Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Two rain-lilies

with 51 comments

Because we didn’t get much rain in Austin this summer we also didn’t get many rain-lilies (Zephyranthes chlorosolen). On August 28th I wandered into southwest Austin for the first time in ages and found myself stopping along Commons Ford Rd. when I saw a stand of cattails by a pond. While walking around the site I happily came across a few rain-lilies and took a bunch of pictures. What I like about this backlit portrait, and what distinguishes it from many others I’ve made of rain-lilies, is the green glow at the bottom.

As a related quotation for today, take Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “The Rainy Day,” with its famous penultimate line:

The day is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
The vine still clings to the mouldering wall,
But at every gust the dead leaves fall,
And the day is dark and dreary.

My life is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
My thoughts still cling to the mouldering Past,
But the hopes of youth fall thick in the blast,
And the days are dark and dreary.

Be still, sad heart! and cease repining;
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;
Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life some rain must fall,
Some days must be dark and dreary.

You can also listen to the song from the 1940s by Allan Roberts (lyrics) and Doris Fisher (melody) that bears Longfellow’s aphorism as its title.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 6, 2020 at 4:44 AM

51 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Into each life some rain must fall, and these rain lilies look as if they are opening up to receive it as a blessing.

    Gallivanta

    September 6, 2020 at 5:03 AM

    • All I would change it the timing: opening up from having received it. These flowers are highly reactive to rain, springing up a few days after rain has come down. You’ve made me think of opportunities for pictures of rain-lilies if we had rain that continued after the flowers had appeared.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 6, 2020 at 5:39 AM

  2. I love how you let the backlit Rain Lily shine.

    It was only yesterday that I was looking though our blog archive and found this from Longfellow:

    Across the window-pane
    It pours and pours;
    And swift and wide,
    With a muddy tide,
    Like a river down the gutter roars
    The rain, the welcome rain!

    Thanks for the link to the song!

    Dina

    September 6, 2020 at 5:07 AM

    • I’ve photographed (and shown) many an individual rain-lily here. In this case, for variety, I went for the interplay of two of those flowers.

      Yesterday, while looking for the full text of the poem I quoted, I also came across the longer poem by Longfellow that you quoted a stanza of:

      https://etc.usf.edu/lit2go/71/henry-wadsworth-longfellow-selected-works/5029/rain-in-summer/

      He started in a down-to-earth way:

      How beautiful is the rain!
      After the dust and heat,
      In the broad and fiery street,
      In the narrow lane,
      How beautiful is the rain!

      He ended metaphysically:

      Thus the Seer,
      With vision clear,
      Sees forms appear and disappear,
      In the perpetual round of strange,
      Mysterious change
      From birth to death, from death to birth,
      From earth to heaven, from heaven to earth;
      Till glimpses more sublime
      Of things, unseen before,
      Unto his wondering eyes reveal
      The Universe, as an immeasurable wheel
      Turning forevermore
      In the rapid and rushing river of Time.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 6, 2020 at 5:51 AM

  3. They shine with an inner light (apparently).

    MichaelStephenWills

    September 6, 2020 at 7:48 AM

    • My position close to the ground with the sun not too high in the sky in front of me made the flowers look that way.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 6, 2020 at 7:56 AM

  4. The portrait of the rain lily accentuates the importance of a healthy alternation between rain and sunshine. Referring to Longfellow’s Rainy Day poem, I would like to add some sobering thoughts: While the sun is brightly shining in your life, be thankful for these blessed moments. But don’t forget that they will at times be ‘cold, and dark, and dreary’.

    Peter Klopp

    September 6, 2020 at 9:00 AM

    • All things in moderation—right?—as the ancient Greeks recommended. Being thankful for blessed moments seems like equally good advice.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 6, 2020 at 5:31 PM

  5. We hadn’t had any rain for quite some time so when I heard thunder as I drifted to sleep last night I was very happy to hear it. This morning the rain continues. I hope it does so all day! So your rain lilies couldn’t have come at a better time for me 🙂 I’m glad you were able to finally see some.

    melissabluefineart

    September 6, 2020 at 9:09 AM

    • This week we finally got three inches of rain in Austin. It’s good to hear you followed suit up there. May it continue—up to a point, anyway; we wouldn’t want to go from drought to flood.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 6, 2020 at 5:38 PM

      • No we wouldn’t but we have quite a lot of room for more rain. I think we have it in the forecast the next few days, along with cooler temps.

        melissabluefineart

        September 6, 2020 at 10:48 PM

        • How often (if ever) have you included rain in your paintings?

