Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Brighter and darker takes on Mexican buckeye blossoms

with 16 comments

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

16 Responses

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  1. Gorgeous colour, especially against the dark background.

    Ann Mackay

    March 31, 2021 at 5:48 AM

    • I’d photographed Mexican buckeye flowers against a blue sky in previous years. This, I think, was the first time against such a dark background, and I’m glad I did.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 31, 2021 at 6:33 AM

  2. This time I like the photo with the blue background better. While the dark background is often more impressive it makes the flowers in this photo appear to be taken indoors.

    Peter Klopp

    March 31, 2021 at 8:52 AM

    • Thanks for an explanation of your preference. I’ll add that since Mexican buckeye is a tree, it would take an unusually large room in a house for the second picture to have been made indoors, unless the branch in the photograph had been cut off and brought inside.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 31, 2021 at 9:02 AM

  3. I’m seconding Peter’s motion. I like the shots with black backgrounds, but in this particular instance, that bonny blue sky looks very very appealing!

    Robert Parker

    March 31, 2021 at 11:01 AM

    • Steve Gingold used to refer to my “trademark blue skies,” and the first picture follows in that tradition. In this case I especially like the way the blue complements the pink of the blossoms. As the dark background was something different for me, I like its novelty.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 31, 2021 at 1:26 PM

  4. The different backgrounds remind me of my experience with the pink grass orchids in east Texas last year — Calopogon tuberosus. I photographed them against the sky and against the dark pine trees, and the effect was amazingly different.

    I’ve always found photographing clusters of blooms difficult. This one reminds me of the desert willow (Chilopsis linearis) that has somewhat the same form. Interestingly, it’s another monotypic genus, like the Mexican buckeye.

    The buckeye’s genus name stopped me. I found there’s only one species in the genus — the Mexican buckeye — and that the genus is named for Austrian ambassador Baron David von Ungnad, who brought the horse chestnut to Vienna in 1576. He was appointed Imperial Envoy to Constantinople in 1572, despite being a ‘zealous Lutheran.’ I couldn’t find much more about him online, but there are several entries about the Protestant chaplains he requested for his diplomatic mission: not common, at all.


    March 31, 2021 at 8:11 PM

    • It wasn’t common until recently for me to show two views of the same kind of flowers in a post. Since last year I’ve found myself so backlogged with pictures that I’ve increased the frequency of posts with multiple views. The important thing in those cases is to make the views pretty different, and the light versus dark background here was one way to do that.

      I never pursued the origin of the genus name Ungnadia, so it’s good that you did. I located some online mentions of David von Ungnad, but many were in German or Dutch. As you pointed out, he was “a zealous Lutheran” who was caught up in the religious quarrels of his era.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 31, 2021 at 9:09 PM

  5. The light blue background looks good to me for this one!

    Lavinia Ross

    April 1, 2021 at 11:53 PM

    • Of the people who’ve expressed an opinion about this picture, you’re among the majority. If been using the blue sky to isolate subjects for a long time. While I’ve also used dark backgrounds, in this case I don’t remember previously doing that for this species, so I was happy with the novelty.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 2, 2021 at 6:34 AM

  6. I like the lighter background Steve … makes me think of warmth and spring days


    April 7, 2021 at 2:06 PM

    • Which we’re well into here now (32°C in Austin today), whereas your descent into autumn may make you value warmth all the more.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 7, 2021 at 3:49 PM

      • Sun is still shining, blue skies with cloud puffs and mild days. But the chill is in the air early evening, winter is coming ..


        April 7, 2021 at 4:29 PM

  7. I favor the darker background with the nice side lighting.

    Steve Gingold

    April 8, 2021 at 6:00 PM

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