Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Shedding some light on the colorful limestone overhang

with 34 comments

Last week you heard about and saw two pictures of a limestone overhang in a hard-to-reach section of Great Hills Park. I mentioned that direct sunlight never reaches the overhang’s wall and ceiling. That said, the floor of the overhang is a creek bed; with enough water in it, and with the sun low enough in the sky, some rays of light bounce off the water and onto the ceiling of the overhang. Because the water’s surface isn’t perfectly still, the reflected light shimmers overhead, as you see in today’s picture from June 10th.


And here’s a clever quotation for today: “If somebody thinks I’m cherry-picking, show me the other part of the tree.” — Steven E. Koonin in a televised interview about his book Unsettled on May 25, 2021. Also unsettled is the question of why English speakers have picked cherry-pick rather than the alliterative peach-pick or plum-pick, or else apple-pick, lemon-pick, or some-other-fruit-pick. Maybe cherries got picked because they’re small, and therefore cherry-picking is like nit-picking. One thing’s for sure: cherries make for a much tastier pie than nits. And did you know that cherries was originally the singular of the word? We got it from Anglo-Norman cherise. But that sounded to the folks in merry old England like it was a plural, along the lines of berries and ferries, so they created a new singular, cherry. Linguists call that process back-formation, for which today’s picture of the geological formations at the back of the overhang is therefore appropriate. What fun to lead you from limestone to linguistic information and back again.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 26, 2021 at 4:32 AM

34 Responses

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  1. nice hills


    June 26, 2021 at 5:09 AM

    • We could say you’ve made a hill out of an overhang rather than a mountain out of a molehill.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 26, 2021 at 5:17 AM

  2. A glimpse into a different world. The British wouldn’t think first of peach-picking, because we don’t have a peach-growing climate. Cherries might have been more of a treat than apples or plums – cherry-picking meaning to select the best bits – or perhaps there is more of an art to selecting a sweet ripe cherry rather than a mouth-puckeringly sour one. Just guessing of course!


    June 26, 2021 at 5:19 AM

    • Yes, it is an otherly world (in other words, another way of saying another world). I was back there two days ago.

      The online Merriam-Webster Dictionary says the earliest known use of cherry-pick is from 1965. The dictionary doesn’t cite a source, so I don’t know if the term originated in the United States or the U.K. or another English-speaking country. I followed up on your suggestion and found that Wikipedia has an article on the subject:


      Steve Schwartzman

      June 26, 2021 at 5:44 AM

  3. Excellent! What I like about shots like these is that on the one hand they are abstracts; and on the other hand they speak to one’s imagination. This feels like a landscape to me, with water in the foreground and white clouds above the trees on the other shoreline.


    June 26, 2021 at 6:17 AM

    • Thanks for telling us how you saw this picture. You’re right that abstractions give free rein to our imagination. Having spent time in person at the overhang and therefore knowing what the shimmering on the ceiling was, I doubt I would ever have imagined it as clouds the way you were free to do. Similarly, my mind probably would never have extrapolated the confined space of the overhang into a landscape.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 26, 2021 at 7:33 AM

  4. Oh, you really made me laugh, but I hope I can get the idea of nit pie out of my head very soon!!

    Ann Mackay

    June 26, 2021 at 8:11 AM

  5. That was clever. And as usual I like the texture and pattern.

    Alessandra Chaves

    June 26, 2021 at 8:13 AM

  6. What a delightful post!! I am greatly enjoying it with my morning coffee–the beautiful picture and the interesting back information about cherise. Thank you for all you do!!


    June 26, 2021 at 8:34 AM

    • You’re welcome. Thanks for letting me know you appreciate these things. According to one website that I just found: “Records indicate that 936 girls in the United States have been named Cherise since 1880. The greatest number of people were given this name in 1971, when 151 people in the U.S. were given the name Cherise.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 26, 2021 at 9:26 AM

  7. It looks like a painting of green hills, with brown mountains behind it and the sky is overcast with clouds to me. I think it’s neat. I rarely see this kind of thing when I’m out photographing things. I’m more literal and less abstract I guess.


    June 26, 2021 at 9:05 AM

    • This picture prompted you and harrienijland (above) to similar visions. I take literal pictures, too, but I’ve long had a fondness for abstractions and unconventional views.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 26, 2021 at 9:29 AM

  8. A video clip would reveal the actual shimmering more vividly. But that would only be possible by the use of a link to youtube or similar video service.

    Peter Klopp

    June 26, 2021 at 9:17 AM

    • Actually I’d thought about doing a video clip of the shimmering, which I could then have linked to at a site like YouTube, as you said. I didn’t do it this time, but I may go back on a sunny morning.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 26, 2021 at 9:32 AM

  9. The light reflecting off the water is similar in theory to how scenes are illuminated in canyons with tall sandstone or other rock walls. One of the photographers I follow on YouTube, Ben Horne, discusses this in a few of his videos such as this one.

    I like the color between the bright illumination section and the golden water below.

    Steve Gingold

    June 26, 2021 at 3:47 PM

    • This picture is abstract enough that a viewer unfamiliar with this limestone overhang—which is presumably everybody but me—can’t really tell what’s what. The water that the sunlight was reflecting off isn’t visible in the photograph; it was to my left outside the frame. The strip across the bottom third of the picture, which looks like a creek, is actually the lower portion of the concave limestone wall of the overhang. The line across the top of that lower strip seems to indicate that water once flowed at that level, so your impression of seeing golden water would be accurate if you could get in a time machine and go back far enough.

      Thanks for the link to Ben Horne.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 26, 2021 at 4:17 PM

      • It’s a good abstract that can be open to different interpretations. Ben is a film photographer who does long hikes in our various southwestern national parks and monuments for his work.

        Steve Gingold

        June 26, 2021 at 4:28 PM

  10. This is the cherry on top of your abstract photos. It may be my favorite, ever. I’d love to see it enlarged to a size as big as could be made. In fact, I’d like to see it replicated as a painting, big enough to fill an entire gallery wall. I have no idea what makes it so exciting — color, or form, or the lively flow — but it’s just terrific. The bands of color bring Rothko to mind, but the swirls are all Van Gogh. The golden highlights? Gustav Klimt, maybe. Nature’s quite an artist!


    June 26, 2021 at 9:04 PM

    • Is that enthusiasm I detect? I believe it is. If I’d also given an etymology for whipped cream, I suspect the cherry you offered would be floating atop an abstract mound of it (and shouldn’t mound be the past tense of mind, as found is of find?). How gratifying for me to have come up with a new favorite abstraction for you. I’m pretty fond of it, too, though I hadn’t extrapolated it into a large painting. Now you’ve made me wonder what an actual painter who visited the overhang would come up with. Maybe it’ll happen someday.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 26, 2021 at 9:21 PM

  11. Linda’s comment describes the image beautifully. The quote on cherry picking is a good one. I didn’t have time to watch the entire interview but the expression cherry picking reminded me of the cherry picking debate in the NZ media last year. NZ’s lockdown from the outside world meant a serious shortage of seasonal workers for the cherry harvest. Seasonal workers are often short term visitors from outside NZ. All sides in the debate seemed to be indulging in cherry picking arguments in an attempt to solve the actual cherry picking crisis. I am not sure how matters were solved but, in the end, we had the usual cherries at Christmas time and they seemed neither less expensive nor more expensive than previous years. Other fruit orchardists, reliant on seasonal workers, have had more time to prepare for their fruit picking seasons. Some, like the kiwifruit industry, have responded well to the challenge of enticing more NZers to work in the industry. One of the most interesting things I discovered about cherry picking in particular and fruit picking in general is that it is actually highly skilled work. That put an end to my fleeting thought of offering my labour to the fruit picking industry! I may be cherry-picking with this link but I think it gives a good explanation of cherry picking but, alas, there is no explanation of why we use cherries rather than grapes. https://effectiviology.com/cherry-picking/ Does that make grapes feel like ‘sour ‘ about being excluded?


    June 27, 2021 at 12:06 AM

    • You’ve found plenty of food for thought. So fruitful was this post for you that your comment is the longest one I remember you ever leaving. I’d never thought about the problem the pandemic would cause in your island nation: a shortage of seasonal workers coming from other countries. I’m not surprised to hear that “All sides in the debate seemed to be indulging in cherry picking arguments in an attempt to solve the actual cherry picking crisis.” Like you, I didn’t know the level of skill needed to pick cherries.

      Your linked article says cherry picking “is often used by the media, particularly in the case of less reputable media bodies, when they present only one side of a story, or give it disproportional coverage while ignoring facts that could support alternative viewpoints.” That’s rampant in the American “news” media, as the events of 2020 made all too clear. Almost all their shows have devolved into opinion pieces. With a whole world of people and events to pick from, why can’t we have news shows that really cover news rather than cherry-picked coverage to support an ideology?

      The failure of the media to cover stories wasn’t just laziness. In some cases it was outright censorship of highly qualified people who had important facts to present. A free society can’t continue that way, which is why I’ve begun speaking out here.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 27, 2021 at 7:31 AM

      • Ah, yes, my comment was long for me. I may well have used up my year’s supply of commenting energy in one go.


        June 28, 2021 at 4:19 AM

  12. I like both your image and your circular information paragraph at the end. I think I did know that about cherise once, or maybe another similar word that was wrongly considered plural. Language is fascinating and constantly evolving.

    • You’ve seen in a bunch of my posts that I love language enough to sneak in as many observations about it as I do in a blog ostensibly devoted to nature photography. Amen to your assertion that “language is fascinating and constantly evolving.” When it comes to going in circles, some would say I’ve been doing it all my life.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 27, 2021 at 7:38 AM

  13. I, too, would rather cherry than nit-pick. Linguistics is so much fun, isn’t it?!


    June 28, 2021 at 9:12 AM

    • It sure is. You’re probably aware that the German word for cherry, Kirsch, also traces back to the Vulgar Latin word for cherry, *ceresia.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 28, 2021 at 11:24 AM

  14. That is a very beautiful composition, Steve! I also enjoy the educational sections at the end of the post. You are the sort of person I would have enjoyed following around as a child, asking questions, and getting informative answers.

    Lavinia Ross

    July 2, 2021 at 9:09 AM

    • That limestone overhang is a great place. I’m actually glad more people don’t know about it. Some other natural places in Austin have had graffiti put on them.

      I’ve long wanted schools to teach more about language in general and the origins of words in particular, which elucidate so many things.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 2, 2021 at 12:50 PM

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