Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Color comes to Clematis

with 46 comments

Clematis drummondii flowers and the lustrous fibers that emerge from the ones that get fertilized don’t have a lot of intrinsic color. For these three portraits I’ve used external colors to enhance my subjects. In the picture above of a female flower, the blue came from a small pond on the Blackland Prairie on July 29th, and the brown and green from the land on the far and near sides of the water, respectively. In the second portrait, made during the same outing, I used a shallow depth of field to focus on (in both senses) the seemingly metallic sheen at the base of a flower beginning to produce silky fibers. A nearby sunflower, Helianthus annuus, provided a golden aura to accompany the silvery strands.

The last picture, taken in my neighborhood on July 11th, shows the swirling fibers that this species is best known for. I got low and aimed at an angle that let me include some blue from the sky.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 12, 2020 at 4:26 AM

46 Responses

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  1. Nice! Well-back-grounded approach.

    Robert Parker

    August 12, 2020 at 7:19 AM

  2. Very nice. Good post .


    August 12, 2020 at 7:51 AM

  3. What’s flower name. ?


    August 12, 2020 at 7:53 AM

    • These are from the vine Clematis drummondii. The vernacular name is “old man’s beard,” because of the many fibers, especially as they get duller with age.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 12, 2020 at 7:55 AM

  4. A lovely set of photos. The first one reminds me of a feathery, fancy bird. The backgrounds are a gorgeous way to promote this subtly colored flower. Beautifully done!!


    August 12, 2020 at 8:08 AM

    • Thank you. I’m pleased that you like my idea of bringing in background color. How interesting that you see a bird in the first portrait. I was back in Great Hills Park yesterday doing more pictures of Clematis drummondii. I even told a passerby what they were, and she said she’d return today for a closer look.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 12, 2020 at 8:18 AM

  5. Each is lovely in a unique way! My favorites are middle and the last ones. I love the colors, contrasts, and details in them all though.


    August 12, 2020 at 8:14 AM

  6. I find the seedhead of the clematis fascinating and just as beautiful as its flower. The type that we have in our front yard takes on a golden colour.

    Peter Klopp

    August 12, 2020 at 8:25 AM

    • Unlike the cultivated Clematis species that have prominent and colorful flowers, this local species has relatively small and not-so-noticeable flowers. Its silky and feathery fibers, however, are a delight to behold and are therefore the subjects in most of the pictures I’ve taken of this species.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 12, 2020 at 8:29 AM

  7. Ah, these are exceptionally beautiful, my friend!

    marina kanavaki

    August 12, 2020 at 9:03 AM

  8. I like the last one esp. against the blue.

    Eliza Waters

    August 12, 2020 at 4:01 PM

    • Whenever I photograph this species, I try to take at least a few pictures of the strands against the blue sky. Conditions don’t always allow that; in the picture you singled out, they obviously did.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 12, 2020 at 4:09 PM

  9. I’m mildly surprised that Tolkien didn’t have a few of these little guys hanging around with (or on) Treebeard.


    August 12, 2020 at 4:05 PM

  10. Your three wonderful examples demonstrate how each actor needs a proper backdrop to reach his or her full potential.


    August 12, 2020 at 11:07 PM

    • I’ll take wonderful, thanks. Background is so important in photography—and elsewhere, as you said.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 13, 2020 at 7:14 AM

  11. The first image is exceptional Steve. It’s amazing how a flower can have so much character and convey so much movement.


    August 13, 2020 at 7:18 PM

    • I appreciate your letting me know that you see the first image as conveying so much character and movement. I’ve been pushing abstraction a lot this year.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 13, 2020 at 8:30 PM

  12. All very nice compositions and especially the backgrounds which almost…almost…steal the show from the flowers.

    Steve Gingold

    August 14, 2020 at 3:38 AM

    • You know me with backgrounds. Now I get annoyed when a subject is in a place where I can’t get a good background.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 14, 2020 at 7:59 AM

  13. When I saw the first photo, I smiled to realize I recognized the background as a pond. It certainly does provide a perfect background for the intricacy of the flower. I’m especially taken with the second photo. While not exactly ‘pretty’ in any conventional sense, it’s a view of clematis I’ve never seen. Your chosen focus emphasizes the contrast between the tightly bundled ‘threads’ and the ‘messiness’ to come in an especially nice way.


    August 17, 2020 at 7:21 AM

    • Ponds are my friends, photographically speaking, and especially backgroundically speaking, if I can put it that way. The fact that you recognized the blue here as a pond shows that you’ve developed that kind of friendship too. I don’t recall previously seeing a portrait of this species like the second one, and that novelty is one reason to like it. As with Mexican hats this year, so with Clematis drummondii: each has provided me with several novel views. I’ll have at least two more posts highlighting the latter and might even double back for a bit more of the former.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 17, 2020 at 8:54 AM

  14. Those “external colors” are very pretty – and I love the total chaos of the last photo. (Also, the focus at the front of the first photo – so very beautiful for all that it reveals, while letting some things slide ever-so-slightly out of focus. You are such a skillful photographer!!)


    August 17, 2020 at 12:13 PM

    • Maybe we should say that part of what makes a skilled photographer is not showing one’s failures, of which I certainly have my share. Edison is famous for saying “Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.” I go out there and sweat away in the Texas heat on the assumption that if I keep working, a few good pictures will make up for the many others I take that are mediocre.

      The “total chaos” you singled out in the last portrait is what originally attracted me to this species two decades ago. After so many years I’m still fond of those complexly swirling strands and I keep photographing them every year. At the same time, I’m always ready for new takes on a familiar subject, as in the first two pictures.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 17, 2020 at 1:57 PM

      • It’s not hiding failures that makes you more skillful of course, but learning from them, and I’m sure you’re pretty good at that.
        I hear you about appreciating certain plants year after year, making dozens, no, hundreds of photos of them and every now and then, enjoying the surprise of a new view of the subject.


        September 4, 2020 at 8:09 PM

        • And when it happens it’s exciting. Educationists deprecate practicing a technique to refine it as “drill and kill.” Based on the eventual result, I’d say rather “drill and thrill.”

          Steve Schwartzman

          September 5, 2020 at 4:55 AM

  15. WOW! That last one is really wild. I think it would be cool printed really large!


    August 18, 2020 at 12:28 PM

    • It’s such a great plant to photograph, with wild things going on all over the place. I appreciate your suggestion of a large print.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 18, 2020 at 3:57 PM

  16. Nice. I’m currently working on a Clematis virginiana drawing.


    September 8, 2020 at 8:35 AM

    • I see that species ranges over the whole eastern half of the country, with its densest distribution seeming to be in New England. At the opposite end of its range it reaches a bit into Texas, and even has been recorded in one county not that far north of mine.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 8, 2020 at 11:14 AM

      • I’m not surprised. Planting it in my garden was one of the worst mistakes I’ve ever made~it DEVOURS land and smothers everything in its wake. 😦 😦 😦


        September 9, 2020 at 8:54 AM

        • Still, in terms of the chances it would offer me for photographs, I’d be happy.

          Steve Schwartzman

          September 9, 2020 at 10:32 AM

          • Your neighbor might not be when it ate his garage…


            September 9, 2020 at 10:55 AM

  17. […] known endearingly as old man’s beard. The last times I’d taken pictures of any were late July and early August. In the first week of December I noticed a fluffy colony on the west-side […]

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