Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography


with 25 comments

Nature photographers have a field day with basket-flowers (Plectocephalus americanus), which offer themselves up as subjects in so many ways. In this photograph from May 7th on the Blackland Prairie in southern Round Rock I closed in on the center of an open flower head to increase the portrait’s abstraction.

◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊  ◊  ◊  ◊

This reminds me that one of the latest bits of jargon from ideologues and malcontents—but I repeat myself—is center used as a verb. For example, one website describes an activity “to create a visceral learning experience that centers racism in our bodies.” Ugh. I’ll stick to centering wildflowers, thank you.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 8, 2021 at 3:00 AM

25 Responses

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  1. You little rule breaker you.

    Steve Gingold

    June 8, 2021 at 4:14 AM

    • C’est moi, c’est moi, I’m forced to admit.
      ‘Tis I, I humbly reply.
      That mortal who these marvels can do,
      C’est moi, c’est moi, ’tis I.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 8, 2021 at 4:16 AM

  2. I’m overcome with jealousy — what great opportunities you’ve had to see and photograph these. If we don’t get some locally this year, I fear I’ll miss them entirely. The way you’ve captured the gradations of color is spell-binding. The yellow-green in the center is perfect, and unusual. It makes for a more interesting photo than many that show off only the pink, lavender and white.


    June 8, 2021 at 6:52 AM

    • The good news at my end is that in Williamson County yesterday, a month after I took the picture in this post, I saw some fresh basket-flowers—as well as some on their way out, which is hardly surprising for one week into June. A curious fact about the distribution is that basket-flowers are rather uncommon in Austin proper, and more common in surrounding areas. I do hope you’ll get to see some somewhere while there’s still time this year.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 8, 2021 at 7:12 AM

      • My problem is that after weeks of rain, sunny days demand a return to work. Once I’m a little caught up, I may sneak away to spend a day with the flowers. A rain-free weekend would make things easier, although I fear the departure of the rain means the summer ‘flora and sauna’ is here.


        June 8, 2021 at 7:19 AM

  3. What a stunning image! The petals look as if they’re dancing around the center.


    June 8, 2021 at 7:07 AM

    • You’re welcome to think of them that way. You can even compose some music for them to dance to if you’d like. Despite the differences in color, these are all disk florets. Basket-flowers lack ray florets entirely.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 8, 2021 at 7:16 AM

  4. Love the way the shadow picks out the shape of the florets.

    Ann Mackay

    June 9, 2021 at 5:47 AM

    • That’s a good observation about the shadow, and one I hadn’t picked up on.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 9, 2021 at 5:50 AM

      • But I suspect you subconsciously did when actually photographing it. I think we probably make a lot more small decisions very quickly and almost automatically when we’ve trained ourselves to photograph the subjects that are important to us.

        Ann Mackay

        June 9, 2021 at 6:02 AM

        • You make another good point. I assume that many things become ingrained in us through practice, which is why dancers practice their moves, actors their lines, and schoolchildren their times tables (except that in our own times the times tables often get short shrift).

          Steve Schwartzman

          June 9, 2021 at 6:12 AM

          • I never liked the times tables, LOL! But yes, we do have a lot ingrained when it comes to the photography we love.

            Ann Mackay

            June 9, 2021 at 6:29 AM

            • I’m sorry you’ve had a hard time liking the times tables. You can be thankful you didn’t grow up in earlier times, when some schools had their students memorize their times tables up through 19. Speaking of which, if you know that 12 X 12 = 144, you also know, by reversing the digits, that 21 X 21 = 441. Similarly, from 13 X 13 = 169 you can reverse the digits to get 31 X 31 = 961. Unfortunately you can’t carry that any higher because with larger teens you end up going over 9 and having to carry a 1, which messes up the pattern.

              Steve Schwartzman

              June 9, 2021 at 6:39 AM

  5. This one certainly does work well centered. It’s almost hypnotic, and the more I stare the more I feel centered and one with the universe. 😉 Seriously, though, I do like this. It does add that nice abstract quality but not so abstract we don’t know at least generally what it is.

    Todd Henson

    June 9, 2021 at 6:50 AM

    • You’ve seen that I’m keen on abstraction. This is one more; call it a mandala if you’d like. And think of the chrysanthemum on the Japanese flag; here’s my Texas prairie emblem.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 9, 2021 at 7:59 AM

  6. “to create a visceral learning experience that centers racism in our bodies”
    what does it even mean?

    Alessandra Chaves

    June 9, 2021 at 6:55 PM

  7. Just fabulous. The dark-to-light shading on the diagonal is brilliant.


    June 13, 2021 at 8:49 PM

  8. I have always been a fan of a centered comp … a champion really to balance out those constantly preaching rule of thirds. In one of my art college art classes the unanimous critique on one of my projects was to off-center it! Here, centered works especially well and it is a powerful image.


    June 15, 2021 at 10:56 AM

    • Good for you for centering centering and treating it as the noble composition it may be. Someone said that it’s commendable to learn rules and then to know when to break them. By the way, did you know that off-center is the literal meaning of eccentric, i.e. ex-centric?

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 15, 2021 at 1:53 PM

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