Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Clematis drummondii flower viewed edge-on

with 34 comments

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

34 Responses

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  1. Looks like Gonzo the Muppet’s eyes. Nice selective focus.

    Steve Gingold

    July 24, 2020 at 5:17 AM

    • I was just forming my comment and saw that you had already duplicated it. Great minds, I guess.


      July 24, 2020 at 5:36 AM

      • In this case you two share an association I don’t have (assuming you meant Gonzo was the duplication).

        Steve Schwartzman

        July 24, 2020 at 6:25 AM

    • This is another one I had to look up—Gonzo the Muppet, that is, not selective focus.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 24, 2020 at 6:19 AM

  2. Sierra Club announced John Muir statues and monuments were “under review.”


    July 24, 2020 at 5:33 AM

  3. Once the shock and disbelief your news flash evoked had ebbed a bit, I went back to the flower for a second look. The slight lavender aura and the mottled patterning on the bit nearest the camera’s really interesting. I’ve never noticed either, but of course my experience of the plant’s quite limited. The level of abstraction’s appealing; it certainly resulted in an unusual portrait of the flower.

    As for the rest of it: if the glance of a flower could control braggart lords, I know a few people I’d be willing to send multiple bouquets. Beyond that, I’ll not be removing the quotation from Muir from my bio page. He was right, after all: “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.” That’s not only true for the natural world.


    July 24, 2020 at 7:48 AM

    • This portrait of a Clematis drummondii flower is unique in my work, in large part because of the degree of abstraction, including limited focus and the prevalence of darkness in the background. Add to that the mottled patterning on the frontmost segment of the flower that you pointed out, which I’m not sure I’d ever noticed before, either. Thankfully new ways of seeing familiar things keep coming; may they never stop.

      Alas, the news flash isn’t one of those clever and beguiling yarns that Robert Parker is so good at regaling us with. I wish you well with the multiple bouquets you imagine sending: may they be counted in the millions!

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 24, 2020 at 8:36 AM

  4. This flower looks like a colourful insect in midflight. My wild imagination could not help seeing this in the display of photographic craftsmanship.

    Peter Klopp

    July 24, 2020 at 8:37 AM

    • Your lively imagination today has transformed a flower into a colorful insect in flight. Who knows what other mental metamorphoses you’ll send our way. We’ll be waiting.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 24, 2020 at 3:03 PM

  5. Beautiful portrait, my friend!
    As for John Muir… I am tempted to ask “Why”, but it seems futile.

    marina kanavaki

    July 24, 2020 at 10:20 AM

  6. An exquisite photo of an exquisite flower.


    July 24, 2020 at 2:52 PM

    • Thanks, Tina. I was happy with this treatment of a flower that’s often passed over in favor of the shiny and feathery filaments that follow.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 24, 2020 at 3:08 PM

  7. I love this shallow depth of field. I had a random thought today while on the drive home from #1 Grandson’s house and at a construction delay for 20 minutes. I saw some wild flowers on the side of the road and hopped out to look at them and saw a bug on one and wondered if you use macro rails?

    Totally random!😄 I had my cell phone and wanted mine just then.


    July 24, 2020 at 7:29 PM

    • Sometimes I go for small apertures and lots of depth of field. At other times, often dictated by low light, I go for the opposite effect. In this photograph that led to a sense of mystery, as very few details came out clear.

      I know photographers in Austin who’ve gotten very good at using a macro rail to do focus stacking. Because I hand-hold all my pictures, a macro rail wouldn’t work for me.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 24, 2020 at 8:29 PM

  8. You’ve outdone yourself with this one. It is absolutely beautiful~a really nice take on a favorite subject.

    As for Muir…I heard about that and find it greatly distressing. We must today eradicate racism but is it right to discard great men of old because of their unenlightened views? There is enough on our plate today, surely, without worrying about the attitudes of people a century ago.


    July 25, 2020 at 8:57 AM

    • I was really happy with this unconventional view, so I’m happy to hear you think I’ve outdone myself. And yes, this vine is certainly a favorite subject of mine. I have another Clematis drummondii picture scheduled that’s more in the tradition of what I’ve done before.

      As for what happened to Muir and has rapidly been happening to many another, living as well as dead, I’ve been reminding people how quickly totalitarianism pretending to be idealism can take over a country. Look at the French Revolution, the Communists in Russia and China, the Fascists in Germany and Italy. Alas, it can happen here.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 25, 2020 at 10:02 AM

      • If you are worried about totalitarianism, you are looking at the wrong folks. The Gestapo tactics being waged against peaceful protestors for expressing their constitutional rights is a step in that direction. They are not going after the people who are actually doing active rioting and destruction but random folks supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. This administration unilaterally acting without actual authorization to do so is a step in that direction. If they were just defending federal property then that is one thing but they are actively assaulting and arresting people, swooping them up with no rights whatsoever. Some of what is happening is regrettable but to equate these people with the French Revolution is quite a stretch.

