Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Sycamore Saturday

with 31 comments

The late afternoon of December 2nd found us wandering the south bank of Brushy Creek just west of the eponymous round rock in Round Rock. There I photographed some sycamore trees (Platanus occidentalis) with leaves turning yellow and even orange. Backlighting enhanced the colors in the top portrait, while ripples on the surface of the creek made the reflections of another sycamore quite abstract.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 5, 2020 at 4:30 AM

31 Responses

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  1. Sycamores are lovely in any season, but their autumn color is especially so. I like the shape of their leaves, and these are especially nice, glowing against that water. In the second photo, the reflections on the left appear almost to be discrete squares or rectangles; given their color, they could be yellow topaz.


    December 5, 2020 at 6:07 AM

    • Your mention of discrete squares or rectangles prompted me to think it’s a rarity to find such clarity in the granularity of the rectangularity. To put it in normal English, I don’t remember ever seeing a reflection of something so inherently non-rectangular come out looking like it’s composed of rectangular cells, each of which could be a cut gem.

      When it comes to the leaves themselves, they’re one more source of colorful fall foliage here, as you pointed out, and as a bunch of my recent posts have been showing. Several more are still in the pipeline.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 5, 2020 at 6:29 AM

      • This was my first experience of such a thing, and probably the reason I saw the ‘gems’ in your gem of a photo.


        December 5, 2020 at 6:31 AM

        • Ah, yes. I notice I commented back then about how geometrical the water looked. I, too, have seen and photographed similar interference patterns in flowing water. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll be looking in my archives and discover I’d previously found rectangular leaf reflections, too.

          Steve Schwartzman

          December 5, 2020 at 7:07 AM

  2. What a nice abstract capture! Your images capture two lovely views of the sycamore. I find there is a lot to appreciate of this species. The bark is quite unusual, and the dangling seed pod balls are interesting as well. I learned something this year when two of our sycamores at the rock house, were damaged in the ice storm and leaf laden branches were ripped from the trees. Some fell in the fawn’s pen, and I observed the girls nibbling the colored leaves. Even long after the leaves dried on other limbs on the ground, weeks after the storm, the fawns continue to eat the dried leaves and twig browse from the sycamore. I never knew there was so much to love about this tree but I am a real fan!


    December 5, 2020 at 7:33 AM

    • Ah, sycamore bark: many’s the picture I’ve taken of it, for the way it comes off in patches as well as how it gleams white when leaves have fallen to reveal the limbs. And you’re right about the dangling seed balls being another source of intrigue. I’m as much a fan as you. Do you have any idea what sycamore leaves contain that makes them so palatable for deer?

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 5, 2020 at 7:57 AM

      • Deer eat all sorts of browse in winter months. I know the leaves of many plants and trees are not appealing to them in the warmer months, but when greens become sparse in winter, deer and other wildlife, manage on just about anything dried. The cottonwoods along the old river channel dropped limbs in the ice storm, and I noted they had huge leaf buds – as if spring was just around the corner. Mammals of all sorts love new buds and leaf shoots. I saw that some had been eaten on, likely by wild deer. So I brought those to the fawns and they nibbled the buds and many of the tender branch tips off by the next morning. The ice storm brought many edibles down that normally would not benefit the wild things.


        December 5, 2020 at 8:47 AM

        • So there was a silver lining to the ice storm for the animals, no matter how much of a nuisance as it was for the people. I hope you’re writing up all your experiences with the fawns and providing them to some educational institution so other people can learn from them.

          Steve Schwartzman

          December 5, 2020 at 10:53 AM

  3. Are you sure the reflection was not an alligator?


    December 5, 2020 at 7:40 AM

    • If it was, I had a narrow escape from that unusually colored alligator, given how close I was.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 5, 2020 at 7:51 AM

  4. Upon closer inspection, the leaves look very similar to the maple leaves in our area. Nice to have made such a discovery so late in the fall, Steve. Most of our deciduous trees are now bare and look rather bleak.

    Peter Klopp

    December 5, 2020 at 8:19 AM

    • We’re gradually catching up to you in the bareness of trees, but we’re not there yet, as you can tell by these pictures from just three days ago. Yes, sycamore leaves have the general shape of maple leaves, but you wouldn’t confuse the two types of trees because other features, notably their bark and their seed capsules, are different.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 5, 2020 at 9:23 AM

  5. I’ve always loved both of these things~backlit leaves, and reflected leaves. You’ve captured both beautifully here.


    December 5, 2020 at 8:40 AM

    • Merci. Backlighting and reflection have been among my favorite things, too, as you’ve seen in so many pictures here over the years.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 5, 2020 at 9:24 AM

  6. I think sycamores are one of our most wonderful trees. That reflection shot is a beautiful abstract. More and more I’m finding myself drawn to these types of shots, excellent work!


    December 5, 2020 at 12:35 PM

    • Gracias. I’ve long found myself drawn to abstractions. It seems natural that you’d be leaning that way, too.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 5, 2020 at 1:24 PM

  7. Love these two shots! I’m fond of Sycamores; one grows on my property, in a somewhat ill-advised place, but over the years, I’ve come to appreciate its beauty. And you’ve shown it well here.


    December 5, 2020 at 7:08 PM

    • Both scenes got me excited when I saw them and hoped I could do them justice. I’m glad you think I did. Both results are different from any sycamore pictures I remember doing before. I also did takes on the first one in which I got in closer, focusing in particular on the highest cluster of leaves.

      I guess you can’t just up and move your sycamore to a well-advised place. Regardless, you seem to have come to enjoy it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 5, 2020 at 7:36 PM

  8. Lovely play of light!

    Eliza Waters

    December 5, 2020 at 8:08 PM

    • I was intrigued when I saw each of these scenes and experimented by taking a bunch of pictures.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 5, 2020 at 9:17 PM

  9. Fall is a great time for these types of water abstracts


    December 5, 2020 at 8:28 PM

  10. This species is sometimes grown as Platanus racemosa. I can not imagine why or how that happens, but I can not convince anyone that there is a difference.


    December 6, 2020 at 5:26 PM

    • The California Native Plant Society knows that’s a different species:

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 6, 2020 at 6:58 PM

      • They know it. I know it. Most of my colleagues know it. The problem is that the horticultural industries attract many who do not know or care to know. Furthermore, even though I know that American sycamore is a separate species, I would not know to distinguish it from California sycamore if I did not have reason to do so. If I were told it was California sycamore, I would believe it. The differences are not obvious until they grow.


        December 6, 2020 at 11:21 PM

  11. I do believe that the sycamore is showing off in that first shot! 🙂


    December 9, 2020 at 11:41 PM

  12. Rah, rah for the rectangular reflections and tantalizing trapezoids.


    December 18, 2020 at 5:17 PM

  13. Really beautiful, Steve! Another tree I used to see a lot in NYC but don’t see much at all here, so thanks. 🙂


    December 21, 2020 at 2:41 PM

    • These are a lot more common here than the great egrets, and they don’t fly away when you approach. I’ve continued photographing sycamores since this post, including one yesterday with gleaming white limbs.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 21, 2020 at 5:44 PM

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