Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Why wait?

with 28 comments

This morning I promised more pictures of yesterday’s snowfall in the days ahead, but why wait?

The snow droppeth alike on all things open to the sky. That includes the low, a prickly pear cactus (Opuntia engelmannii), and the high, in this case a grand huisache tree (Vachellia farnesiana). The two, each in its proper station, grow a couple of blocks apart in my neighborhood.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 11, 2021 at 3:31 PM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , , , ,

28 Responses

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  1. This is a healthy load of snow even by BC standards, Steve.

    Peter Klopp

    January 11, 2021 at 3:51 PM

    • We got a couple of inches (5cm) of snow in Austin. I heard on the local news that the area about 30 miles (50km) north of here got 6 inches (15cm) of snow.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 11, 2021 at 4:07 PM

  2. No snow up here, yet!

    Lavinia Ross

    January 11, 2021 at 5:38 PM

  3. Pretty! 🙂 🙂

    M.B. Henry

    January 11, 2021 at 6:04 PM

  4. Love that prickly pear!

    Eliza Waters

    January 11, 2021 at 8:28 PM

  5. Surely anyone can see the prickly face in your first offering!


    January 12, 2021 at 3:03 AM

  6. Great captures! So much brief beauty from that snowfall–glad you got it!! The cactus looks gentler with its layer of snow. 🙂


    January 12, 2021 at 8:07 AM

    • I stretched out the brief beauty as long as I could, first to two hours and then another three, by which time my body was ready to call it a day. The cactus may look gentler, but the snow on it meant I couldn’t clearly see where spines and especially glochids were. In this picture I focused on one pad, but there were others close to it; as always with prickly pears, I had to move slowly and carefully.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 12, 2021 at 8:16 AM

      • Yes, I guess that would be true. Spines are best and safest where you can see and avoid them.


        January 12, 2021 at 8:28 AM

        • And that’s why glochids are so insidious: they’re harder to see and harder to get out of your skin.

          Steve Schwartzman

          January 12, 2021 at 9:35 AM

  7. In the 1950s-1960s midwest, people threw a lot of cocktail parties. ‘Fancy’ hors d’oeuvres were quite the thing, and that’s what I saw with your prickly pear: snow impaled on the spines just like olives or chunks of cheese stuck on toothpicks in centerpieces.

    On the other hand, the huisache seems somehow Victorian. It reminded me of Emily Bronte’s poem:

    “The night is darkening round me,
    The wild winds coldly blow;
    But a tyrant spell has bound me,
    And I cannot, cannot go.

    The giant trees are bending
    Their bare boughs weighed with snow;
    The storm is fast descending,
    And yet I cannot go.

    Clouds beyond clouds above me,
    Wastes beyond wastes below;
    But nothing drear can move me;
    I will not, cannot go.”

    That could be a poem for a photographer who’s both cold, and unwilling to give up a rare opportunity.
    It reminds me, too, of that wonderful stanza in Rossetti’s poem that became a hymn:

    “In the bleak mid-winter
    Frosty wind made moan;
    Earth stood hard as iron,
    Water like a stone;
    Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
    Snow on snow,
    In the bleak mid-winter
    Long ago.”


    January 12, 2021 at 5:01 PM

    • I easily see the cactus spines as toothpicks in olives. Now I wonder if anyone has ever pulled a prank by sticking actual toothpicks in prickly pear pads, or olives on a cactus’s spines.

      Going off into Victorian poetry’s not at all a bad thing to be inspired to do. I remember Emily Brontë’s poem, which I seem to recall you pointed to once before, and “In the bleak mid-winter” is one of my favorite hymns/carols.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 12, 2021 at 5:57 PM

  8. Both of these are really nice. The snow on the cactus is fun because of the unexpected occurrence. The other has great texture and I like that you kept it light and snow white.


    January 13, 2021 at 11:52 AM

    • Thanks. There may not be a common association of snow with cactus, but cacti grow in plenty of places more wintry than Austin, so the combination must occur more often than people think. The texture of all those branches in the large huisache tree appealed to me and, as you pointed out, I kept the tonal range of the snow toward the bright end without overexposing the lightest parts.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 13, 2021 at 11:59 AM

  9. I’ve heard of temperatures dropping below freezing in the desert but never a snow covered cactus. It’s neat to see those spines sticking out. And the snow frosted grand huisache tree is lovely.

    Steve Gingold

    January 13, 2021 at 5:03 PM

    • You can see what fun I was having. West Texas (Big Bend, for example) gets snow, so people out there must be used to seeing snow on cacti. In the Davis Mountains years ago we were driving on Eater Sunday and snow started coming down; surely it landed on some prickly pears.

      The scraggly branches of the huisache looked really good to me, too, covered as they were with snow.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 13, 2021 at 5:27 PM

  10. The tree is stunningly beautiful, Steve. I know those Prickly pears can take the snow because I used to see them on Long Island. 😉


    January 14, 2021 at 1:46 PM

    • Wow: I grew up on Long Island but never saw a prickly pear there, much less one covered with snow.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 14, 2021 at 2:31 PM

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