Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Austin’s still snailiferous

with 53 comments

Now well past May’s peak of limaciferousness in central Texas, the land beneath our baking sun has continued to host many a snail. Whether the small creatures I’ve found were living or dead has been mostly beyond my ability to say. They haven’t, however, been beyond my ability to photograph. I found the one above on August 6th near the tip of a Mexican hat seed head (Ratibida columnifera), and the one below on a bed of dry fallen Ashe juniper leaves (Juniperus ashei). In that portrait, taken on July 10th, I’d gone for a shallow-depth-of-field approach, with little more than the apex of the spiral in focus.

The last image, from June 15th in Great Hills Park when things were still more colorful,
shows a snail on a living Ashe juniper with a firewheel (Gaillardia pulchella) beyond it.

And here’s a quotation about photography:

“Sometimes I do get to places just when God’s ready to have somebody click the shutter.”
Ansel Adams in American Way, October 1974.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 23, 2020 at 4:33 AM

53 Responses

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  1. I enjoyed that quotation from Adams. It’s as good an explanation as any for things like a photo of a dragonfly perched on a crab claw.

    As for the snail in the first photo, the last time you showed one like that I commented that I’d never seen one. Now, I have; it was lounging on some Ruellia near the monument in Cost. I am going to have to look more closely at Ashe juniper. The color of this one really surprised me, as did the lavender cast to the snail. It’s quite an appealing photo.


    August 23, 2020 at 5:51 AM

    • The dragonfly perched on a crab claw is an excellent recent example in your work. And now that you’re aware of how many little snails climb on plants, I suspect you’ll begin to notice them more often: fortune favors the prepared [to see]. When it comes to the Ashe juniper, like any species, it varies. I probably haven’t paid enough attention to its variations. The third picture was a late addition to balance to the predominant brown in the the first two images.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 23, 2020 at 8:01 AM

  2. The Mexican hat just keeps giving and giving this year! That last image with the juniper is lovely. Is that a tiny spider just to the left of the snail, or is a bit of debris of some kind?


    August 23, 2020 at 7:16 AM

    • Yes, you said it well: the Mexican hats keep on giving. I’m still photographing them, even if not the way I did earlier in the season when they were fresh. To answer your question, I looked at the full-size version of the last picture. There’s clearly spider silk; the little thingy caught in it appears to be a small piece that came off the Ashe juniper, though I can’t be certain.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 23, 2020 at 8:06 AM

  3. I like the closeup of the spiral, like a very handsome helmet from classical or medieval history. Slugs and snails are all-too-familiar a sight in the damp northern states, my family has always grown its own salad greens every summer, and even when we surround the garden bed with coffee grounds, builders sand, traps, etc. we always have to pick the little slimy buggers off the leaves.

    Robert Parker

    August 23, 2020 at 7:43 AM

    • I hadn’t pictured the second shell as a helmet; now that you proposed that image, I can see it. I also hadn’t known about your experience growing salad greens, along with the “little slimy buggers” that you’d rather not have in those greens and that resist your preventive measures.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 23, 2020 at 8:11 AM

      • I did try escargot once, just for the heck of it, but the average garden snail 🐌 is too small for that, and not my favorite snack, in any case.

        Robert Parker

        August 23, 2020 at 9:08 AM

    • We here in BC have the same problem with these slimy slugs which invade our lettuce and bean patches. Picking them off the leaves is laborious but seems to be the only method that really works.

      Peter Klopp

      August 23, 2020 at 8:36 AM

      • Judging from your two testimonials, I guess that’s a pretty common occurrence among gardeners. As a photographer out in nature, I fortunately don’t need to be bothered by that.

        Steve Schwartzman

        August 23, 2020 at 8:38 AM

      • I tried dusting them with diatomaceous earth, which works briefly, but then you really need to wear a mask around that bed on dry days, you don’t want to breathe that stuff in. I agree, picking them off one by one is really the only completely reliable method. My father once tried putting plastic lids on the ground, filled with beer, but our labrador dog discovered them, and lapped it up! we didn’t want a drunken dog, so we stopped trying that! 😁

        Robert Parker

        August 23, 2020 at 9:00 AM

        • You’ve had such travails with your garden snails!

          Steve Schwartzman

          August 23, 2020 at 12:53 PM

        • Someone suggested sprinkling salt on them, which would cause them to shrivel up. But wouldn’t it be easier to just pick them off? Have a great week, Robert!

          Peter Klopp

          August 24, 2020 at 8:38 AM

  4. I marvel at the Archimedean spiral on the snail of the second image. It is a true testimony of Nature’s design in all the things we observe in plants and animals. The formula for the spiral is so complex that I wonder why people can claim it all happened by chance.

    Peter Klopp

    August 23, 2020 at 8:48 AM

    • Sometimes the complexity disappears with a different approach. If you change from rectangular coordinates to polar coordinates, the formula for an Archimedean spiral can be as simple as r = e^θ. If only human behavior could be described so simply!

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 23, 2020 at 1:03 PM

      • Human behaviour is contradictory and therefore cannot be reduced to a simple formula. Thank you, Steve, for the concise formula for the Archimedean spiral!

