Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

The reason I’d gone to Gault Lane and Burnet Road on October 11th

with 23 comments

The reason I’d gone to Gault Lane and Burnet Road on October 11th was that early in the morning on the day before I’d seen a bright orange sun disc rising, and I hoped I could line that up behind either of the two fountains in the pond there. Well, the sun wasn’t as good on the 11th, and it turned out that trees and other objects around the fountain would have gotten in the way anyhow.

Even so, I got some fountain photographs that were abstract enough to make me think of them as successes. The picture at the top reveals how the apex of one fountain’s vertical jet of water was the first part the rising sun lit up—if you can even say “lit up,” given how dark the water looks against the brightening sky. The second photograph shows the way the increasingly high sun gradually illuminated lower parts of the fountain. Below, about six minutes later, there was even more light.

For you technophiles out there, let me add that I used a shutter speed of 1/2500 of a second in the first two takes and 1/2000 of a second in the last picture. You could say I made fast work of the subject.

And here’s an unrelated quotation for today: “Harry Truman liked to say that the only new thing in the world is the history you don’t know…. A sense of history is an antidote to self-pity and self-importance, of which there is much too much in our time. To a large degree, history is a lesson in proportions.” So said David McCullough in his 1998 speech “The Lessons of History,” given at the University of Massachusetts in Boston.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 11, 2020 at 4:34 AM

23 Responses

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  1. The first image reminds me of photographs of historic oil strikes. The rising sun really showcases the spray and droplets in that last image. I like those horizontal layers of color behind the spray.

    When I visited Germany a couple of years ago, I marveled at how well history was preserved, and at how important it was to the German people we met, that we were able to see, learn and appreciate their work to preserve the past and learn from it. It was apparent that the people of Germany hoped their efforts would educate the world about what happened and what they hoped would never happen again in our world. All that we visited and toured while we were there, made quite an impression on me and my niece.


    November 11, 2020 at 7:07 AM

    • It’s good that in the first picture you suggested oil, which hadn’t occurred to me but which seems obvious now.

      I find it appalling that American schools keep on letting so many students “graduate” with so little knowledge of our country’s history. You may have seen television features in which college-age people are asked a simple question like “What country did the United States break away from in the American Revolution?” Some have no idea, and others give crazy answers like “China.” Throughout my lifetime, European schools have done a much better job than American schools in teaching their students history and geography—and holding them accountable for that knowledge.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 11, 2020 at 7:41 AM

      • I went to a parochial Lutheran school, and realized in public high school, that my knowledge of history was lacking. Then as I set out on my own, I realized how skewed the history I learned was – I believed the supposed facts of history I was taught in school… when of course, the closer one looks the more they understand and wonder about. It was actually embarrassing for my niece and me, that our German friends knew more about US involvement in Germany’s recovery than we did! I appreciate history so much now – I’m curious and I want to understand.

        I enjoy watching Watter’s World (the television features you mentioned), as it’s both entertaining to hear some of the answers people give, but also apparent, that history knowledge is quite lacking in our population.


        November 11, 2020 at 10:03 AM

        • My first contact with Germans my own age was in 1966 in Lisbon, where they were also foreigners studying Portuguese. From interactions with them I realized how much they knew about North American geography—for example that Montreal is on an island in the St. Lawrence River. Of course all those German students spoke good English, too. Once I tried an experiment: I spoke as fast as I could to one of the German girls and she still understood everything I said. As for history in American schools now, it’s apparently becoming more and more propagandistic.

          Steve Schwartzman

          November 11, 2020 at 8:07 PM

  2. Both the colors and the mountain-like form of the first really appeal to me, as do the gradations of yellow in the third.

    Despite a difference in spelling, the location reminded me of another Galt, named John, and I decided to see which Gault this spot might be named after. I suspect I found it, at the Gault family homestead in Wells Branch. Your fountain’s located just southwest of their old place.


