Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Not minimally

with 34 comments

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

34 Responses

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  1. The second with the broomweed for the background is a great shot. Brown is becoming the predominant color here in the Northeast.

    Steve Gingold

    October 27, 2020 at 5:32 AM

  2. Trying to capture a goldenrod version of yellow-on-yellow nearly did me in one day. Your sunflower and broomweed combo is great; both flowers shine, in every sense of the word. I like the tiny broomweed shadow on one of the sunflower rays.

    Oddly enough, the first photo took me straight back to high school, and to those football games where a standard cheer was, “Lean to the left, lean to the right; stand up, sit down, fight, fight, fight.” I don’t think the sunflowers are much interested in fighting, but they certainly look as though they could be cheering on autumn.


    October 27, 2020 at 6:53 AM

    • We’re fortunate in Texas to have many yellow-on-yellow combinations. You didn’t say in what way your goldenrod combo nearly did you in. For me it was the sumpweed that I had to wade through for several pictures, and some of which you see mixed in with the broomweed. Between the pollen of the ragweed and the pollen of the sumpweed, I’ve come home with a wet handkerchief several times recently.

      It’s funny that the leaning sunflowers brought back to you those football cheers from high school. I’d much rather cheer on the wildflowers.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 27, 2020 at 8:29 AM

      • I didn’t have any problem getting access to the goldenrod, since I was at the Piney Woods Native Plant Center in Nacogdoches. But it was cloudy and windy, I was two years less experienced, and I wasn’t at all happy with the photos. On the other hand, I just looked at them again, and they’re better than I remembered.

        The reason the high school cheer came to mind so quickly is that I’d already thought of it when I took this photo on October 18. Like great minds thinking alike, maybe great eyes see alike from time to time!


        October 28, 2020 at 8:43 AM

        • Now I get the meaning behind the leaning. Your linked picture shows another feature I’ve only recently tuned in to: some Maximilian sunflower stalks grow somewhat sinuously rather than straight. I’ll be showing that in a post scheduled for November, after I finish the retrospective pictures from the 2016 trip.

          Steve Schwartzman

          October 28, 2020 at 9:08 AM

    • Coincidentally, I just realized I have a yellow-on-yellow picture involving goldenrod scheduled for tomorrow.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 27, 2020 at 8:56 AM

  3. Well thanks for advancing my mind, I think all that yellow really does brighten the day. This yellow-on-yellow is a cool shot!

    Robert Parker

    October 27, 2020 at 7:32 AM

    • An unadvanced mind would be a terrible thing, so I had to do my part to prevent it. Like you, I was mindful that yellow on yellow is a cheery way to go.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 27, 2020 at 8:42 AM

  4. Picture and quote go wondrously together in your post today, Steve.

    Peter Klopp

    October 27, 2020 at 9:13 AM

  5. That’s a lush patch of yellow! Yellow is cheerful and lifts my spirits, especially yellow flowers.


    October 27, 2020 at 10:02 AM

    • A lush patch of yellow, yes, and yet not unusual in Texas in the fall, thanks to wildflowers in the sunflower family.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 27, 2020 at 10:44 AM

  6. I especially like the second picture with the smaller yellow flowers in the surrounding background.

    Jason Frels

    October 27, 2020 at 12:29 PM

    • I took these pictures in your bailiwick, along and close to the trail accessed from Middle Brook Drive. It was as productive a visit there as the one in the spring.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 27, 2020 at 12:35 PM

  7. Oh I enjoyed this celebration of yellow, Steve, in your quote and photos. And that first photo with the cloud backdrop is a work of art.

    Jet Eliot

    October 27, 2020 at 1:17 PM

    • Welcome to the celebration set off by this yellowful post. I appreciate your comment on the first picture, which differs from any I’ve seen of Maximilian sunflowers.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 27, 2020 at 1:23 PM

  8. Could there possibly be a single happier color? I think not.


    October 28, 2020 at 3:29 AM

  9. I love the effect of the big flower against the tiny ones.


    October 28, 2020 at 1:18 PM

  10. What a source for that quote! I remember being told that only white or red could be worn with navy blue. Yellow could not be worn with navy blue. And my mother, whose hair was slightly reddish, thought that she was not allowed to wear anything in the red family. Black was out too, because it just wasn’t polite somehow, so it was all shades of green and blue for her. And the rules went on and on. My other thought about yellow is that lately, when I see a solitary maple or cherry in the gloomy, evergreen woods I realize that those plants literally do bring light to the forest. It’s not just a metaphor, the yellow leaves actually add light, almost as if a string of electrical lights was put into the woods. That may seem a fine point but it seemed like a small revelation to me. 🙂


    October 28, 2020 at 2:00 PM

    • And a brightly welcome revelation it is, yellow leaves in evergreen woods. Coincidentally, my post tomorrow includes two pictures of yellow leaves contrasting with green in your general part of the world. Stay tuned.

      As for clothing, it seems ridiculous to me to declare what colors can or can’t or must be worn together. I may always have felt that way, but if not, my eyes were certainly opened when I visited Guatemala in 1968 and saw that the indigenous peoples mix all sorts of colors in their clothing. Latin American cemeteries are also generally more colorful than those in our more staid northern culture.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 28, 2020 at 2:22 PM

    • By the way, old books are great sources for lots of things; I’m sure I’m not telling you anything new. As a teenager I used to ride my bike to the nearest Salvation Army, which was about three miles away, to buy interesting old books on the cheap. I still have a few of them.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 28, 2020 at 2:35 PM

      • Guatemala has it right! 😉 And yes, old books are a joy. Before the internet, when I traveled to a new place I would study the hotel’s phone book, looking for second-hand bookstores. That and cafes where I could find the best coffee were the first order of business.


        November 11, 2020 at 7:07 PM

        • As a teenager in the 1960s I used to come into Manhattan from Long Island every so often and visit the second-hand stores on “Book Row,” of which there used to be many:


          Now only the Strand survives. I expect at least some of the others were still around during your New York days.

          Steve Schwartzman

          November 12, 2020 at 8:21 AM

  11. Gay and gladdening, I agree. Too bad we no longer can use gay in that way.


    October 28, 2020 at 10:24 PM

    • A few years ago I saw a clip on television of someone speaking Russian and I was surprised to hear the person say “гей” in that language, pronounced the same and with the same meaning that “gay” now has in English.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 29, 2020 at 5:42 AM

  12. Refreshing image and angle in your first. The second is a great example with breaking up a pattern with something different.


    October 31, 2020 at 1:08 PM

    • If only lying on the ground and straining for a good angle had felt as refreshing as the resulting picture. Every so often I return to taking pictures of plants buffeted by the wind. Maximilian flowers, which are often tall and erect, made good subjects for that approach.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 31, 2020 at 1:23 PM

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