        Peter Klopp

        August 24, 2020 at 8:33 AM

  5. That’s wonderful, Steve. They are all exquisite and I especially like the second one on a bed of dry fallen Ashe juniper leaves. The DOF is just perfect.
    “There is no magic in magic, it’s all in the details.” – Walt Disney.
    Hope you had a good weekend, Steve.


    August 23, 2020 at 8:52 AM

    • I agree!


      August 23, 2020 at 9:52 AM

    • In this time zone it’s still Sunday’s early afternoon. To get out of the house we drove 40+ miles east and spent time in a different ecological zone where the ground tends to be sandy and pine trees flourish (except for the many that burned down in the great fire of 2011). I’m glad you like the shallow depth of field in the middle portrait. I keep experimenting.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 23, 2020 at 12:44 PM

  6. Great quotation!


    August 23, 2020 at 9:50 AM

  7. I have thoroughly enjoyed these snail portraits, Steve!

    Lavinia Ross

    August 23, 2020 at 11:40 AM

    • I’ve never photographed or shown as many as in 2020. In each year some things are more prominent than in others, or at least I notice them more and give them more photographic attention.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 23, 2020 at 12:57 PM

  8. Snails just add the right touch to any plant! 🙂 Great shots, Steve!


    August 23, 2020 at 1:15 PM

    • As a photographer I can afford to say that snails add just the right touch to any plant. Based on previous comments about difficulties with lettuce and beans, I’m a little surprised to hear you, a gardener, saying that—but I’m still glad to hear it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 23, 2020 at 2:06 PM

  9. I love that quote by Ansel Adams. Your images of the snails are wonderful. I love the isolation, the creamy Bokeh, the details of the plants, and snail shells.


    August 23, 2020 at 1:36 PM

    • And I like your description of the bokeh as creamy. As you intimated, isolation is an effective element in photography.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 23, 2020 at 2:08 PM

  10. Super shots, my friend!

    marina kanavaki

    August 23, 2020 at 1:54 PM

  11. Glad to see your snails and hope they were living ones. It has been very dry here for a while and possibly for that reason I’ve not seen many of their relative slugs…or snails which I don’t see many of at any time. I like all three but the last on the juniper is especially appealing.
    Pretty much any Adams quote is worth sharing. He certainly was on time for “Moonrise, Hernandez, N.M.” and got off one frame before the light was lost.

    Steve Gingold

    August 23, 2020 at 3:10 PM

    • Yes, I know that story about “Moonrise, Hernandez, N.M.” I wonder if Ansel Adams was thinking of that picture in particular when he made the comment I quoted.

      From what I gather, a lot of the country is lacking in rain these days. We finally got a little on Friday, so I took photographic advantage of some remaining raindrops on Saturday morning. With or (mostly) without rain here, though, I do keep finding snails on plants and taking pictures of them.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 23, 2020 at 3:18 PM

      • The one thing we do have is dew. Yesterday was frustrating as the insects and grasses I was photographing were so coated with it that focusing was almost useless. Today was a different story which thrilled me as I thought that possibly yesterday’s issue was the repaired lens was not focusing properly but after today I know that to not be the case.
        His arrival on that scene was certainly serendipitous. Whether it was divine guidance remains a mystery. So many of his shots were amazing that he could have been talking about any one of many but that one would easily be at the top of the list.

        Steve Gingold

        August 23, 2020 at 3:36 PM

        • You’re ahead of us when it comes to dew—but then I rarely start out before dawn the way you do, so maybe there’s more dew here than I realize, though still less in this climate that’s drier than yours. You must have been really relieved to find the repaired lens was okay after all.

          Steve Schwartzman

          August 23, 2020 at 3:46 PM

  12. I find myself surprised again and again by some snails’ ability and predilection for climbing in such seemingly-prohibitive structures. That Mexican hat sure doesn’t look very comfortable.


    August 23, 2020 at 7:06 PM

    • We don’t think of the dry Mexican hat seed head as being comfortable, and yet when a snail is on the ground, doesn’t it often have equally rough conditions?

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 23, 2020 at 7:26 PM

  13. I like each of these. The first for the location, it’s fascinating seeing it right up top there. The second I love the shallow depth of field, it really accents the inner spirals. And the 3rd has that nice color added to the nice composition.

    Todd Henson

    August 24, 2020 at 4:55 PM

    • I keep finding snails in some pretty unlikely (to us) places, like the seed head in the first picture. Every so often I play around with a shallow depth of field the way I did in the second picture. I originally had a third image that matched the browns in the first two; in the end I swapped it out for something that would offset that dryness.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 24, 2020 at 6:47 PM

  14. Amazing little creatures! Great compositions!


    August 30, 2020 at 11:43 AM

    • Thanks for your appreciation. This has been an excellent year for snails, so I thought I should post a few more portraits of them.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 30, 2020 at 11:55 AM

  15. Snails are so much fun. All three are just peachy!


    September 4, 2020 at 7:59 PM

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