Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Blue curls and firewheel

with 46 comments

Been a long time since I showed you any blue curls, Phacelia congesta. In Allen Park on May 15th
I spotted one flowering close enough to a firewheel, Gaillardia pulchella, for me to contrast their colors.


Today is Juneteenth, which became a national holiday this week. The name is short for June Nineteenth, which was the day in 1865 when Union forces brought the news to Galveston, Texas, that all former slaves were now free. This is the first new American holiday since Ronald Reagan signed into law the establishment of Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1983.

Martin Luther King Jr. is famous for a speech he gave in Washington, D.C., on August 28, 1963, that has become known as “I have a dream” because that line figured repeatedly in the speech. Here’s a portion:

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream.

It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal”…

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I’m all for that, and I expect you are, too.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 19, 2021 at 4:40 AM

46 Responses

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  1. Wonderful composition 🙂


    June 19, 2021 at 5:06 AM

  2. The explosion of color here puts one in a celebratory mood for Juneteenth!


    June 19, 2021 at 7:20 AM

  3. One of my own favorite photos involves blue curls against a soft background of huisache daisies. Whether done in pastel tones or with bolder colors like those you’ve shown here, blue curls are one of my favorite wildflowers: for their structure as much as for their color.

    When I moved to Houston in the early ’70s, one of the first social occasions I attended was a Juneteenth party. That was nearly fifty years ago. As a Galveston friend says, “It’s nice that the rest of the nation finally caught up with us.”


    June 19, 2021 at 7:20 AM

    • Blue curls do have great structure. That presents some photographic challenges, which we’ve risen above:

      You arrived in Texas a few years ahead of me. In all that time, I still have never attended a Juneteenth party. I can’t help wondering who telescoped June Nineteenth into Juneteenth. There must have been a single person who first did so, and others would then have picked it up. I wonder if that person was ever identified.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 19, 2021 at 8:02 AM

  4. Wonderful explosion of colors!! I thought of fireworks.


    June 19, 2021 at 7:47 AM

    • It is bright, isn’t it? Consider this a 15-day alert for our big fireworks displays, which will probably seem (or be) even bigger than usual by comparison to 2020.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 19, 2021 at 8:09 AM

  5. You were lucky to find the firewheel to serve as background to serve as a colour contrast in your photo.
    May the DREAM one day become a true reality in your country, Steve.

    Peter Klopp

    June 19, 2021 at 7:49 AM

    • Because plants have no sense of “personal space” I often find different wildflowers species in proximity and take photographic advantage of it.

      As for the dream becoming reality, there are unfortunately forces here that are pushing to undo decades of progress by again treating people unequally. More on that next time.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 19, 2021 at 8:15 AM

      • Regarding the “undoing”. It is asking a lot for people, when the opportunity arises, to not go a little beyond what might be expected as far as patience goes. There has been the opportunity for the last year or so to make strides in equality. People will often go beyond and, when the dust settles, an equilibrium is reached that most can become comfortable with. The student uprisings of the late 60’s were radical but did not destroy the country and I do not believe the movements now will either. Some harm may be experienced but in the long run we will emerge stronger. That is my belief at any rate.

        Steve Gingold

        June 19, 2021 at 10:43 AM

        • Treating people differently because of immutable biological characteristics will never be an equilibrium I could live with.

          Steve Schwartzman

          June 19, 2021 at 10:58 AM

          • Because that is the only possible outcome, right? One trait I see in conservatives is that you think you know the only right way to do things and any deviation is a terrible thing. Not everyone behind the BLM movement or the other outgrowths of that is trying to divide the country or denigrate a particular group. But you are hanging on to what you have heard from a handful of people as the total of everyone that doesn’t adhere to your specific belief. You just don’t want to see anything positive from people who pursue a different course than you.

            Steve Gingold

            June 19, 2021 at 11:27 AM

            • You’re right that I don’t and won’t see anything positive in violating the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause by treating people differently because of immutable biological characteristics.

              Steve Schwartzman

              June 19, 2021 at 11:37 AM

              • Where was your outrage for the last couple of decades?

