Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Go with the blow

with 38 comments

The blowing of the wind, that is, which I had to deal with on April 2nd at the cemetery in Stockdale, about a hundred miles south of home. First I took a bunch of wildflower pictures at high shutter speeds to try and stop the motion. Then I relented—literally—and switched to slow shutter speeds, knowing that the blowing would bring blurring. I’ll anticipate some comments and say that the resulting photographs suggest Impressionist paintings.

I took the top picture at 1/8 of a second and the bottom one at 1/15th of a second. The magenta/hot pink flowers are a Phlox species; the red-orange ones Indian paintbrush, Castilleja indivisa; the blue sandyland bluebonnets, Lupinus subcarnosus; the yellow Nueces coreopsis, Coreopsis nuecensis; the white are white prickly poppies, Argemone albiflora.

* * * * * * * * *

Two posts back I noted that it’s common to hear politicians and activists bandy about the phrase “common sense.” I said that’s a loaded and misleading term because some or even many things that a majority of people believe to be common sense are easily shown to be untrue. In that post and yesterday’s I gave examples of “common sense” leading to incorrect conclusions. Here’s another.

Suppose you live in an old house with a carport. Because of the topography, whenever you get a heavy enough rain, water flows onto your carport and collects there, taking hours and hours to eventually drain away. It’s a nuisance, but you put up with it because having an engineering company fix the problem would cost thousands of dollars. One night you get home from a long trip and are so exhausted you go to bed and quickly fall into a sound sleep. It’s such a deep sleep that nothing disturbs you, and you wake up the next morning feeling refreshed. A little later you open your side door and see water a couple of inches deep on your carport. What happened?

“Common sense” would lead many if not most people to say it must have rained hard during the night and that’s why the carport got flooded. You must have been sleeping so soundly that the rain didn’t wake you up.

Anyone who concludes that it must have rained is committing an error of logic. Just because event A (in this case a hard rain) always leads to event B (in this case a flooded carport), you can’t “reason” backwards and assume from the occurrence of event B that event A must have occurred. It just so happens that our previous house in Austin did suffer from a flooded carport after sustained downpours, and one morning I did open the side door and see water flowing through the carport—and yet it hadn’t rained. Instead, we’d had a sustained freeze, and a poorly insulated pipe leading from the house out to the washing machine at the back of the carport had burst. You can think of other explanations. Maybe the next-door neighbor’s sprinkler system had gone awry. Maybe a large water tanker truck had gotten into an accident nearby and the tank had split open. Maybe a water main in the street out front had ruptured. Maybe a dam had collapsed and flooded the whole neighborhood.

You get the point: just because something is plausible or even likely doesn’t mean it’s true. The world could be saved so much misery if only people investigated situations rather than jumping to conclusions—and worse, acting on hasty and unwarranted assumptions.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 10, 2021 at 4:38 AM

38 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. I happen to love the blur of color. “Relenting” to the wind was the “common sense” thing to do!


    April 10, 2021 at 7:27 AM

    • With a relentless wind the photographer may do well to turn from resentful to relentful. I like the way you turned that into common sense.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 10, 2021 at 7:45 AM

  2. What lovely colours !


    April 10, 2021 at 7:33 AM

  3. The wind certainly was unrelenting for a few days. You’re right that one of my impressions of the photos was of the Impressionists, but I also thought of fabrics that were used to make summer dresses back in the 1950s and 1960s.


    April 10, 2021 at 7:51 AM

  4. Beautiful.


    April 10, 2021 at 7:54 AM

  5. Of course the colors are beautiful and I like the effect of the slight movement. In a way, speaking of watery subjects, the softness makes me think of looking out a drop-covered window on a rainy day.

    Steve Gingold

    April 10, 2021 at 8:26 AM

    • I know what you mean. I remember taking a picture through the drop-covered windshield of my car in Charlotte, North Carolina, in around 1975—though that one was black and white.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 10, 2021 at 8:35 AM

  6. Well, gotta say the second one with the saturated colors is my preferred of the two. And with Parkinson’s and Essential Tremors, I sometimes get that blurred effect, too, even without the assistance of the wind.. The mass of flowers helps, I think. With a single flower, the blurring just looks out of focus., or if one manages to get it in focus, the wind takes out of frame.


    April 10, 2021 at 9:33 AM

    • You’re funny about getting a blurred effect without benefit of breeze. I agree that the mass of wildflowers was a big plus here for the reason you gave and also because it made the picture primarily about color. When taking pictures with wind I’ve also had subjects end up partly outside the frame. Knowing that that’s likely to happen some of the time, I take a bunch of shots; it’s easy enough to throw away the bad ones.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 10, 2021 at 9:44 AM

  7. So pretty, Steve and those colors are amazing!

    Sheila Creighton

    April 10, 2021 at 9:52 AM

  8. So beautiful! The colors remind me of the ‘flower-power’ dresses of the late 60s… I still love those bright colors!

    Eliza Waters

    April 10, 2021 at 5:02 PM

    • Shoreacres (above) had a similar association, though from the 1950s and 1960s before “flower power.” I can see where these pictures would make for good prints on dresses.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 10, 2021 at 8:03 PM

  9. I have also played a little with impressionist photography this spring since I haven’t had much choice. I like the results of yours. It would look nice on a large print. As for investigating situations it is not always possible for the citizens to know what really happened, unfortunately. The news are biased. Read cnn and Fox News and it’s like you live in two different countries.

