Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Making inroads

with 28 comments

Here are two more pictures from May 9th showing the great wildpflower pfield in Pflugerville that you saw in a previous post. Most of the flowers are firewheels (Gaillardia pulchella) and greenthreads (Thelesperma filifolium). In the top picture there had been real motion, namely of a vehicle whose tracks became no-grow zones for the wildflowers. In the second view there’s an implied motion radiating up and out from the bottom center of the frame, a floral big bang. I think what accounts for that sense of movement was my vantage point as I stood on a stepladder. Having the camera up so high let me aim down at a greater angle, which in turn made it easier to keep all the plants in focus; that’s why I’d brought the stepladder with me.

* * * * * * * * *

For an editorial about the value of free speech in a free society, and especially on college campuses, I recommend “Beliefs Aren’t Facts,” by Gary Saul Morson and Morton Schapiro, both of Northwestern University. Here’s one of the editorial’s seventeen paragraphs:

But if we discount the practice of learning through meaningful exchange, we not only default on our obligations as citizens, we place democracy itself in peril. Democracy demands we recognize our beliefs as opinions, and opinions sometimes prove false. If we could be certain they wouldn’t, there would be no reason to embrace democracy over a dictatorship of the virtuous.

And here’s another excerpt:

Those who acquiesce to violence and intimidation because it is invoked in the name of justice in fact invite it. Actions inconceivable one year become fringe the next, and soon they’re mainstream. Once the intelligentsia condones such excesses, the slide begins. The cancellers are soon canceled.  There is no limit to how far that process can go.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 24, 2021 at 5:36 AM

28 Responses

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  1. simply incredible, beyond belief


    May 24, 2021 at 7:06 AM

    • As I’ve said before with faux jadedness, it’s just another Texas wildflower meadow in the spring.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 24, 2021 at 7:24 AM

  2. I marvel at the beauty of the many flowery carpets but I also marvel at the fact that they still exist and have not become victims of industrial development. Yes, I do remember your lamentation over the loss of a field or two because of a building project, Steve. But there is still so much left in the State of Texas.

    Peter Klopp

    May 24, 2021 at 8:07 AM

    • Unfortunately, many of the best wildflower displays I’ve seen have been on properties that later got developed or will get developed in the not-distant future. The field shown here has a For Sale sign on it, so whether I’ll get to enjoy profuse wildflowers like these there next spring remains to be seen.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 24, 2021 at 8:18 AM

  3. The second photo brought to mind the one hesitation I’ve had about using even a small stepladder: balance. Looking at it, I get that vague sense of vertigo that brought some changes to my work routine. You ought to approach TP&W with that first photo. It would be a great visual for their anti-offroad vehicle campaigns.


    May 24, 2021 at 8:08 AM

    • You know yourself better than anyone else does. From what you say about hesitating to get on even a small stepladder, it sounds like prudence is the better part of valor and you’d do best to stay grounded. One technique I’ve sometimes resorted to when a stepladder hasn’t been at hand—which is most of the time—is to hold the camera as high as I can over my head and do my best to aim where I think a good picture is. A look at the playback screen on the rear of the camera lets me know if I’ve gotten in the ballpark. It’s easy enough to throw away pictures that missed. Back home later, I sometimes can’t tell a picture I took that way from the ones I took looking through the viewfinder in my usual way.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 24, 2021 at 8:29 AM

      • Another trick that I’ve used to get above grasses when photographing birds is the old one foot on the running board, one foot on the handle of the opened car door. That move’s enough like balancing on a boat’s hand rails that it’s almost reflexive.


        May 24, 2021 at 8:34 AM

        • Running boards harken back to an era mostly before our time. You’ve reminded me that Ansel Adams built a platform on top of his station wagon: https://tinyurl.com/4kzwwsnr. That’s a lot more stable than the technique you’ve described, but at least you have an advantage from nautical body memory.

          Steve Schwartzman

          May 24, 2021 at 8:43 AM

  4. A floral Big Bang~ Yes! I love that. It is heartbreaking to see the tire tracks through the flowers, and to know they are soon to be paved over.
    The quotes you included are interesting but I wasn’t sure I followed what was being said, exactly. It is certainly true that opinions are being bandied around as facts, and that the more they get repeated the more they get believed.


    May 24, 2021 at 10:41 AM

    • I added that “floral big bang” after the post had appeared; I figured it was too good to waste,

      So many properties have been disappearing here, including several already this year. All I can do is document what we had before it vanishes.

      The point of the article I linked to is that increasingly many people and corporations are so convinced they’re right about everything that they’ve become maniacal in suppressing speech, vilifying people with different opinions, and getting people fired from their jobs.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 24, 2021 at 11:04 AM

      • Yes, it is disturbing to see the willingness in people to back up their opinions with force. I was just reading a passage in the Tao about that.


        June 8, 2021 at 8:09 AM

  5. Again, I should not have read.
    As you know, the Ku Klux Klan is uncool with most of modern society. Those who are involved with it do not say so. All that hatred needs an outlet. For some of the hateful, the homeless and impoverished are their new victims of hatred. (Well, it has been going on for a long time.) Haters do what they can to vilify the homeless, and even burn homeless encampments so that they can blame the homeless for starting fires. Over the past few years our Community has been recognizing that, although there are many problems associated with homelessness, the bullying and harassment that is now directed at the homeless is just as bad as it was when it was directed by racism decades ago.


    May 24, 2021 at 1:57 PM

  6. Nice shots! The first, ‘real motion’ and the second, ‘implied motion’–good pairing of real life and an artist’s view.


    May 24, 2021 at 2:16 PM

    • Sometimes when I’m out in nature taking photographs, the idea for a post comes to me. That could be a title or the beginning words of text. In this case, though, while I was out for at least an hour in this field I hadn’t planned or even noticed the possibility for pairing these two pictures. I hadn’t noticed how radial a look the second image would have. Accuse me of realization after the fact and I’ll plead guilty.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 24, 2021 at 3:29 PM

  7. At least those aren’t bulldozer tracks although from your comments it seems like they eventually were or will be.

    Steve Gingold

    May 24, 2021 at 4:21 PM

    • No bulldozers yet for this property, but the Austin area is continuing to grow at such a rapid pace that it probably won’t be long.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 24, 2021 at 4:39 PM

  8. It hurts to see humans regard such beauty as disposable. Native plants are essential to ecosystems, they support truly all life from the ground up, and that includes us. We develop these lands to our own peril and ultimately long-term demise.

    Eliza Waters

    May 24, 2021 at 8:08 PM

    • You know I’m with you on all that you’ve said. Part of what I’ve done is document the disappearance of so many places.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 24, 2021 at 9:31 PM

      • Can’t conservation groups acquire some of this land? Do they have land trust options in TX?

        Eliza Waters

        May 25, 2021 at 8:12 PM

        • There are preserves and parks. In addition, conservation groups have bought some land and secured easements on other properties to prevent development. The land on the east side of Austin, which is the prairie side that includes the property shown here, has traditionally been less expensive than the hilly side to the west. Flat land is easier to build on, and that’s where much of the current building boom is taking place. Prairie has gotten short shift when it comes to preservation.

          Steve Schwartzman

          May 25, 2021 at 9:10 PM

  9. Beautiful! Fields are great.. 🙂


    May 25, 2021 at 12:26 AM

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