    November 11, 2020 at 7:31 AM

    • Thanks for transforming the question “Who is John Galt?” into “Who is John Gault?” and answering it. Somehow I’ve never heard of the Wells Branch Homestead, so I’ll have to go there once it reopens. The distance between it and the site of today’s pictures is about 4 miles, so it’s not clear if there’s a connection. I did some brief searching but didn’t find a database of all Austin’s streets that gives the origins of the names. Maybe someday every street sign will have a CR code on it so we can find out who chose the street’s name and who/what the name refers to.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 11, 2020 at 7:55 AM

  3. I had the same reaction as Littlesundog – – when I saw the first shot, I figured you’d been digging in your backyard, and hit a gusher. I like the next two shots very much, and it’s striking how pictures of the same scene, taken a few minutes apart, can make such a different impression. These experiments in abstraction have been very interesting.
    I think Truman and McCullough made good points, and timely ones, for our current, historical display of colossal self-importance. As well as a monumental and fractious lack of proportion and decency.
    I saw your comment on our country’s failure to learn history, and thought, well, there probably was some broken china during the Revolution, and there was the destruction of China tea in Boston harbor. (It was an East India Co. shipment, but the tea was from China.) I’ve tried Wuyi (“Bohea” to the colonials) which was the bulk of the shipment, which they thought of a black tea, but actually oolong, and it’s very interesting, kind of smoky-tasting.

    Robert Parker

    November 11, 2020 at 7:59 AM

    • That’s funny about a gusher in my backyard. Pictures taken minutes apart can indeed give a different impression. I sometimes set my camera to take a high-speed burst of pictures because I’ve found that photographs of waterfalls and fountains made just a fraction of a second apart often show very different arrangements of water.

      You’re also funny about the china broken during the American Revolution. Anyone who thinks the United States broke away from China probably also doesn’t know that that’s where tea originated. I’m not familiar with Wuyi oolong tea, but for decades I’ve occasionally gotten my smoky taste from lapsang souchong tea.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 11, 2020 at 7:58 PM

  4. At those shutter speeds, the water droplets of this fountain have truly been frozen in time, Steve.

    Peter Klopp

    November 11, 2020 at 9:22 AM

    • I generally favor high shutter speeds when photographing water in motion because I like to see details. It’s one kind of freezing I don’t mind, given how much I dislike the cold. Living in Canada as you do, you know a lot about frozen things.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 11, 2020 at 5:26 PM

      • You are so right about our frozen landscapes in winter, Steve. However, we mostly enjoy the many pleasures that come with snow and ice, like skiing, ice fishing, snow shoeing etc.

        Peter Klopp

        November 12, 2020 at 8:35 AM

        • Once again we’ll say “Chacun à son goût” and “Über Geschmack lässt sich nicht streiten.”

          Steve Schwartzman

          November 13, 2020 at 7:21 AM

  5. A fine study of one of our most precious resources, and your third shot is spectacular. We’ve had water shortages with usage restrictions for many months now, and recent rains have finally raised the reservoirs to 70% (they are normally around 93% at this time of year).


    November 11, 2020 at 3:56 PM

    • I’ll take spectacular, thanks. I hadn’t heard about water shortages and usage restrictions in NZ, which surprised me because it’s among the countries with the highest rainfall in the world. I gather that the restrictions are in the Auckland area.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 11, 2020 at 5:37 PM

      • Yes, the Auckland area had less than 1 mm of rain from January 20 to April 6 and has had less than half its normal rainfall since November last year.


        November 13, 2020 at 2:10 PM

  6. Oh, that light really makes these photos sing, Steve. I like the texture in the last photo, which must be mostly because of the shutter speed you used. Nice!


    November 11, 2020 at 6:32 PM

    • I can’t sing but I’m glad you find that these pictures of mine do. I’ve enjoyed experimenting with fountains this year, having photographed them at three sites. Today’s pictures are from my second visit to this pond. Both sets of photographs produced a bunch of what I consider successes, but my usual policy is not to show more than a few of the same kind of picture at a time, and even then I vary them.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 11, 2020 at 8:16 PM

  7. You achieved some interesting color effects here! I would have guessed red dirt for the first image. The second 2 look more like water.


    November 13, 2020 at 10:49 AM

    • Red dirt: now there’s something I’d never have guessed. Of course I’m conditioned by knowing that it was a fountain. You could give free rein to your imagination. The colors are due to early light, so maybe I should get out near sunrise more often.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 13, 2020 at 2:04 PM

  8. The third makes a very nice abstract.

    Steve Gingold

    November 22, 2020 at 3:42 PM

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