Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

More from the July 29th outing on the Blackland Prairie

with 16 comments

Let me continue with the July 29th photo session near a pond on the Blackland Prairie in far northeast Austin that produced the torchlike Clematis drummondii picture you saw here last time. On another of those vines I noticed that some of its silky strands had been pulled together; by getting close I made a soft portrait that included the spider that had done the pulling together. Click the excerpt below if you’d like a closer look at the spinner (which is what spider means).

I also made a pretty pastel picture of marsh fleabane buds (Pluchea odorata).
It’s been five years since that species last appeared in these pages.

And here’s an unrelated quotation for today: “If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.” — U.S. Supreme Court, “West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624 (1943).

UPDATE: In yesterday’s post I’ve added a link below Emma Lazarus’s sonnet so you can hear the famous part set to music by a famous immigrant to the United States.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 22, 2020 at 4:45 AM

16 Responses

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  1. I am continually amazed at how camouflaged insects can be in nature. One might scarcely notice the spider had you not gotten so close. The marsh fleabane is gorgeous!


    August 22, 2020 at 7:10 AM

    • I wish I could remember how far away I was when I noticed this spider. Without a macro lens I’d never have noticed how fuzzy its abdomen is. And yes, the marsh fleabane is gorgeous. I needed to show a picture of it after five years.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 22, 2020 at 11:26 AM

  2. Granted I haven’t had my coffee yet, but it took me a minute to even recognize that as a spider but when I did, wow it is a beauty. So is the marsh fleabane. I am completely jealous~ we have a fleabane completely unrelated and unremarkable called daisy fleabane.


    August 22, 2020 at 7:44 AM

    • You and Lori (in the previous comment) both appreciated the spider’s camouflage. As for fleabanes, we also have the unrelated daisy type here, which I come across much more often than the marsh fleabane that has to be near water. Perhaps your daisy fleabane deserves a closer look; I’ve found plenty to photograph in our common species, Erigeron modestus:


      Steve Schwartzman

      August 22, 2020 at 11:31 AM

  3. Your photo of the clematis is visually speaking as soft as the seedhead is to the touch. This is my impression of your great macro, Steve.

    Peter Klopp

    August 22, 2020 at 10:00 AM

    • As you pointed out, this was a soft approach to portraying the seed strands of this vine. I just came back from experimenting with pictures of the species that have little in focus and are therefore even softer.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 22, 2020 at 11:34 AM

  4. Beautiful post


    August 22, 2020 at 11:30 AM

  5. That’s a really nice quote, Steve, the kind of sentiment we need more of. I didn’t know spider means spinner so thanks for that, too, and how thoughtful of you to give us the option of seeing – or not seeing – the spinner a little closer. 😉


    August 22, 2020 at 11:34 AM

    • I recently learned about that quotation from an article by Greg Lukianoff (another New Yorker), the president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). His organization brings lawsuits against schools that violate students’ rights to due process and free speech. Unfortunately, suppression of those rights has been migrating out of academia and into the culture at large. I hear more and more stories of people getting fired from their jobs merely for expressing an opinion, even when the opinion is expressed outside of work.

      Once the similarity between spider and spinner is pointed out, the connection seems evident, and yet even as a native English speaker I wouldn’t have noticed it but for my delving into etymology. And yes, some people have arachnophobia, so initially keeping the closeup small is probably for the best. I’ve got a similar situation coming up a few posts from now with a different animal.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 22, 2020 at 5:02 PM

      • Interesting…the lack of tolerance just grows like cancer. And see, I was OK with the vulture but I just am not crazy about spiders in general, and some other bugs. Snakes are OK though. 🙂


        September 4, 2020 at 8:01 PM

        • Il faut dire encore une fois: chacun à son goût.

          I’m pretty depressed about the state of the country. There seem to be more and more people who claim to be pursuing justice but who have no qualms about harassing or attacking anyone who has different opinions.

          Steve Schwartzman

          September 4, 2020 at 11:32 PM

  6. It takes a study of your insert blowup to appreciate the subtle coloration and the long legs of this clever little beauty.


    August 22, 2020 at 6:37 PM

    • When I went to crop the original for the insert, I had to be careful to extend my rectangle far enough to the left to include those two long legs. The close view also reveals how softly fuzzy the spider’s abdomen is.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 22, 2020 at 7:20 PM

  7. I’ve not seen any marsh fleabane this year, but only because I’ve not been in areas where it’s common. It’s a beautiful plant in bloom, and your photo does it justice.

    I got a kick out of the spider closeup. One detail I especially like is the way the strands of the clematis and the fur on the spider’s abdomen are running in parallel. It suggests the spider’s holding on in a stiff wind.


    August 23, 2020 at 5:42 AM

    • As one whom sailing has probably caused to hold on in a stiff wind many a time, you may be more disposed than most people to imagine the spider that way. I know some but not a lot of places where marsh fleabane grows. At another place—by the pond where the green herons were—I found more of it than shown here; it hadn’t developed as far, so I didn’t take any pictures of it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 23, 2020 at 6:31 AM

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