          Steve Schwartzman

          September 7, 2020 at 7:28 AM

          • It would be pretty difficult to convey rain in a believable way but I have had snow falling in a few paintings.

            melissabluefineart

            September 8, 2020 at 8:23 AM

            • Rain, rain, go away,
              Make it snow another day.

              Steve Schwartzman

              September 8, 2020 at 11:08 AM

              • Hahaha… yeah. I watched a wonderful talk about global warming last night and while I truly hate snow, it scares me that we’re heading to a world without it.

                melissabluefineart

                September 9, 2020 at 8:56 AM

                • There may be less snow, but there won’t be a world totally without it. Or, as I can’t resist putting it: a world with no snow will be a no-show.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  September 9, 2020 at 10:36 AM

  6. It would’ve been beautiful anyway, but the green glow sends it right over the centerfield fence. Thanks for the reminder on the poem and thanks for the introduction on the song.

    Michael Scandling

    September 6, 2020 at 10:41 AM

    • It may take another photographer to appreciate that green glow.

      I intended to link to the Ink Spots’ recording of the song. I see that I actually linked to an article about it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 6, 2020 at 5:42 PM

      • Well maybe so but I have to say that green glow was just masterful. I did find a copy of the actual song and listened to it. It’s great.

        Michael Scandling

        September 6, 2020 at 6:57 PM

        • Of the rain-lily pictures I made that day, the majority showed a single flower. Whether portraying one rain-lily or two, I included the glowing out-of-focus greenery to varying degrees, from just a fringe at the bottom to the whole lower half of an image.

          Steve Schwartzman

          September 6, 2020 at 7:42 PM

          • That really makes an extraordinary picture. One of the things I learned early on was that when looking through a viewfinder one tends to put one’s attention through the viewfinder and onto the subject, but what is often better is to look at the viewing screen in the camera as a picture where you’re more likely to see the entire composition. It seems if that is what you did.

            Michael Scandling

            September 6, 2020 at 7:55 PM

            • I do often look at the viewing screen on the back of my camera after I take a picture so I can get an idea of how it came out and if I need to do the picture over. I’ve noticed that once in a while the simplified version on the camera’s viewing screen appeals to me more than the full-size image with more details that I see on my computer monitor later. Simplicity can be a virtue, and something that resonates with a photographer who favors minimalism.

              Steve Schwartzman

              September 6, 2020 at 8:34 PM

  7. I love this one from Longfellow. I sometimes take him along with me as a traveling companion. Your rain lily doesn’t look dreary at all. It’s lovely.

    circadianreflections

    September 6, 2020 at 11:34 AM

    • That’s a rarity these days. Longfellow went from being the most popular poet in America in the second half of the 1800s to being almost completely forgotten today. Rain-lilies are such graceful flowers, a natural lesson in architecture.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 6, 2020 at 5:55 PM

  8. Ah, my friend, those lilies stand by each other so wonderfully.

    marina kanavaki

    September 6, 2020 at 2:16 PM

  9. Love the combination of the two lilies and the out of focus green at the bottom of the frame.

    tomwhelan

    September 6, 2020 at 5:56 PM

    • You’re the second photographer in these comments to mention appreciating that green, which seemed magical to me.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 6, 2020 at 5:57 PM

      • It grounds the frame, and reduces the “cut stem” look. I like it.

        tomwhelan

        September 6, 2020 at 7:08 PM

        • In replying to Michael Scandling just now, I added this: “Of the rain-lily pictures I made that day, the majority showed a single flower. Whether portraying one rain-lily or two, I included the glowing out-of-focus greenery to varying degrees, from just a fringe at the bottom to the whole lower half of an image.” I was really taken with the green glow.

