Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

One shade the more, one ray the less

with 32 comments

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

32 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. On your pursuit for abstraction even the flowers cooperate. This one dropped all but one petals. If this isn’t a fine collaboration, I don’t know what is! 😉 Beautiful!

    marina kanavaki

    July 27, 2020 at 5:01 AM

  2. I always enjoy your edge-on views, and this one’s no exception. The bit of what I take to be movement blur is a nice complement to the sharper ray florets, and especially pleasing.

    The first photo provided an interesting experience. At first and second glance, there was something about it that just didn’t click for me. But, when I “scroll-cropped” the image a bit, taking off some of the empty space above the firewheel in the background, it felt just right. Others will find it pleasing as is, of course, but it was a reminder for me that the space in a photo needs to be considered as well as the primary subject(s).


    July 27, 2020 at 7:08 AM

    • “Scroll-cropped”: what a good way to put it. I’ve used that technique, too, but never had a name for it. I was going to say that the way we crop an image is idiosyncratic, but then I realized that that assumes a constant idio- (i.e. self). With the passage of a little time, I often find myself willing or even eager to crop a given picture differently. Sometimes I crop in closely to emphasize a subject. At other times I feel like the subject should be part of a larger composition. In today’s first picture I left the extra space at the top to make the image more vertical and let the erect line of the Mexican hat’s stalk and ray and seed head continue upward. For comparison, I just cropped off a strip at the top and bottom, leaving the frame with a ratio of 5 across to 6 down, rather than the roughly 5 across to 8.4 down of the posted version. Either way works for me.

      In the second picture, there’s actually no motion blur. I just checked and found I’d used an unusually fast shutter speed of 1/800.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 27, 2020 at 7:40 AM

  3. Oh, both of these are so nice! I really like these abstractions: the sharp edges with the softer surroundings and those particular colors are perfect. Beautiful photos!


    July 27, 2020 at 8:06 AM

    • Viva abstractions! Thanks for appreciating these two. I’ve made many in 2020 and have been sprinkling a few of them in here at it intervals that I hope are broad enough to keep from cloying. Mexican hats have been especially willing to pose for portraits this year.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 27, 2020 at 8:34 AM

  4. Both of these are wonderful! I like the first one best – I keep going back to it! Well, done.


    July 27, 2020 at 8:28 AM

  5. I like these forms of abstraction where you leave at least one part in focus, to allow the eye a starting point to enjoy the shape and colour of the entire image.

    Peter Klopp

    July 27, 2020 at 9:04 AM

    • I like the way you describe the in-focus parts as starting points. You’ve reminded me of the Chinese proverb that even the longest journey begins with the first step.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 27, 2020 at 9:12 AM

  6. Nice detail, Steve!

    Eliza Waters

    July 27, 2020 at 10:45 AM

  7. I like the second shot with the “off-kilter filter” effect. And with the bright red and yellow in the background of first shot, the seed pod looks like a gas burner starting to ignite along the top.

    Robert Parker

    July 27, 2020 at 11:29 AM

    • You’re cooking with gas in likening that seed head to a burner. You’re also cooking with gas in coming up with “off-kilter filter.” I just found out that kilter itself is off-kilter, etymologically speaking, as its origin remains unknown.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 27, 2020 at 12:40 PM

  8. The stripes on the Mexican hat petal really make the photograph – lovely!

    Ann Mackay

    July 28, 2020 at 5:11 AM

    • You raise a good point. The amount of striping on the rays of Mexican hats is quite variable. Sometimes there’s none at all. The one in this post has about the most striping you’re likely to see. I wonder whether ultraviolet light would reveal striping even where human eyes don’t see any.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 28, 2020 at 5:21 AM

  9. You were too modest to say ‘all that’s best of dark and bright’ but I’ll say it for you.


    July 28, 2020 at 5:25 PM

    • Thanks, Susan. I appreciate your stepping in and applying that additional line to these portraits.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 28, 2020 at 6:24 PM

  10. Very nice edge view and restricted focus.

    Steve Gingold

    July 29, 2020 at 5:22 AM

  11. I LOVE the edge-centric image. The shallow depth of field, the yummy bokeh, the uniqueness of the one curled petal…LOVE IT!


    July 29, 2020 at 6:28 AM

  12. The first one gets my vote. I love the rich colors!


    August 2, 2020 at 4:20 PM

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: