Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Wildflowers at the end of the year

with 46 comments

On December 29th I went over to the strip of land between Arboretum Drive and the Capital of Texas Highway to photograph some Mexican hats (Ratibida columnifera) that I figured would be there. And they were there. The sky was heavily overcast and the breeze didn’t stop blowing, but you do what you can with what you get. I set a shutter speed of 1/640 to contend with the wind, which actually blew some of the ray flowers into uncharacteristic positions that allowed for novel portraits. Because the light was low I used flash; that sometimes left the clouds looking unnaturally dark, which created the extra drama you see above. As time passed the sky remained overcast but turned lighter shades of gray, as shown in the picture below of a different Mexican hat flower head about half an hour after the first one.

Adjacent to the Mexican hats, most of the goldeneye bushes (Viguiera dentata)
had gone to seed but a few were also still pushing out new flowers:

And so this fatal year has reached its final day.
Are better times to come? It’s “yes” we hope to say.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 31, 2020 at 4:36 AM

46 Responses

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  1. Exactly… it’s a ‘YES’! caps YES!
    Here’s to a better year, my friend!

    marina kanavaki

    December 31, 2020 at 4:43 AM

    • I like your exuberant YES! Here’s to better indeed for us all.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 31, 2020 at 8:27 AM

      • 😉 🙏

        marina kanavaki

        December 31, 2020 at 9:03 AM

        • 🌼

          Steve Schwartzman

          December 31, 2020 at 9:11 AM

          • 🎶

            marina kanavaki

            December 31, 2020 at 9:13 AM

            • The back-and-forth of emojis reminds me of a poem by Robert Desnos. I’ve added a straightforward English translation at the end in case you don’t read French.

              Le pélican
              ~ Robert Desnos

              Le capitaine Jonathan,
              Etant âgé de dix-huit ans,
              Capture un jour un pélican
              Dans une île d’Extrême-Orient,

              Le pélican de Jonathan,
              Au matin, pond un oeuf tout blanc
              Et il en sort un pélican
              Lui ressemblant étonnamment.

              Et ce deuxième pélican
              Pond, à son tour, un oeuf tout blanc
              D’où sort, inévitablement,
              Un autre, qui en fait autant.

              Cela peut durer pendant très longtemps
              Si l’on ne fait pas d’omelette avant.

              * * *

              Captain Jonathan,
              Who’s 18 years old,
              One day captures a pelican
              On an island in the Far East.

              The next morning Jonathan’s pelican
              Lays a pure white egg,
              And from it there emerges
              An astonishingly similar-looking pelican.

              And this second pelican
              In its turn lays a pure white egg
              From which there inevitably comes
              Another, which then does likewise.

              This can keep going on for a long, long time
              Unless someone makes an omelet first.

              Steve Schwartzman

              December 31, 2020 at 9:17 AM

  2. They are all lovely but that first one took my breath away.


    December 31, 2020 at 5:50 AM

    • Thanks. The first picture, with its dark velvet grey sky around the dark brown velvet on the ray flowers, grabbed me, too. While I could easily have let that portrait stand by itself, I added the other two to give a fuller account of the wildflowers still here at the end of the year.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 31, 2020 at 8:33 AM

  3. All the best for 2021 !!


    December 31, 2020 at 7:40 AM

  4. Even though the unpredictability of plants is well known, it’s also true that knowing the land can lead to fruitful explorations, as it did here. The Mexican hats are one of my favorites, and you’ve captured these lingering blooms wonderfully well. Your phrase about the sky remaining overcast but turning a lighter shade of gray reminded me of the old Simon and Garfunkel song about “a hazy shade of winter.”

    It’s hard to believe I’ve not been out with my camera since December 9, and have no idea what is or isn’t blooming around here. I’ve been reluctant to range too far afield, but my anxiety about starting the car is fading, and Sunday looks like a good day weather-wise for a trip to ‘somewhere.’


    December 31, 2020 at 7:43 AM

    • When I drove past the nearby corner of US 183 and Capital of Texas Highway that morning on my way to a store I noticed a few Mexican hats flowering there and thought I might go back later. It’s a busy and noisy intersection, though, so I figured I’d do better a few hundred feet away, where I’ve also found out-of-season wildflowers in the past. Good decision.

      Your mention of “a hazy shade of winter” fits Austin this morning, with it’s light rain coming down from overcast skies and even occasional thunder and lightning. You’ve reminded me that I saw Simon and Garfunkel live only once, in Forest Hills in 1967. Forest Hills is in the New York borough of Queens, where both were from.

      I empathize with you about your “will the car start?” anxiety. It’s good to hear that this time the repairs seem to have taken, and you can get back to enjoying nature, wherever the somewhere turns out to be.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 31, 2020 at 8:54 AM

  5. That first picture is particularly vivid and stunning!
    Happy new year to you!


    December 31, 2020 at 8:19 AM

    • Igualment (‘the same to you’ in Catalan) about the new year. You can imagine I was quite happy with the way the first portrait came out.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 31, 2020 at 9:06 AM

  6. That first image is a stunner. I have enjoyed your Mexican hat photos all year, since our colony dwindled to almost nothing in the orchard this summer. Perhaps next year will be better for germinating seeds… and for “better times to come”.


    December 31, 2020 at 8:26 AM

    • You’re the third commenter to single out the opening portrait, which I could easily have let stand alone. The teacher in me decided to give a more informative account by adding the other two pictures. I remember that you didn’t have a good crop of Mexican hats this summer. Let’s look for those “better times to come,” for those wildflowers and many other things.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 31, 2020 at 9:10 AM

  7. Sharp photos~I especially like the last one. Are you seeing any pollinators around at this time of year?
    Who can say what’s on its way
    With hopeful heart
    We await a fresh new start.


    December 31, 2020 at 9:11 AM

    • “Sharp” in more senses than one, I hope.

      I hadn’t thought about whether these late-season flowers are less likely than seasonal ones to get pollinated because the cold weather would have reduced the population of potential pollinators. I did see and photograph one insect, a cucumber beetle, which had apparently eaten (perhaps with other insects) a substantial part of a goldeneye flower head. So much for pollination.

      That’s a good rhyming rejoinder and a hopeful heart you’ve added.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 31, 2020 at 9:26 AM

  8. Those are bright and beautiful flowers on this last day of 2020, Steve! It’s an overcast morning on the verge of rain here, but that is the Pacific Northwest. The day will pass quickly.

    Lavinia Ross

    December 31, 2020 at 10:02 AM

    • As you said, for the Pacific Northwest that’s a normal day. Down here we’ve got similar weather today, at 40° with actual rather than potential rain. As we’d had so little rain for the past three months, we welcome it, even if the total is predicted to be only 2 inches or so. I’m hoping that over the next couple of weeks it’ll bring forth more wildflowers like the ones in this post.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 31, 2020 at 10:12 AM

  9. Yes, to a year of normal and no masks and lockdowns!! I’m so ready for that.

    Happy New Year to you and yours, Steve!


    December 31, 2020 at 10:18 AM

  10. Here’s wishing you the bluest sky
    And hoping something better comes tomorrow
    Hoping all the verses rhyme
    And the very best of choruses, too
    (Ray Davies “Better Things”)

    Robert Parker

    December 31, 2020 at 3:19 PM

    • Those are appropriate wishes.
      I looked up the lyrics (I didn’t know this song) and found that the other verses do mostly rhyme.
      Happy 2021 beginning in eight-and-a-half hours.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 31, 2020 at 3:28 PM

      • Looking forward to a better year. As for 2020, good riddance to bad rubbish! (I make a big exception to that, for your blog, you turned in an excellent year of nature and photography)

        Robert Parker

        December 31, 2020 at 3:32 PM

        • Merci. Because of the pandemic and being cut off from people I ended up spending more time in nature and taking more pictures that in any previous year. For all the images that got shown here, many others went unseen.

          Steve Schwartzman

          December 31, 2020 at 6:16 PM

  11. Wildflowers are always hopeful. Wishing you and yours a safe, happy 2021, Steve.


    December 31, 2020 at 3:29 PM

    • Thanks, and the same to you and your family, Tina. It’s good that we’re going into the new year with a couple of inches of rain in as many days.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 31, 2020 at 3:35 PM

  12. Beautiful! I look forward to more in 2021. Happy New Year!

    • Thanks, Anabel. Despite the havoc 2020 wreaked on the world, the year was good to me photographically, and I hope 2021 will keep up the pace in that respect.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 1, 2021 at 8:10 AM

  13. 2020 from my household’s perspective wasn’t the worst, and it wasn’t the best. Aside from the chaos of the world beyond my fence line, we carried on with every setback thrown our way.

    2021 so far is looking to be more of the same (hopefully with a vaccine that can better assure COVID -19 doesn’t visit us!). Perhaps I’ll even get back to blogging again. My best to you and Eve, Steve. Happy New Year!


    January 1, 2021 at 7:26 AM

    • You’ve altered Dickens’s opening from A Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” The sentence goes on describe what could be our own era: “…it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”

      Eve and I fall into the 1B vaccination group due to our age, but so far not even all the people in 1A have gotten vaccinated in Austin. Eventually it’ll reach all of us—hooray. Best to all of you guys, of course, and maybe we can stage a reunion somewhere later in the year.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 1, 2021 at 8:22 AM

      • You may have written the beginning of my next blog post … LOL Yes. Let’s do meet up again on the beach when both virus and weather are fairer.


        January 1, 2021 at 4:45 PM

      • Done. Whipped one up yesterday with some some sound and video files attached. I neglected to mention in my compendium how excited I was to have a photo in an NPAT calendar with a certain Mr. Schwartzman! Might have to add that as an edit.


        January 4, 2021 at 7:40 AM

  14. What beauty you have created out of an overcast day!

    Birder's Journey

    January 2, 2021 at 10:00 AM

  15. I like that quick poem, and the Mexican hat portraits are terrific – you used the wind to your advantage.


    January 2, 2021 at 7:58 PM

    • This has been my year for Mexican hats, so I was glad to go out with yet another new take on the familiar species. As for the little poem at the end, I originally had a less sanguine conclusion but changed it to a more optimistic one.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 2, 2021 at 8:55 PM

  16. I tip my sombrero to you yet again and look forward to many more of your fine flores!


    January 2, 2021 at 10:46 PM

  17. How I love your Mexican hats .. super photos for the end of the year! All the best for 2021 Steve


    January 7, 2021 at 1:15 AM

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