                Steve Gingold

                June 19, 2021 at 11:41 AM

                • I’ve always spoken out against treating people differently. If you mean why have I been adding some non-nature comments here for the past half-year or so, it’s because the current administration is illegally reintroducing different-treatment-according-to-race into every branch of the government.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  June 19, 2021 at 11:53 AM

                • And everything the last administration did was by the book. It appears more that you are upset because now white people might be the subject of discrimination. Just as with affirmative action. People of color have suffered inequality for a long time and while I agree that no one should be discriminated against, sometimes it happens as a result of a social correction. At any rate, I don’t see much between us that is going to get anywhere. You are not willing to make compromise so the world might be a better place if it inconveniences any segment of society and I see that as a needed action. If you think that there is no discrimination in our nation except for the folks teaching CRT then you are not looking at the big picture.

                  Steve Gingold

                  June 19, 2021 at 12:10 PM

                • It does seem our positions are irreconcilable. I can’t countenance illegal racial discrimination as merely an “inconvenience.” I don’t believe that two wrongs make a right.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  June 19, 2021 at 4:06 PM

                • Of course they don’t. But expecting society to benevolently correct itself without some sort of education is unrealistic. There is still much racism in the U.S. All you have to do, at your suffering, is read some of the horrid exchanges on social media regarding such things. Every black person (not always the words used) who gets shot by a police officer is considered deserving of death by some. Either a criminal or a gang banger or someone looking for trouble which of course is not always the case. There is still red lining happening despite laws to the contrary. You would likely never have the police called on you because of some dog walker’s paranoia or because you don’t look like you should be in a particular neighborhood…despite living there which does happen. Some people are still discriminated against because of their ethnic appearance. Most racism is learned at home. If teachers are not allowed to explain to students what racism is and how to change behavior some will never learn that. Here in Amherst, a bastion of liberality, some teachers and students of color have been treated badly by both other students and their parents. When a student is reprimanded for some sort of racist behavior the parents say their child couldn’t possibly have done such a thing and threatens to sue the school rather than talking to Junior about the situation. But, much racism is not understood. Someone thinks that by not using racial epithets they are not a racist yet their attitude toward others speaks differently. My neighbor who does not consider himself racist, told me what he considered a joke. “I had the property surveyed because we are selling our house for a good offer. To a black guy and his white wife and their bunch of kids”. Why is that description important or germane? He thought I would either be aghast at the possibility or took such a thing as funny and not racist. For most of the practitioners, CRT is not about blaming but about educating. Of course some will have an agenda and will eventually be disciplined or weeded out. But to deny that tool will cause much trouble to continue. Just as with the continued opposition to the ACA, which does need improvement but the parties should be working together to make it work better for everyone rather than try to throw it out without any suggested replacement. it would be to everyone’s benefit to look at CRT and work together to make it a better program that serves all. Anyway, that is how I feel about it.

                  I am sorry you are so solidly against such education. So we differ. We’ll always have photography.

                  Steve Gingold

                  June 19, 2021 at 4:31 PM

                • Thanks for taking the time to outline your position, which you did very well. I’m with you wholeheartedly on the importance of education, which is to be expected, given that I spent many years of my life as a teacher, starting in the Peace Corps in Honduras in 1967. It may surprise you to hear me say that there is systemic racism in this country, though many people seem unwilling to see it. I’m referring to the way that decade after decade the public school system fails in its responsibility to give black and Hispanic kids a good education. As I mentioned to Ms. Liz the other day, the majority of those kids are handed a high school diploma even though they can read and write in a very limited way, haven’t mastered even elementary school arithmetic, and know almost no history, geography, or science. The people in charge of education are guilty of what has been called the bigotry of low expectations. With the huge amount of money we spend on education in this country, there’s no excuse for such poor results. What a travesty!

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  June 19, 2021 at 5:07 PM

                • I am sure some of the shortcomings are out of ignorance or some other negative reason. But another factor could be poorly educated educators who have no idea how to handle the cultural differences and results of years of discrimination in education and housing. The amount of money this nation throws away on wasted projects could certainly be better spent educating the population in any number of arenas.

                  Steve Gingold

                  June 19, 2021 at 5:56 PM

  6. A day of celebration long overdue as a national remembrance and one step closer to “a dream” fulfilled.

    I like how you do these double blooms but would have a little difficulty identifying the blue curls. As a design though it is attractive.

    Steve Gingold

    June 19, 2021 at 10:39 AM

    • In this blog I normally think in terms of artistry and visual appeal rather than trying to be true to life. When I was commissioned to do a fold-up laminated guide to common wildflowers here a few years ago, naturally I went with pictures that would let people in the field identify the species:


      Steve Schwartzman

      June 19, 2021 at 10:51 AM

      • I always assumed that by “Portraits” you meant this is what an attractive wildflower looks like and any abstracts were other treatments. Of course an abstract can be a portrait but that is not the definition that comes to mind. At any rate, it is an interesting image. You often challenge what I have presented so I felt comfortable doing that here.

        Steve Gingold

        June 19, 2021 at 11:30 AM

        • Interesting: I wouldn’t have thought to divvy things up like that, but of course people interpret words in different ways. Over a decade ago, when I conceived a book to be called Portraits of Texas Wildflowers, I was thinking along the lines of treating each wildflower species as we would treat a person. I don’t think I had any particular style of portraiture in mind. As you know, beginning in the latter part of the19th century and accelerating in the early 20th century, some artists started making portraits that looked pretty different from their subjects.

          Steve Schwartzman

          June 19, 2021 at 11:47 AM

  7. Nice, kind of a 3-, 4-, or 5-fer. The green & white buds, blue blossoms, red & yellow background.

    Robert Parker

    June 19, 2021 at 10:49 AM

  8. That is a lovely image, love the juxtaposition of the flowers and their different colours. An excellent use of the bokeh.

    Otto von Münchow

    June 19, 2021 at 1:23 PM

    • Thanks. I’ve been juxtaposing different colors and shapes of flowers for a long time. It’s one of my most frequent techniques.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 19, 2021 at 3:54 PM

  9. The thing that stood out to me (after the composition as a whole) was the hirsute sepals (or tepals, haven’t checked a description of Phacelia congesta) in such sharp detail. Both as a whole and in the details, a sharp shot.


    June 19, 2021 at 1:51 PM

    • Your “sharp shot” reminded me of a stanza from Gilbert and Sullivan’s Mikado:

      To sit in solemn silence in a dull, dark dock,
      In a pestilential prison, with a lifelong lock,
      Awaiting the sensation of a short, sharp shock,
      From a cheap and chippy chopper on a big black block!

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 19, 2021 at 3:58 PM

  10. Oh such a wonderful combination! Gorgeous colours Steve ..


    June 19, 2021 at 3:03 PM

  11. Congratulations to you and Steve G for achieving something which is very rare in US (and elsewhere) public media spaces; a civil discussion with coherent expressions of two differing points of view on a “hot” topic. One of the very few US programmes I watch is the PBS Brooks and Capehart. The main reason I watch is because each side gets a turn to present a point of view. Sometimes B and C agree, sometimes they don’t. It was good to hear that Juneteenth has been declared a public holiday. Our newest public holiday is Matariki and it will be celebrated for the first time on 24 June 2022. It will be lovely to have a holiday which is uniquely NZ and in accordance with our seasons. https://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/2022-matariki-holiday-date-announced


    June 19, 2021 at 10:15 PM

    • This is the first I’ve heard about Matariki as a New Zealand holiday. We drive a Subaru, which is the Japanese name for the same constellation.

      For the first nine years of this blog I dealt almost entirely with nature photography, with occasional excursions into language (particularly etymology) and mathematics. About a year ago, as a segment of my country seemed to be going increasingly crazy, I began adding relevant quotations. In 2021, when things went from bad to worse here, I began editorializing more directly. With all too great an awareness of how other countries turned totalitarian—the 20th century is replete with them—I didn’t want future observers to number me among those who saw that happening yet didn’t speak out against it. I have only a tiny audience here, but it’s more than zero.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 19, 2021 at 10:37 PM

  12. Beautiful.

    Alessandra Chaves

    June 20, 2021 at 12:22 PM

  13. Beautiful colors!!


    June 20, 2021 at 8:26 PM

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