Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Archive for October 2020

Prairie agalinis has been out for some time now

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So much has been going on in 2020 that I’ve neglected to show you any prairie agalinis, Agalinis heterophylla, which has been out in various places for a good while now. The first time I photographed any this year was September 16th, along the North Fork [of the] San Gabriel River in Williamson County, as shown in today’s portrait. These flowers vary in length from about 0.75 to 1.25 inches.

I don’t know about you, but when I look at the larger-spotted, ellipse-shaped part of this flower, my brain tends to see it as concave even though I know it’s convex. Call it a floral equivalent of a Necker cube. Oh, what a world of illusions we live in. And in lieu of a quotation today, you’re welcome to turn your eyes and brain loose on some more optical illusions.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 31, 2020 at 4:30 AM

Time again for ladies’ tresses orchids

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Last fall I found exactly zero Great Plains ladies’ tresses orchids (Spiranthes magnicamporum) at a site in northwest Austin that I’ve been going to for over a decade to photograph them. This year, tipped off by Meg Inglis on October 19th that the ladies’ tresses in her area a little west of Austin had already been coming out for a while, I went to “my” property on October 24th and soon located a dozen or so, even though it was unusually early in the season for me to expect any there. I photographed several of the orchids from the side, which is “normal,” but I also had the urge to do some limited-focus portraits looking down from above for a change. The brown around the spike of spiraling flowers came from drying leaves on the ground.

UPDATE. It occurred to me that you may not know what a ladies’ tresses orchid looks like, so here’s a conventional view taken at the same site six years ago. Within that post is a link to a more esthetic view from the side.

And here’s a relevant quotation for today: “To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place… I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.” — Elliott Erwitt.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 30, 2020 at 4:26 AM

Muir Woods National Monument

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Four years ago today we drove along Muir Woods Rd. north of San Francisco, where I stopped in the cloud forest to take pictures of the lichen- and moss-covered trees.

Then we pushed on to the Muir Woods National Monument, which the other pictures in this post show.

I’d rather not have visited such a popular place on a weekend. That said, when you’re traveling you can’t afford to sit out two days, so thither we went on a Saturday morning.

With judicious aiming and timing I managed to keep my pictures free from all traces of the crowds.

I was sorry to hear that on Christmas Eve in 2019 a man walking in this park was killed when a redwood tree fell on him.

Related quotation for today: “When we try to pick out anything by itself we find that it is bound fast by a thousand invisible cords that cannot be broken, to everything in the universe.” — John Muir in his journal in 1869. In 1911 he offered a shorter version in My First Summer in the Sierra: “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.” In addition to those two authentic quotations, various incorrect versions circulate on the Internet.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 29, 2020 at 4:39 AM

Bumblerod

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As the second yellow-on-yellow picture in two days, behold a bumblee (Bombus sp.) visiting goldenrod flowers (Solidago sp.) along Ross Road in Del Valle. The date was October 10, and the place was one I’d never worked at before, so you could say I had beginner’s luck. I could reply that I’ve been beginning my photography for more than 50 years now.

UPDATE: Robert Kamper (see comment below) has presented evidence that this is really a carpenter bee and not a bumblebee. I’ve left the original post’s title rather than changing it to something like “Carpentrod.”

Instead of a quotation today, how about listening to a two-piano dueling version of Rimsky-Korsakov’s famous “Flight of the Bumblebee”?

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 28, 2020 at 4:38 AM

Not minimally

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In Leander on October 16th I confirmed once again that the Maximilian sunflowers (Helianthus maximiliani) have been good to us in central Texas this fall, as they usually are. In the first photograph, the relatively stationary cloud bank struck me as a good thing to play the flower spikes off against, so I lay on the ground and aimed upward. The brisk breeze pushing those spikes back and forth led me to set a shutter speed of 1/640 second. In the second picture, a Maximilian sunflower shone as the predominant yellow among the many smaller flower heads of broomweed (Amphiachyris dracunculoides).

