light and the movement on the shoreline.

    The combination of the basket flower and the fire wheel is perfect and the structures of the basket could very well be gracefully stylized flames. The gradient colours are simply beautiful.


    July 11, 2020 at 6:01 AM

    • You’re welcome, Dina. It’s fun to be on an artistic quest. You’re right that in addition to color and light I’ve been incorporating the expressive power of darkness in some of my portraits, the one in this post being an example. You and Michael Scandling have the sea available. Except for when I travel, I don’t, although you could say central Texas offers a sea of wildflowers that I’ve been happy to go swimming in.

      As is my wont, I tracked down what seems to be the original French wording of the statement by Cézanne, a poetic insight I’d never heard. I’m glad you included it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 11, 2020 at 6:31 AM

  2. Ah, my friend, you are such a master of those beauties…

    marina kanavaki

    July 11, 2020 at 6:56 AM

  3. Fascinating and wonderfully observed as always. I can see how you might imagine the little structures as flames, but to me, they seem to be reaching out in protection of the inner flower. It’s a very curious effect.


    July 11, 2020 at 7:13 AM

    • Observation may be the key. I often sit down next to a group of wildflowers and look at them individually for interesting details. I also check to see if anything close to me lines up with something attractive further away. With this basket-flower “basket” I took some pictures against a more-neutral backdrop but they weren’t as appealing as the ones I took from a different angle with the firewheels in the background.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 11, 2020 at 7:43 AM

      • Something for me to learn – to slow down when taking pictures. I tend to get over excited at the least prompting.


        July 11, 2020 at 4:23 PM

  4. Very successful! Definitely suggests an elaborate torch.

    Robert Parker

    July 11, 2020 at 7:13 AM

    • If I had a good voice I could segue into being a torch singer. In any case, I’m pleased you find this portrait a success.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 11, 2020 at 7:44 AM

  5. As your fascinating photo of the basket flower shows again Nature is the great artist. We are encouraged to see her beauty, be inspired and if possible follow in her footsteps with our creative work.

    Peter Klopp

    July 11, 2020 at 7:38 AM

  6. J’aime beaucoup le quote, Steve! The stalk with the red flowers behind it is fantastic and your description and title are parfait!


    July 11, 2020 at 9:01 AM

  7. A beautiful, artistic photo, Steve!

    Lavinia Ross

    July 11, 2020 at 11:04 AM

  8. Another beautiful patterned/structural visage juxtaposed over (or with) a softer, amorphous one. I like these experiments!


    July 11, 2020 at 12:04 PM

  9. Beautiful, well-framed shot, Steve


    July 11, 2020 at 2:09 PM

    • The alignment wasn’t easy, especially when the breeze kicked up, so I took a bunch of pictures and expected at least a few would have caught things right. It’s hard to beat the details in a basket-flower basket combined with the colors of a firewheel.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 11, 2020 at 2:19 PM

  10. Was this photo taken in late afternoon or evening light, by any chance? I’ve noticed that the baskets can glow beautifully in those conditions. Here, the golden glow is enhanced even more by the color behind it, and that’s part of what makes the photo so appealing to me. I’m accustomed to thinking of basket-flowers in terms of their pink and lavender disk flowers, so it’s startling — in an entirely good way — to see this color palette.


    July 11, 2020 at 5:19 PM

    • I just checked and found I took this picture around 11:20 in the morning, so there was no evening “golden hour” light. This seems to have been a basket-flower that was trying to open but couldn’t make it and ended up drying out. I’ve noticed plenty of variation in the coloring of the “basket” in this species. Probably the most gold-metallic one I’ve ever shown was eight years ago:


      The one in today’s post struck me as a little redder than usual, which makes for that much more harmonization with the firewheel behind it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 11, 2020 at 6:50 PM

  11. It’s good to connect bloggers this way…I do subscribe to Dina’s blog but there have been people I learned about who are new to me in the past, and it’s good to keep our horizons wide, and linked together. 🙂 What a nice addition this one is to your color abstraction series.


    July 12, 2020 at 3:56 PM

    • This year I’ve hardly been able to get enough of color abstractions (like the one here). It began with a good crop of spring wildflowers and never abated as spring turned into summer. The virus hasn’t slowed me down at all, given that I work outdoors and mostly away from people.

      As for connecting with other photographers and keeping horizons open, yes, it’s good to do that. Michael Scandling has also been working a lot with minimalist abstractions.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 12, 2020 at 8:38 PM

  12. Fabulous detail!!


    July 12, 2020 at 7:34 PM

  13. Stunning specimen … I like the autumnal colors!


    July 20, 2020 at 11:14 AM

  14. Gorgeous photo. Thank you very much for posting it.

    Geri Lawhon

    July 27, 2020 at 1:25 PM

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