    Alessandra Chaves

    April 10, 2021 at 6:02 PM

    • I don’t know the actual numbers, but I’m guessing that at least 1/3 of the country is on one side, and at least 1/3 of the country on the opposite side, when it comes to many issues. The two sides probably aren’t reconcilable—two different countries, as you said—and that’s why the United States is falling apart. Some of the main news media have become notorious for jumping to slant a news story a certain way before facts have been established that would support that slant. It’s also becoming common for those media not to retract stories that they greatly played up but that were later proved false. I try to find solace in my photography, and it does offer some, but every morning I wake up and get depressed when I remember how quickly fair play, free speech, and due process are disappearing from our way of life.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 10, 2021 at 8:28 PM

      • Yes, divide to conquer. And yes it is depressing. I have no emotional attachment to any “side”, although I do have opinions on separate issues. Some of my inclinations fall on one side, others fall on the other side. Think this makes it easier for me to have friends? Think again. It is not possible to go out with a fellow for photography and not have to position myself firmly on a side. Sometimes I try to reason. I have done that during the pandemics because I’m a biologist, it’s a serious issue and I didn’t think that a virus needed to be politicized. Well, I lost a few friends, curiously on both sides. I read the scientific papers published on the subject, not the headlines, and I tried to point out to people a few interpretations that turned out not to be very popular. I’m tired. Enough ranting. Now I go hunt for wildflowers.

        Alessandra Chaves

        April 11, 2021 at 8:54 AM

        • It’s a shame that so many things end up being treated as polar opposites, with people having to choose “sides.” The reality is not only that gradations exist between the poles, but that life is complicated, and many things don’t naturally arrange themselves in linear fashion in the first place. I’m sorry to hear you’ve lost friends in the past year—and on both “sides.” I can see how as a scientist you’d get depressed by people not wanting to examine the evidence, or downright refusing to look at evidence that’s already been amassed if it supports a position different from their own.

          Happy wildflowers!

          Steve Schwartzman

          April 11, 2021 at 10:07 AM

          • The wildflowers were awesome. I got to see shooting stars (Dodecatheon) in great numbers in a place devastated by a fire last year. They don’t last very long (just a few weeks in March/April) here. I was lucky. So cute!

            Alessandra Chaves

            April 12, 2021 at 5:26 PM

            • We have a species of shooting stars here, too, but I almost never have run across any. I’m glad for your sake that you found so many.

              Steve Schwartzman

              April 12, 2021 at 8:29 PM

  10. I like the Impressionist paintings, and these shots, especially the second one. I’m open to all sorts of artistic experimentation, but when I walk through an art museum, I definitely tend to spend more time in the Impressionist rooms, than Abstract Expressionism, Cubism, etc.
    I get what some previous commenters are saying about dress fabrics, what I think they still call in England “a posh frock.”

    Robert Parker

    April 10, 2021 at 8:18 PM

    • Yay me, now I’m producing posh frock fabric photos. Naturally some of those experiments turned out more to my liking than others.

      Like you, I tend to spend more museum time with the Impressionists than with many art movements that followed, especially some of the ones that sprang up during my lifetime.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 10, 2021 at 8:34 PM

  11. Did you illogically assume that the flowers were being blown by the wind. Perhaps they were waving around on their own.

    Jason Frels

    April 10, 2021 at 9:06 PM

    • Nice try, but no: I’m waiving your suggestion about waving.

      By the way, if you’re interested in good displays of bluebonnets, you can find some now at Turkey Bend Recreation Area off FM 1431 about half-way between Jonestown and Marble Falls.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 10, 2021 at 9:46 PM

  12. […] of people believe to be common sense are easily shown to be untrue. In that post and the next and yesterday’s I gave examples of “common sense” leading to incorrect conclusions. Here’s […]

  13. […] of people believe to be common sense are easily shown to be untrue. In that post and the next and the next and yesterday’s I gave examples of “common sense” leading to incorrect […]

  14. The wide fields of flowers you’re finding are just glorious!


    April 12, 2021 at 11:49 AM

    • Yes, this is the best time of the year for that. While 21021 isn’t an exceptional year for that, I’ve managed to find plenty of wildflowers worth photographing.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 13, 2021 at 9:21 AM

  15. Sometimes we just have to take what nature gives us, and you’ve shown that can even be done on windy days. As you said, it tends to give the photos a more painterly look, which is a nice change from time to time. I love the color variety in this field, too.

    Todd Henson

    April 13, 2021 at 6:49 PM

    • We have some great wildflower color mixtures in Texas, as you appreciate in these two pictures. I was happy to take what nature gave us, namely wind, and go with a painterly impression by using slow shutter speeds. In a couple of days I’m planning to show one of the high-shutter-speed versions I made of the same kinds of wildflowers. Both approaches worked okay, though of course some viewers may prefer one over the other.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 13, 2021 at 8:07 PM

  16. […] our April 2nd jaunt down south. In particular, it’s from the cemetery in Stockdale. Unlike the long exposures you saw a few posts back, this time I used a shutter speed of 1/640 of a second to freeze the wildflowers that the breeze […]

  17. Another to add to your ever-growing flower field collection. Pretty spring colors!


    April 16, 2021 at 12:16 PM

  18. Wonderful colours Steve … beautiful


    April 16, 2021 at 3:24 PM

  19. […] Direction of inference […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: