Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

The picture is the right way

with 18 comments

You might think I mistakenly rotated this picture 90° counterclockwise from its actual orientation. I didn’t. Zeltnera beyrichii is commonly called mountain pink, and although there are no real mountains in central Texas, the 19th-century Anglo settlers in this region called the hills mountains, which they might as well been, given the obstacles to movement they created in a land without many roads. More to the point, mountains are made of stone, and mountain pinks do often seem to emerge right out of solid rock. On July 6th I came across several of these plants growing horizontally out of the vertical face of a limestone ledge (the grey at the right) on Fireoak Dr. in my “mountainous” northwest part of Austin.

Over the years I’ve often I’ve used a small aperture and aimed more directly into a bunch of dense mountain pink flowers and buds to create a “more is more” sort of picture that plays up all the complexity of the inflorescence; this time I went for a softer approach by shooting from the side with a wider aperture.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 12, 2020 at 4:43 AM

18 Responses

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  1. I love how flora and fauna will grow from the tiniest crack in a rock. The detail of these are lovely and the color is beautiful.


    July 12, 2020 at 7:15 AM

    • I used a softer approach than usual to de-emphasize the shapes and make the image more about the pastel color.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 12, 2020 at 7:23 AM

  2. In this particular case where the background is blurry, you could have easily turned the image without anyone noticing it. But our understanding of how plants grow would have told us that there was something wrong with the picture. Thanks for the explanation, Steve!

    Peter Klopp

    July 12, 2020 at 8:43 AM

    • Had I turned the picture 90° clockwise, even people familiar with mountain pinks might well have been okay with it because these plants do grow upright when they’re anchored in horizontal ground, which they often are. It’s also not unusual to see them growing horizontally from a vertical rockface, as here.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 12, 2020 at 9:54 AM

  3. Sounds like one tough plant!

    Eliza Waters

    July 12, 2020 at 9:35 AM

    • They do seem tough, but then many plants adapt to their environment and pull off feats that surprise us.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 12, 2020 at 9:56 AM

  4. It’s fun seeing both takes on this lovely flower – thanks for linking. I like them both very much. The little Deptford pink (D. armeria) shows up once in a while here – it may not be native but I love it.


    July 12, 2020 at 3:52 PM

    • I hadn’t originally mentioned the other approach and provided a link to an example of it. Shortly before posting it occurred to that I should do that for the benefit of people who aren’t familiar with mountain pinks.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 12, 2020 at 7:28 PM

  5. Oh, this is gorgeous! 🙂

    marina kanavaki

    July 13, 2020 at 5:01 AM

  6. I searched and searched for a nice stand of these when I was in the hill country, and it was the Willow City loop that finally provided them. There were none alongside the road, but when I stopped and crossed to a bit of an overlook, there they were: covering a hillside that wasn’t visible from the road. I wanted in the worst way to get to the bottom of that hill to shoot upward, but the slope was gravelly and steep, and the drop-off was significant, so it occurred to me that wouldn’t be the wisest course of action. I could have ended up oriented just like this group of flowers. For them, it’s perfectly fine: for me, not so much.


    July 13, 2020 at 7:21 AM

    • It’s good that you finally found some, even if you couldn’t reach the place that would give you the viewpoint you wished. Prudence at this stage of things is the way to go, and verticality beats unwanted horizontality.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 13, 2020 at 11:37 AM

  7. Interesting, Steve. I find myself turning my head to the left when looking at this photo, thereby confirming your opening statement. 🙂


    July 13, 2020 at 2:47 PM

  8. Sometimes it is a strong temptation to present things in their expected orientation but better, as you did, to keep thing as found. It’s a lovely delicate little flower in a nice bunch.

    Steve Gingold

    July 22, 2020 at 3:02 AM

    • I passed by this site recently. In the sixteen days since I took the picture, all the pink has left the mountain pinks. All of what juts horizontally out of the rock now is the color that the plant showed at the far right then.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 22, 2020 at 6:08 AM

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