Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Two disparate emblems from the Blackland Prairie

with 20 comments

On September 7th I headed out to the Wildhorse Ranch subdivision that’s been going up on the west side of Manor for the past few years. Ever on the lookout for new ways to portray familiar subjects, I noticed I could line up the soft bract of a snow-on-the-prairie plant (Euphorbia bicolor) with a sunflower (Helianthus annuus) beyond it, as you see above. I wasn’t the only one plying my trade there: men were working on nearby houses to the accompaniment of Mexican music. Because it was a construction site, I noticed a certain amount of junk lying around on the ground. One thing that caught my fancy was an “empty” and partly scrunched water bottle, inside of which the remaining bits of liquid had evaporated and then re-condensed on the inner surface. Picking up the bottle carefully so as not to dislodge the drops, I photographed the abstraction.

And here’s a quotation relevant to the second picture: “A drop of water, if it could write out its own history, would explain the universe to us.” — Lucy Larcom, The Unseen Friend, 1892.

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 9, 2020 at 4:39 AM

20 Responses

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  1. I like that abstract!

    Eliza Waters

    October 9, 2020 at 8:05 AM

  2. The water bottle looks like a thumb; perhaps it’s a ‘thumbs-up’ for abstraction. I especially like the way you captured the texture of the snow-on-the-prairie bract.


    October 9, 2020 at 8:27 AM

    • Thanks for the thumbs-up. Interpreting it as a thumbs-up for abstraction is fine with me.

      I’m happy to make people aware of the softness of snow-on-the-prairie bracts.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 9, 2020 at 8:44 AM

  3. These photos create abstract images of a two-edged sword and a stone monument in my mind, Steve.

    Peter Klopp

    October 9, 2020 at 10:19 AM

    • That’s the kind of sword we could safely duel with. It’s interesting that you see the plastic and the drops of water condensed inside it as a monument of stone. Abstractions are open to many interpretations.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 9, 2020 at 10:22 AM

  4. Love your first shot and doubt that I would have figured out what the second actually was if I hadn’t read your explanation. My first thought was a macro shot of an upside-down icicle.


    October 9, 2020 at 5:14 PM

    • 2020 has kept on being a big year for abstraction in my oeuvre (as the hoity toity like to call an artist’s work). Based on your comment, maybe instead of identifying the post’s second picture today I should have waited till tomorrow so people could have said what they thought it was. Too bad Austin doesn’t have more real icicles to take pictures of; on average I get a chance only once every so many winters.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 9, 2020 at 6:29 PM

  5. Litter is not a welcome sight but what you did with it is.

    Steve Gingold

    October 11, 2020 at 7:02 PM

    • Trash to treasure, as they say. I assume that after all the construction is finished and new houses get occupied, people will clean up the area.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 11, 2020 at 9:22 PM

  6. What a wonderful pairing, Steve. It’s refreshing to read about what was going on around you as you photographed the Euphorbia…it’s not always quiet, remote, natural surroundings, not at all. And everything is up for grabs, including the water bottle. Excellent! (A sweet quote, too).


    October 13, 2020 at 11:58 AM

    • I’ve been to some very crowded tourist places (among them the Canadian Rockies, the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park) and have normally succeeded, with patience and judicious framing, to keep my pictures totally natural. At home, where I take the large majority of all my photographs, I manage to find angles and focal lengths that let me exclude poles, power lines, buildings, cars, roads, etc. Once in a while, just for variety, I’ve included human elements, or, as with the plastic bottle in this post, made a human element the subject of a picture. My emphasis here has been on nature, but in the more than 50 years that I’ve been involved in photography, I’ve taken pictures of many kinds of things.

      I’d never heard of Lucy Larcom till I searched for a quotation about drops and found the one I used.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 13, 2020 at 5:34 PM

  7. Another thought – instead of presenting us with some idealized vision of nature you have laid bare the real world that we live in, and then celebrated it. It’s a better way to go, I think than glossing over all the bits and pieces that may not seem to fit into the photographer’s agenda – at first glance.


    October 13, 2020 at 12:00 PM

    • Maybe we could apply to your idea the well-known comment “When life hands you a lemon, make lemonade.” Along the lines of non-idealized pictures, I’ve occasionally shown before~after pairs, in which the first depicts a piece of nature and the second documents the same property as it’s getting or has gotten developed.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 13, 2020 at 5:38 PM

  8. The first is a very unusual blade and the image made even more unique with the flower background! Great observation and seizing the opportunity with the bottle and droplets. I was quite perplexed before reading your explanation.


    October 14, 2020 at 2:29 PM

    • I mentioned to someone else that maybe I should have presented the second picture without an explanation (at least until the following post) to see what people made of it.

      As for the bract in the first picture, it’s not uncommon around here but I can see where people unfamiliar with snow-on-the-prairie could find it unusual.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 14, 2020 at 6:36 PM

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