Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Wind-waved willow yellow

with 19 comments

While wind whisked the leaves of this black willow tree sideways, my trusty camera set to 1/640 of a second proved its equal. The location on November 15th was new to me, Maxa Drive in Manor; the tree, Salix nigra, was hardly new, being a common species here. And not new either was the pretty yellow that the long leaves tend to turn before falling. Hardly half a mile east I’d earlier found and photographed a fine willow sapling serving as a backdrop for some bushy bluestem turned fluffy, both blazoned against the day’s blue skies. The two portraits exemplify the more-is-more or fill-the-frame esthetic that I often find myself drawn to.

Did you know that another English word for a willow is withy? Here’s “The Old Withy Tree” from an 1859 book called Songs of the Wye, and Poems, from a writer identified only by the pseudonym Wioni:

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 6, 2020 at 4:20 AM

19 Responses

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  1. I am such a fan of willows. These colorful autumn images help me remember the wispy beauty we observed before the ice storm last month. Our willow area of the slough took a big hit with the recent ice storm. It will be interesting to see how a more open area now will give young saplings a chance to grow. Here, in what I call “the land of willows”, trumpet vine grows along the ground and up into the trees. The area is a hub for hummingbird nests and activity. It’s one of my favorite spots to sit, listen and observe the trees and hummingbirds in summer.


    December 6, 2020 at 7:51 AM

    • My casual observation is that willows seem good at springing up and getting established. If that’s correct, then it shouldn’t be long before new willows begin to recolonize your ice-damaged area. Your mention of trumpet vine growing along the ground and then up into the trees reminds me of the recent fall foliage post in which I showed vines climbing high up onto willow trees, only they were peppervines:


      I’m not around trumpet vines consistently enough to know if their leaves get colorful in the fall. Have you ever seen yours do that?

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 6, 2020 at 8:40 AM

      • No, come to think of it, I have not seen them colored. I think I would have noticed if they did. In summer though, that whole area of the slough is lined with willows and trumpet vine and is cool when we’ve had spring rains to keep everything nourished. It’s a sacred place to me.


        December 6, 2020 at 11:40 AM

        • I can understand why. And while trumpet vines may not have their leaves briefly change color in the fall, their red-orange buds and flowers make up for much of the rest of the year.

          Steve Schwartzman

          December 6, 2020 at 12:01 PM

  2. The wind-whisked leaves of the willow tree look fantastic, Steve. I enlarged the image to fill up the entire screen and I must declare that it would make a fine picture hanging on somebody’s living room wall.

    Peter Klopp

    December 6, 2020 at 9:26 AM

  3. That’s one of the most engaging photos of bushy bluestem I’ve seen. It’s a beautiful combination with the willows, which have their own appeal. I haven’t noticed willows changing color along the coastal bayous yet; I hope they do, rather than just falling.

    As for trumpet vine, I’ve never seen that plant’s leave change color, either. I happened to see one last week, happily climbing a pole in the middle of the Hwy 146 construction zone. There was no way to get a camera photo, so I let my eyes capture the image.


    December 7, 2020 at 7:08 AM

    • This has been a good fall for bushy bluestem around Austin, which is equivalent to saying I’ve taken plenty of pictures of it this season, even as recently as yesterday. As the second picture in this post I originally had a photograph of the willow sapling by itself against the blue sky; then I noticed how nicely the bushy bluestem fit in with it—engaged with it, to use your word—and I used the current second picture instead. Let’s hope there’s still time for the willows near you to change color, and therefore time also for you to portray them.

      People who go fishing talk about the one that got away. We photographers lose our subjects to inconvenient placement and unwanted objects near by.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 7, 2020 at 9:01 AM

  4. This was a wonderful celebration of the willow, Steve — the photos filled with their beauty, and the delightful poem as well. Never knew withy was another word for willow.

    Jet Eliot

    December 7, 2020 at 7:56 AM

    • Your words suggest the title for a book: Wonderful Willows. This species of willow is so common here that I see one practically every time I go out in nature. According to the American Heritage Dictionary, withy is etymologically related to wire.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 7, 2020 at 10:46 AM

  5. Two excellent frame fillers and some nicely organized chaos for pleasing images, Steve.

    Steve Gingold

    December 9, 2020 at 5:07 AM

  6. […] leaves of the black willow (Salix nigra) tend to turn yellow in the fall, as you recently saw. On November 26th at the Southeast Metropolitan Park in Del Valle I was pleased to find several of […]

  7. Your first image struck an immediate chord in me. It took me a few moments to realize it was a flashback to watching kelp leaves waving luxuriantly in the surf. That’s a special one for me.


    December 12, 2020 at 2:55 AM

    • I’m glad to hear that you resonate to that first photograph, too. As soon as I saw the willow “weaving” in the wind that way I knew I had the potential for a good portrait. The elongated cropping heightened the effect.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 12, 2020 at 6:14 AM

  8. Like the feeling of captured motion in your first image.


    December 15, 2020 at 12:52 PM

  9. […] that was new to us. In the first picture you see how the slender leaves of a black willow tree (Salix nigra) had turned yellow and fallen onto the creek’s surface next to a colony of cattail plants […]

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