And thanks to The Quote Garden for pointing me to today’s thought about yellow: “Yellow is the colour nearest approaching to light, and is most advancing and brilliant, either alone or in connection with other colours…. The effect of yellow upon the mind is of a bright, gay, gladdening nature, owing to its likeness to light. Yellow is sometimes employed to express the richness of autumn, and also the season itself, although deeper and richer colours are more suitable, as russets and browns.” — W. J. & G. A. Audsley, Taste versus Fashionable Colours: A Manual for Ladies on Colour in Dress, 1863. We’ve yet to see whether November offers central Texas some comely russets and browns.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 27, 2020 at 4:37 AM

White: familiar and unfamiliar

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On August 18th I spent time at Raab Park in Round Rock and photographed several things that were white. A very familiar one was Clematis drummondii, whose feathery strands you see above. (You may remember that I also made portraits of some actual feathers there.) Near the end of my stay I noticed a little group of low plants I wasn’t familiar with. I took pictures and hoped that later on I could figure out what I’d photographed. Thanks to a timely post in the Texas Wildflowers Facebook group, I’ll say that the plants seem to have been Nealley’s globe amaranth, Gomphrena nealleyi. Other species I’ve seen online do have a more globe-like inflorescence than this one. The scientific name of this species pays tribute to Greenleaf Cilley Nealley (1846-1896), a Texan botanist—and look how appropriate his first name was for the profession he pursued.

Nealley’s globe amaranth normally grows in south Texas, so perhaps it’s expanding its range. Botanist Bill Carr says it’s rare in Travis County, and the USDA map doesn’t have it marked for Williamson County, which is where I found my specimens. And speaking of globe amaranth, here’s a quotation for today:

“When we contemplate the whole globe as one great dewdrop, striped and dotted with continents and islands, flying through space with other stars all singing and shining together as one, the whole universe appears as an infinite storm of beauty.” — John Muir, Travels in Alaska  (1915).

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 26, 2020 at 4:38 AM

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

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Four years ago today we visited the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area on the west side of Las Vegas, Nevada. We arrived in the morning, when clouds still hung over the mountains.

Note the yuccas in the second picture. I believe they’re young Joshua trees (Yucca brevifolia).

And notice the cholla cactus that looks like a running stick figure in the third picture.

The first three views don’t seem to support the name Red Rock, so here’s a picture that does.

Instead of a quotation today, let’s have an English vocabulary question. A mailman delivers mail. A fisherman catches fish. A fireman puts out fires. A salesman sells things. What does a henchman do?

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 25, 2020 at 4:37 AM

Nevada’s Valley of Fire

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Four years ago today we spent hours at Nevada’s scenic Valley of Fire State Park. The day was overcast and at times we had rain, but at least the subdued light reduced the desert’s normally harsh shadows

In the second and third pictures, note the tafoni in the rocks.

As dusk approached, the sun sank for a short while beneath the level of the clouds.

The setting sun’s warm light made the reddish earth and rocks seem even redder, as in the last two pictures.

And here’s a thought for today: “On n’a guère de défauts qui ne soient plus pardonnables que les moyens dont on se sert pour les cacher.” “Almost all our faults are more forgivable than the means we use to hide them.” — François de la Rochefoucauld.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 24, 2020 at 4:43 AM

Fall foliage at Zion

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On October 23, 2016, we drove west through Zion National Park on our way to Nevada.

You’re looking at three photographs of the park in which fall foliage co-stars with the rock formations.

And from Kolob Terrace Road, which winds its way in and out of the park’s western fringe,
here’s a view of what I take to be burned but becoming maple trees:

It’s autumn again now. Rather than a single quotation about the season, you can harvest a host of them.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 23, 2020 at 4:41 AM

Two quite different views of the same mountains in Zion National Park

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From Zion National Park on October 23, 2016, here are two quite different views of the same mountains (you can match up the profiles, going from the right). The picture above shows many details in the rocks and the vegetation, most conspicuously a gaily flowering rabbitbrush colony (Ericameria nauseosa). The heavily silhouetted view below shows details only in the clouds. We can describe the pair as differently dramatic.

And speaking of different appearances, here’s a quotation that’s ancient, though not as ancient as the mountains of Zion or even the behavior the words describe: “Hateful to me as the gates of Hades is that man who hides one thing in his heart and speaks another.” Homer, The Iliad.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 22, 2020 at 4:48 AM

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