        Steve Gingold

        July 25, 2020 at 10:20 AM

        • The right to free speech is very important to me, so I’m alarmed by the harm that what’s been called the cancel culture has increasingly been perpetrating. In a recent American poll, 62% of respondents agreed with the statement “the political climate these days prevents me from saying things I believe because others might find them offensive.”


          In other polls, more and more Americans, especially young ones, say they want to change the First Amendment so that the government can come after people who say something that someone else finds “hateful.” There’s always going to be someone somewhere sensitive enough to find any given statement “hateful,” and I don’t want any American to be subject to consequences from that kind of hypersensitivity.

          Steve Schwartzman

          July 25, 2020 at 1:47 PM

          • Of course we want to retain the rights that the first amendment offers us. That comes with responsibility though. Shouting fire in a theater for example. Driving down the street and shouting N…..s at a family of African Americans walking to enjoy the night for another. People are getting a little carried away with trying to right wrongs of the past and the past cannot be erased. Hopefully that urge will abate soon.
            We are free to say what we want but that also comes with consequences, whether it is discomfort over offending people or saying something so egregious that your employer does not want you representing his/her business. While I don’t agree with the destruction of property, private or public, seeing the government celebrating someone who promoted hatred towards one people or another one can understand the strong feelings we see in recent weeks.
            I remember your referring to that study in a past conversation. What are we to do? Freedom comes with responsibility and common sense is a reasonable expectation from those exercising that right.

            Steve Gingold

            July 25, 2020 at 1:58 PM

            • What disturbs me is that too many of the things that people have been getting fired or boycotted or hounded for lately don’t strike me as egregious at all.

              Steve Schwartzman

              July 25, 2020 at 2:15 PM

              • I can understand that. We all make mistakes and, I think, should have the opportunity to acknowledge, learn from, and apologize. Then we all should move on if, as you say, the offense was not too egregious. The woman in NYC who called the cops on an African American bird watcher when he asked her to leash her dog, which is required by law, was egregious and her employer saw fit to send her away. Had there not been witnesses who knows what might have transpired when she claimed he was assaulting her. Kind of an unforgivable “mistake”.
                As far as being hounded, it happens to far too many people for innumerable reasons. Poor Dr. Fauci and his family need round the clock protection because of the crazy people who are threatening him for “creating the virus” so he could get rich off of the pandemic. Some people these days have no common sense or decency.
                Neither of us is going to affect much change with this conversation unfortunately. People will do what they will.
                I, for one, am glad to live a low profile life. Sometimes I am amazed I even have an existence on the internet.

                Steve Gingold

                July 25, 2020 at 2:39 PM

      • It sure can and right now it seems like totalitarianism is threatening us from both sides of the aisle. “Law and Order” is threatening to tilt into a police state.


        July 28, 2020 at 9:30 AM

  9. What a splendid photo! I could swear this was an insect with bulging eyes on stalks staring straight ahead.
    OK… Now I must rush to whatever “news“ outlet I can find for more clarification about the John Muir issue. These are frightening times!

    Birder's Journey

    July 25, 2020 at 1:31 PM

    • A previous commenter saw Gonzo the Muppet (which I wasn’t familiar with), and now you see “an insect with bulging eyes on stalks staring straight ahead.”

      Yes, frightening times, and not only because of the pandemic.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 25, 2020 at 1:51 PM

  10. I’ve never noticed the lavender/purplish colors at the ends of the sepals, either. It does look like this is a female flower, though, since the column of stigma/pistils in the center seems to be fairly erect. I once sent some photos to a botanist friend, and he asked why I had only sent male flowers? (Because the female flower photos were all out of focus). The distinction is easier to make once the flowers on the vine have started to express achenes (female) or not (male). To me, the difference is that the male flowers are more in the shape of a hemisphere, with the stamens and pistils equally spread out, and the female flowers have that central column. (at least that’s how I see it, as a non-botanist (and not likely ever to be one).


    July 25, 2020 at 3:50 PM

    • When preparing this post I remembered your article about Clematis drummondii and the way to tell male from female flowers. As for the color at the end of the sepals, the distal end of the bud in this species is likewise purple or maroon. I’ll join you in the high non-likelihood of ever becoming a botanist.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 25, 2020 at 4:11 PM

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