          Steve Schwartzman

          September 6, 2020 at 7:44 PM

  10. Well that’s a lovely vision and pairs so nicely with “The Rainy Day”–beautiful, Steve.

    Tina

    September 6, 2020 at 7:48 PM

    • I looked in a quotation book to see what people had said about rain that I might include with this rain-lily portrait. That’s how I came to the Longfellow.

      Linda’s post today also showed a flower associated with water and included a poem, so we were on the same wavelength.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 6, 2020 at 7:59 PM

      • As well, she included a lovely poem to pair with her photo.

        Tina

        September 6, 2020 at 8:04 PM

        • The word poem, which comes from ancient Greek, originally meant ‘a making, a creation.’ Whether we make poetry or pictures or something else, creating is a pleasure.

          Steve Schwartzman

          September 6, 2020 at 8:44 PM

  11. Your capture of the green glow is unusual and quite beautiful, although I found myself equally taken with the twin blooms: the upper flower seems to be emerging from the lower. I can imagine the pair being used as the model for a garden fountain.

    We’ve been short on rain lilies, too, partly because of lack of rain and partly because the bridge and road construction along highway 146 has put concrete on top of the large colonies I enjoyed every year. I did see a pair in a residential ditch last week, but they were too far gone to be appealing.

    As for songs, this is the one your photograph evoked.

    shoreacres

    September 7, 2020 at 8:42 AM

    • The green glow seemed special to me at the time I took my pictures. I’m happy that it came across that way when I saw it on the big screen. Were it not for a part of the taller flower’s stem being visible at the bottom, I could go along with your suggestion of the taller flower growing out of the shorter one. A garden fountain modeled after these two flowers would be something.

      I’m sorry to hear about the loss of the area where you were accustomed to finding rain-lilies. Road construction some years ago messed up one of my favorite rain-lily sites in Austin. It didn’t get covered with concrete, and construction is over, so maybe the colony will reassert itself.

      I looked up “The Day That the Rains Came Down,” which I’m familiar with, and found out this about it: “The song is an adaptation of the French-language song “Le jour où la pluie viendra”, which itself was the B-side of Morgan’s version. The French lyrics were written by Pierre Delanoë. The music was composed by Gilbert Bécaud and the English lyrics were written by Carl Sigman.” I never knew that the song was originally French. Here it is in that language.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 7, 2020 at 8:42 PM

      • I’ve always enjoyed the song, but had no idea the English was a translation. Some songs do sound better in French, and this is one. Now I’m listening again to Piaf: the best refreshment in the world.

        We had about a half-inch of rain today, and I noticed a few large fire ant mounds for the first time in weeks. If fire ant mounds come, can rain lilies be far behind? I guess we’ll see.

        shoreacres

        September 8, 2020 at 9:49 PM

        • Did you know that piaf in colloquial French means ‘sparrow’?
          Better by far to have rain lilies than fire ant mounds.

          Steve Schwartzman

          September 9, 2020 at 5:17 AM

  12. I like how the green at the bottom blends into the black above, and how this background focuses one’s gaze on the top of the image where the two blossoms luminesce.

    tanjabrittonwriter

    September 7, 2020 at 9:20 PM

    • That green was something special, no question, both in its own right and in the way it blended into the darkness above it, as you pointed out. Black is a great isolating agent, the better here to make the flowers luminesce (you made good use of that verb).

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 7, 2020 at 9:41 PM

  13. best blog of wildflower ever seen

    comeba33

    September 7, 2020 at 11:39 PM

  14. The green glow, of leaves?, really adds some extra beauty to these already lovely lilies. I like the combination of the two in different stages of openness.

    Steve Gingold

    September 8, 2020 at 2:04 AM

    • The green came from low plants. Like the rain-lilies, those plants were backlit, and that accounted for the green glow. Sometimes I purposely compare different stages of development; in this case there were few rain-lilies, and these were the only two close enough for me to include in the same picture.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 8, 2020 at 3:07 AM

  15. A beautiful subject with very good posture!

    denisebushphoto

    September 10, 2020 at 12:26 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: