Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Ice on lichens on cedar elm

with 44 comments

The branches of cedar elm trees (Ulmus crassifolia) often have flanges and sometimes also lichens on them.
They rarely add ice, but they did on January 10th as snow and sleet came down.

And here’s an unrelated quotation for today: “You will say that I am old and mad, but I answer that there is no better way of keeping sane and free from anxiety than being mad.” — Michelangelo at age 74.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 15, 2021 at 4:24 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , , , ,

44 Responses

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  1. Such gorgeous gems, my dear friend and… I can relate to that quote! 😉

    marina kanavaki

    January 15, 2021 at 5:22 AM

    • I relate to the quote, too, being around the same age as Michelangelo was when he said that.
      I don’t like the cold, and that’s why I live in a warm climate. Still, the rare ice we get provides a welcome opportunity for photographs.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 15, 2021 at 6:51 AM

  2. I’m intrigued by the green tint in your second photo. I’ve never seen such a thing; even the little cup-like fruiting bodies at the left are green, rather than the orange that’s more familiar to me. Given the dark background, I wonder if you used flash, and that emphasized the color. On the other hand, there are hints of green in the first photo, too. Perhaps the wet surface changes the color somewhat, like water on a rock.

    The quotation brought to mind Hardy and Gray, and “the madding crowd’s ignoble strife.” There’s enough ambiguity in the various meanings of ‘mad’ to make it an unusually useful word.


    January 15, 2021 at 7:38 AM

    • Yes, I did use flash, because I needed greater depth of field than I could’ve gotten from ambient light. As for the color cast, perhaps the flash carried some of the green from the central lichens onto the fruiting bodies at the left. Now that you’ve pointed it out, I suppose I could go back and hand-color those to give them more of their accustomed orange.

      Ah, the problems of translation. The Italian adjective was pazzo, which I think is unambiguously ‘crazy.’ Our English word mad originally meant ‘crazy’ and only later added the ‘angry’ sense. Here’s what the 1848 Dictionary of Americanisms had to say about it: “MAD. Inflamed with anger; very angry; vexed. ‘I was quite mad at him;’ ‘he made me mad.’ In these instances mad is only a metaphor for angry. This is perhaps an English vulgarism, but it is not found in any accurate writer, nor used by any good speaker, unless when poets or orators use it as a strong figure, and to heighten the expression, say, ‘he was mad with rage.’—Witherspoon, Druid. No.5.

      Mad, in the sense of angry, is considered as a low word in this country, and at the present day is never used except in very familiar conversation.—Pickering.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 15, 2021 at 8:16 AM

  3. More great images. I am very fond of lichens.


    January 15, 2021 at 7:50 AM

    • Me too. They’re practically ubiquitous, and yet I don’t remember being told much—if anything—about them in school. I don’t skimp on photographing them.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 15, 2021 at 7:56 AM

  4. I agree, lichens are fun. I love how they green up in moisture. As for madness, oh yes. I no longer fight it 😀


    January 15, 2021 at 8:14 AM

    • I’ve shown plenty of lichen pictures over the years and will undoubtedly keep taking more, given how pictorially interesting they are. Have you done any paintings where lichens are the primary subject?

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 15, 2021 at 8:22 AM

      • I’ve thought about it but I find I’m happier making larger landscapes. I guess if I blew it up large and treated it as an abstract..


        January 16, 2021 at 8:31 AM

  5. Beautiful juxtaposition with the different layers. Glad to see you were able to take advantage of what the cold brought. I love reading these quotes showing the wisdom of the “ancients” and how relatable and relevant they remain.

    Todd Henson

    January 15, 2021 at 8:26 AM

    • Thanks. Snow and ice are infrequent enough here that I gladly put up with the cold for the chance to take pictures different from my usual ones.

      I’m drawn to history. In recent years I’ve thought that if I had it to do over again I’d specialize in history.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 15, 2021 at 8:36 AM

      • When younger I found history completely boring. I couldn’t memorize any of the dates or names and just wasn’t interested. But at some point I found myself awakening to how fascinating history could be, and now the older I get the more interested I am. Sometimes we do improve with age. 🙂

        Todd Henson

        January 15, 2021 at 12:35 PM

  6. These images remind me of fine desserts! So many layers and elements of goodness and eye appeal. I really like that dollop of lichen in the first photo.


    January 15, 2021 at 8:34 AM

    • They were desserts, only of a pictorial rather than culinary sort. I like your phrase “dollop of lichen.” And now you’ve given me the idea for a humorous picture of lichens with some Reddi-wip on them. We even have a can of that in the refrigerator now.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 15, 2021 at 8:41 AM

  7. Those black background photos are striking, and nice showcase the specimen.

    Lavinia Ross

    January 15, 2021 at 8:49 AM

    • In sunlight I often move around to line a subject up with a dark background, typically a shaded group of trees. Of course there isn’t always something dark nearby that I can take advantage of. Using flash very close to a subject, as here, lets almost any background seem dark by comparison, especially if there’s good separation between the subject and the nearest things beyond it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 15, 2021 at 9:01 AM

  8. Now I know why my wife says that I am mad when she sees me lying on my belly when I am attempting an unusual perspective for my photo. Haha!

    Peter Klopp

    January 15, 2021 at 8:55 AM

    • With me it’s usually lying on my side or back rather than belly. Plants and flowers are often close to the ground, so that’s where we have to go to get good pictures. In this case, however, I didn’t lie on the ground, although I did have my mat with me in case I needed to get way down.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 15, 2021 at 9:04 AM

  9. The Lichen in the top image, the lighter green Lichen looks like delicate petals of a flower with dew on them. Lovely, macro work!


    January 15, 2021 at 9:54 AM

  10. Nice set, Steve!

    Eliza Waters

    January 15, 2021 at 8:49 PM

  11. Luminous photos. I love them and the great quote.


    January 16, 2021 at 9:46 AM

  12. Wonderful photos Steve … the lichen pops against the black!


    January 22, 2021 at 11:40 AM

  13. WOW … you really got a lot of mileage out of your snow day! Beautiful color and detail in these.


    January 26, 2021 at 12:04 PM

    • I sure did get a lot of mileage out of it. I couldn’t put on the thousand miles it would usually take to get to a snowy place.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 26, 2021 at 12:16 PM

  14. Here we go again–in your first image, that wood salamander obviously has a little gem of ice clutched in its right hand. Simply wonderful!


    January 28, 2021 at 2:20 AM

  15. I read an article today about reindeer lichen and thought of this post so thought I’d share the article with you.


    It’s interesting and I learned something new!


    January 31, 2021 at 3:56 PM

    • Thanks for the link. At first I was puzzled by this: “When lichen reproduce sexually, neighboring lichen exchange genetic information through intertwined root-like structures. The lichen then release single-cell spores.” Because lichens are the symbiosis of fungi with algae or cyanobacteria, I didn’t understand how a single-cell spore could do double duty. Later on, though, the article cleared that up: “…sexual reproduction by fungal spores requires a reacquisition of the algal/cyanobacterial symbiotic partner wherever the wind dispersed spore lands…”

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 31, 2021 at 4:49 PM

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