Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Twi-light, yet not twilight

with 26 comments

On the morning of November 15th I spent a good couple of hours in a field on the north side of US 290 east of Bois d’Arc Rd. in Manor. Making that piece of prairie fabulous to behold and photograph were the extensive colonies of goldenrod (Solidago sp.) and bushy bluestem (Andropogon glomeratus) that had gone into their fluffy autumn stage. In some places the two colonies were mostly distinct; in others they interwove, as you see here. Notice in the lower right of the top picture that one goldenrod plant was still flowering.

The post’s title interweaves etymology and photography. The word twilight means literally ‘two lights,’ the two being the fading light of day and the oncoming darkness of night. I took these two pictures not in different parts of the day—they were only seven minutes apart—but in different parts of the field and, more importantly, facing in opposite directions. The first photograph shows the effects of the morning sunlight falling directly on the subject; the second picture looks in the direction of the sun, whose light on the way to the camera passed through much of the fluff and in so doing outlined the seed heads. The first landscape is softer and more colorful, the second starker and more dramatic. Both have their appeal.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 25, 2020 at 4:32 AM

26 Responses

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  1. Thanks for the demonstration, Steve. Happy Thanksgiving.


    November 25, 2020 at 6:05 AM

  2. I see a little gold in the goldenrod down in the lower right. Another favorite plant. 🙂

    Lavinia Ross

    November 25, 2020 at 8:04 AM

    • These pictures are from 10 days ago and yet some goldenrod plants in and near Austin are still flowering, thanks to the mild weather we’ve had.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 25, 2020 at 8:08 AM

  3. Hi Steve – these shots look very much like familiar scenes in NY or WI.
    I wonder why there’s more terms for the evening transition than for morning. Twilight, gloaming, eventide, and dusk, for example, I think of as transitional, a period of time before complete darkness. (Twilight applies to both times of day, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone use it for pre-dawn. And “crepuscular,” which also applies to both times of day, I don’t think too many non-scientists use, ever.)
    Whereas daybreak, dawn, sunrise, and sunup are more of a definite moment. We’re forced to use “predawn,” which I see in the dictionary, wasn’t used until 1883. Maybe in the morning, we’re just busy getting on with our workday, and less likely to stop and enjoy the transitional phase.
    Have you got any good alternatives for “predawn” in your bag of word tricks?
    Here’s Sir Harry Lauder singing an old tune, one of my grandmothers liked:

    Robert Parker

    November 25, 2020 at 8:14 AM

    • I’ve also noticed that there are more terms for the evening transition than for the morning one. I know a nature photography blogger who applies “twilight” to the morning, but you’re right that that’s not common. As for “crepuscular”, it’s too fancy a word for most people, at least in English. I know the word from French “crépuscule,” which figures in the title of a poem by Baudelaire, https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Le_Cr%C3%A9puscule_du_matin, where he uses it for the morning transition. And “gloaming,” which applies only to the evening, is a word I suspect young people and even many older ones are unfamiliar with. No, I don’t have a synonym for “predawn” in my camera bag or word bag.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 25, 2020 at 8:47 AM

      • I know in “The Star-Spangled Banner,” that “twilight’s last gleaming,” was during the evening, but it seems like “gleaming” would be a good term for the morning twilight, and a counterpart to “gloaming.”

        Robert Parker

        November 25, 2020 at 9:26 AM

        • So you’re glomming onto gleaming as a counterpart to gloaming.

          Steve Schwartzman

          November 25, 2020 at 10:29 AM

          • This sounds promising, like the beginning of a Gilbert & Sullivan patter song, but I’m hopeless at rhymes.

            Robert Parker

            November 25, 2020 at 7:53 PM

            • Pitter patter, pitter patter,
              Let’s not say it doesn’t matter.

              Steve Schwartzman

              November 25, 2020 at 7:59 PM

              • I think there might be a word for those pre-dawn hours; at least, I’ve seen it used by poets. You’d have to dig into your Spanish word bag to pull out madrugada, though.


                November 26, 2020 at 7:33 AM

                • The resemblance to madre is only coincidental. According to Joan Corominas, the verb madrugar (from which the noun madrugada comes, and which was originally madurgada) goes back to the Vulgar Latin verb *maturicare that would have meant ‘to cause to mature or ripen.’ Then would have come the semantic drift to ‘accelerate’ and ‘hurry,’ and finally to ‘rise early.’

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  November 26, 2020 at 7:51 AM

  4. Your explanation of the etymology of twilight added for me a new meaning to the German word ‘Zwielicht’. Your photos would look great as much larger pictures on a livingroom wall.

    Peter Klopp

    November 25, 2020 at 8:19 AM

    • My living room wall thanks you. The twoness of Zweilicht is even more apparent in German than in English twilight. I see that in addition to Dämmerung per se German has Morgendämmerung and Abenddämmerung.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 25, 2020 at 8:53 AM

  5. I like the two photos as comparison and you’re so right: both are appealing in their different ways. I hope you have a safe and content Thanksgiving!!


    November 25, 2020 at 8:56 AM

    • Likewise to you and your family. We’re all thankful that vaccines are heading our way. I’m thankful to have found that great field of seed heads in Manor, and to have been able to photograph it in both directions.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 25, 2020 at 4:04 PM

  6. That’s a gorgeous field and I can well imagine you prowling and pussyfooting around in there like a patient heron stalking its prey. I especially like your first image.


    November 25, 2020 at 5:09 PM

    • Just call me Mr. Prowler. We’d discovered that field three days earlier on the way back from somewhere else where we’d already spent time, so I took only some pictures. The return three days later let me start fresh and spend a couple of hours walking through the field and taking a slew of photographs. A heron I’m not, but then herons don’t make pictures.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 25, 2020 at 5:27 PM

  7. It’s all about the light as demonstrated by these two images.

    Steve Gingold

    November 25, 2020 at 6:24 PM

  8. Bushy bluestem’s such a photogenic grass. Little bluestem’s more colorful, but that fluff is compelling, and glomeratus always makes me laugh. I like silver bluestem, too. It’s more delicate, but it can be really something when it’s backlit. Of course, like your photos here, it shines from either direction.


    November 26, 2020 at 7:43 AM

    • With bushy bluestem in its late stage I’ll gladly glom (speaking of glomeratus) photographic onto grass to make photograssic. I agree with you about the enticements of backlit silver bluestem. I’ll be showing a picture of that, but probably not for a couple of weeks; I’ve never been as backlogged as this year.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 26, 2020 at 8:14 AM

  9. […] myriad fluffy seed heads of bushy bluestem (Andropogon glomeratus) and goldenrod (Solidago sp.) that you saw in a post last month, I spied something that looked unusual and that I couldn’t initially identify. After I got […]

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