Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Archive for March 2021

Brighter and darker takes on Mexican buckeye blossoms

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Ungnadia speciosa on March 20th in northwest Austin. What a difference the background makes.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 31, 2021 at 4:33 AM

Cost of a buttercup

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What this gialloscuro take on one buttercup (Ranunculus sp.) in front of another cost me was a more-than-an-hour drive to a roadside on FM 366 west of the little town of Cost in Gonzales County on March 19th. And speaking of this kind of flower, you’re welcome to listen without cost to “I’m Called Little Buttercup” as sung in a 2014 production of H.M.S. Pinafore by Gilbert and Sullivan Austin.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 30, 2021 at 4:44 AM

Tansy mustard buds opening

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From Gonzales on March 19, here are the opening buds of tansy mustard, Descurainia pinnata. What you’re seeing wasn’t much more than an inch across. The red in the background came from phlox flowers.

And here’s a passage from John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty that’s every bit as germane today as it was in 1859, and probably even more so:

Like other tyrannies, the tyranny of the majority was at first, and is still vulgarly*, held in dread, chiefly as operating through the acts of the public authorities. But reflecting persons perceived that when society is itself the tyrant — society collectively over the separate individuals who compose it — its means of tyrannising are not restricted to the acts which it may do by the hands of its political functionaries. Society can and does execute its own mandates; and if it issues wrong mandates instead of right, or any mandates at all in things with which it ought not to meddle, it practices a social tyranny more formidable than many kinds of political oppression, since, though not usually upheld by such extreme penalties, it leaves fewer means of escape, penetrating much more deeply into the details of life, and enslaving the soul itself. Protection, therefore, against the tyranny of the magistrate is not enough; there needs protection also against the tyranny of the prevailing opinion and feeling, against the tendency of society to impose, by other means than civil penalties, its own ideas and practices as rules of conduct on those who dissent from them; to fetter the development and, if possible, prevent the formation of any individuality not in harmony with its ways, and compel all characters to fashion themselves upon the model of its own. There is a limit to the legitimate interference of collective opinion with individual independence; and to find that limit, and maintain it against encroachment, is as indispensable to a good condition of human affairs as protection against political despotism.

* Mill is using vulgar in its original meaning, which referred to ‘the common folk, the populace.’ The word later developed the pejorative sense that now dominates.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 29, 2021 at 4:40 AM

Texas toadflax and colorful friends

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From the McKeller Memorial Park north of Gonzales on March 19th, here’s Texas toadflax (Nuttallanthus texanus) in front of some bright red phlox (Phlox sp.). The yellow glow came from a flower head of Texas groundsel (Senecio ampullaceus). How about those saturated colors?

Unrelated to these wildflowers, here are two whimsical quotations from the article “In Naples, the formula calls for pizza,” by Franz Lidz, in the March 2021 issue of Smithsonian:

“Da Michele’s amoeba-like pies overflow the plate, and you’re not sure whether to eat them or keep them as pets.”

“The Dalai Lama walks into a pizza shop and says, ‘Can you make me one with everything?'”

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 28, 2021 at 4:39 AM

A strangely desaturated landscape

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While out driving in Austin on March 20th with no particular destination, I turned north off McNeil Dr. onto the confusingly named E. McNeil Rd. Soon we couldn’t help noticing that the land and trees on our left seemed oddly faded, almost as if we’d been teleported into a drier climate than Austin’s. The view on our right side offered an explanation: a tall stack and other machinery of the Austin White Lime Company. Ever-present rock dust from the quarry had settled wherever the wind blew it in the vicinity, causing the strangely washed-out look that caught our attention. If you’re familiar with the normal green of Ashe juniper trees (Juniperus ashei), compare that to the dullness of the two in the first picture’s lower left and the one below. Another comparison could be to a photograph last fall in which I purposely reduced the color saturation.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 27, 2021 at 4:41 AM

A study in colors and shapes

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On March 19th we drove an hour south to Gonzales to see how the spring wildflowers were coming along. On the whole the results disappointed us, especially compared to the great spring of 2019 in that area. One okay place was the McKeller Memorial Park just north of Gonzales, which did host a colony of bright red phlox (Phlox sp.) and some bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis). The breeze dictated a high shutter speed, which in turn meant a rather shallow depth of field. As a result I experimented with some abstract studies like this one, in which only the tip and an adjacent bit of the unfurling phlox bud were in focus.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 26, 2021 at 4:41 AM

A large redbud tree blossoming

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Here’s how a large redbud tree, Cercis canadensis var. texensis, looked in the town of Cedar Park on March 17th. While no bright St. Patrick’s Day green put in an appearance here, the scene’s color scheme does remind us that before the middle of the 20th century Americans went with pink for baby boys and blue for baby girls. In the realm of geology rather than sociology, the magnetic polarity of the earth has also occasionally reversed. So have a few of my opinions, and presumably so have some of yours as well.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 25, 2021 at 4:28 AM

Four-nerve daisy from the side and from above

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Tetraneuris linearifolia; March 11th on the Upper Bull Creek Greenbelt Trail.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 24, 2021 at 4:34 AM

Great purple hairstreak butterfly and Mexican plum blossoms

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On March 15th at McKinney Falls State Park many flying insects were drawn to the heady blossoms of a Mexican plum tree (Prunus mexicana). Among those insects was a great purple hairstreak butterfly (Atlides halesus). You can see that despite its common name, it doesn’t look purple. You can also see in the second picture the dense multitude of blossoms that adorned the tree.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 23, 2021 at 4:29 AM

Texture, reflection, abstraction

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Onion Creek in McKinney Falls State Park; March 15, 2021.

And here’s an unrelated observation from Sense and Sensibility (1811): “…When people are determined on a mode of conduct which they know to be wrong, they feel injured by the expectation of any thing better from them.” Throughout the novel, Jane Austen’s comments about many of her characters are trenchant, acerbic, cynical, sardonic. Those observations are unfortunately lost in movie versions of the novel. Perhaps someday a director will make a version with voice-overs to preserve the author’s commentary. Here’s another passage:

“On ascending the stairs, the Miss Dashwoods found so many people before them in the room [at a store], that there was not a person at liberty to tend to their orders; and they were obliged to wait. All that could be done was, to sit down at that end of the counter which seemed to promise the quickest succession; one gentleman only was standing there, and it is probable that Elinor was not without hope of exciting his politeness to a quicker despatch. But the correctness of his eye, and the delicacy of his taste, proved to be beyond his politeness. He was giving orders for a toothpick-case for himself, and till its size, shape, and ornaments were determined, all of which, after examining and debating for a quarter of an hour over every toothpick-case in the shop, were finally arranged by his own inventive fancy, he had no leisure to bestow any other attention on the two ladies, than what was comprised in three or four very broad stares; a kind of notice which served to imprint on Elinor the remembrance of a person and face, of strong, natural, sterling insignificance, though adorned in the first style of fashion.”

How about “sterling insignificance” as a zinger?

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 22, 2021 at 4:40 AM

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