Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Bluebell bud and flower

with 25 comments

Way back on June 8th I went to a little pond I know on the Blackland Prairie in far northeast Austin because in some previous years I’d found good amounts of bluebells (Eustoma sp.) there. No luck then, but I did better when I returned on July 29th. Well, only slightly better: I found exactly three scattered bluebells, and all of them had been partly eaten (by what, I don’t know). By getting on the ground and aiming judiciously, I managed to make this portrait of a bluebell bud rising in front of a non-nibbled part of one of the flowers.

In our Ancient History Department, the magazine Archaeology reports in its July/August 2020 issue the discovery at Abri du Maras in France of the earliest known piece of cord. It dates back 46,000 years and was made, surprisingly, by Neanderthals. The article says that the “cord was made of three separate strands of fiber taken from the inner bark of a coniferous tree… The strands were then twisted in a clockwise direction to hold the fibers together, after which they were twisted together in a counterclockwise motion to make the cord.” That led archaeologist Bruce Hardy of Kenyon College “to believe that Neanderthals shared a cognitive capacity for mathematics with modern humans.” You can read more about this find in a Science News story.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 19, 2020 at 4:46 AM

25 Responses

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  1. I love this perspective


    August 19, 2020 at 5:27 AM

    • I do, too, but not so much having to lie on the ground to get it. Oh well, it’s an occupational hazard.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 19, 2020 at 5:33 AM

  2. Lovely picture. I did a double-take to see these described as bluebells, although in retrospect it makes sense. I like to read about Neanderthals and all types of ‘other’ intelligences. It is said that they scattered flowers on the graves of loved ones and that’s good enough for me.


    August 19, 2020 at 6:28 AM

    • Different English-speaking regions apply the name bluebells to different flowers. In the case of the Texas ones, I dislike the name because I see the flower color as violet or purple rather than blue. As for the Neanderthals, new finds have provided increasing evidence that they weren’t the brutish cavemen we once stereotyped them to be. I hadn’t heard about scattering flowers on the graves of loved ones, but that’s another bit of evidence.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 19, 2020 at 3:48 PM

  3. I keep hearing about “string theory,” looking forward to seeing this Neanderthal cord exhibited at the String Museum, in Branson, I hope you’re not just stringing us along about this, telling yarns and leaving us stranded.
    It’s a very nice photo, the bud looks like a great art nouveau lighting fixture.

    Robert Parker

    August 19, 2020 at 7:26 AM

    • Bluebell buds have been providing me with great sculptural subjects for two decades. As you know, the practitioners of Art Nouveau took a lot of their inspiration from nature, which they stylized into art. I wonder whether any American artist ever made a lamp or bulb in the form of a bluebell bud.

      I assure you I wasn’t stringing anyone along with my yarn about the discovery of the ancient cord. I’m too honest to entwine fiction with fact. Whether some physicists have been stringing us along with string theory is a different matter.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 19, 2020 at 3:55 PM

  4. You did a fantastic job visually restoring the bluebell, which is serving as a colourful background for its unblemished bud, Steve.

    Peter Klopp

    August 19, 2020 at 8:08 AM

    • A visual restoration was the only kind I could manage, as there was no way to regenerate the eaten parts of the petals. Maybe I should have returned a few days later to see what became of the buds.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 19, 2020 at 3:57 PM

  5. It makes me wonder whether some future race will look with condescension on our achievements…let alone our mistakes. I’m so glad you shared this “string theory” story with us. 🙂 We’ll have to keep an eye on Robert for his full report.

    This photo is certainly no mistake. I really like the way you composed it. The elegant curves of the flower, the lovely colors, all setting off that crisp bud.


    August 19, 2020 at 9:26 AM

    • I think it’s inevitable that people a century or two from now will find some of our beliefs and actions strange, just as we do when we look back sufficiently far. (I’ll add that I already find plenty of things in the present to be worried about.)

      Maybe Robert will indeed weave the Neanderthal story into one of his historical yarns. He’s good at that.

      I agree that the photo is no mistake, as I struggled to get it under less than ideal conditions.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 19, 2020 at 5:46 PM

      • I agree, we give anthropologists plenty to scratch their heads over. Did you read “Collapse”? I’m trying to remember whether we discussed that book. It illustrates the point beautifully.


        August 20, 2020 at 9:05 AM

        • I haven’t read Collapse but I did read Guns, Germs, and Steel. I do remember discussing Jared Diamond with you after Eve and I watched several episodes of a television miniseries he did.

          Steve Schwartzman

          August 20, 2020 at 11:23 AM

          • Oh right, that is the memory that was teasing me. I do recommend Collapse.


            August 21, 2020 at 8:06 AM

  6. Ohhhhhh… that glorious purple, how wonderfully it embraces this lovely bud.

    marina kanavaki

    August 19, 2020 at 10:06 AM

  7. More often I am crawling around trying to do the same with a mushroom that has been nibbled. Making the imperfect approach perfection is always a challenge in photography.

    Steve Gingold

    August 19, 2020 at 7:13 PM

    • Then we’ve both done our part to make things in nature look better than they actually were.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 19, 2020 at 8:40 PM

  8. Getting the right perspective is surely one of the absolutely essential elements in achieving visualized results. I mentioned a right-angle finder to you back in April and, at the risk of slight repetition, if your camera does not have an articulated screen, I can’t recommend one of these highly enough. I used a Hoodman for many years but it eventually died, Both Nikon and Canon make them, but I haven’t needed one since I upgraded to my D-7500.


    August 20, 2020 at 1:57 AM

    • You’re certainly right about getting the right perspective, and I remember right well your right-angle finder recommendation. And you’re right that I’m not yet articulated (finder-wise), even if I’m otherwise articulate.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 20, 2020 at 6:20 AM

  9. Sometimes, the smallest detail is the most pleasing. I especially like the way the bud’s sepals are arranged, with the tips pointing in different directions. It’s nice that the opened flower not only reveals that luscious color, but shows the more widely-spread sepals, too.

    The friend who went with me to Brazos Bend mentioned that she’d been up around Fayetteville a few weeks ago, and came across lush fields of bluebells. She didn’t have a camera with her and regretted not having a photo to remember them by, so of course I sent her a link to that field of bluebells you posted a while back.


    August 20, 2020 at 7:58 AM

    • One thing I’ve always liked about bluebell buds is the way everything is so tightly packed in spirals. Who would guess that those pale green members would turn into petals of a rich and different color?

      It’s good to hear of rich fields of bluebells as recently as a few weeks ago. Thanks for sending your friend a link to the post showing the dense colony here that made you fantasize a hasty trip along 290 and 183.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 20, 2020 at 8:32 AM

  10. Beautiful!


    August 21, 2020 at 8:09 PM

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