Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

It wasn’t Ezekiel who saw this wheel way up in the middle of the air

with 48 comments

Like the silverleaf nightshade you saw a picture of the other day, this firewheel (Gaillardia pulchella) was also growing along the Capital of Texas Highway on June 14th. As in that other photograph, because I used my ring flash and a small aperture (this time f/18), the bright sky came out in an unnatural way, but one I find pleasant. You can decide whether the tiny spider is a pleasant addition.

The title of today’s post is a reference to an African-American spiritual based on the Book of Ezekiel in the Jewish Bible.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 8, 2021 at 4:21 AM

48 Responses

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  1. Lovly colors!


    July 8, 2021 at 4:24 AM

  2. Striking image!

    Steve Gingold

    July 8, 2021 at 4:28 AM

    • I didn’t know how you’d react to the not-true-to-life sky color. Glad you like it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 8, 2021 at 5:38 AM

      • I’ve learned not to jump to conclusions about sky blues in non-New England locations as the hues can be quite different geographically. Whether by true to life you mean you altered it I can’t tell but the color contrast is attractive.

        Steve Gingold

        July 8, 2021 at 6:03 AM

        • By not-true-to-life I meant mostly that the sky came out darker in the photograph than I saw it in real life, due to the tiny aperture I used in conjunction with the ring flash set to full power. I tried various setting of the sliders in Adobe Camera Raw, none of which gave me a sky like the one a person standing there at the time would have seen. Now that I think about it, the darker sky reminds me of what I used to like about the black and white infrared I worked with for years. The red or deep red filters I used rendered clear blue skies completely black.

          Steve Schwartzman

          July 8, 2021 at 6:35 AM

          • Well, Saint Ansel said that no one standing next to him in the field would recognize an image after he was done with it in the darkroom so no problem.

            Steve Gingold

            July 8, 2021 at 8:15 AM

  3. The flower, and the performance of the choir, are both very uplifting! Beautiful.

    Ms. Liz

    July 8, 2021 at 5:13 AM

    • Thanks. Firewheels are among central Texas’s most frequent wildflowers in the late spring. Almost all of them have gone to seed now.

      I have trouble catching the words in complex choral singing. Here’s one version of the lyrics (there are others):

      That Wikipedia article says William L. Dawson wrote the song, but a banner across the top of the page points out that the article doesn’t cite any sources. Some other websites say the song is traditional, meaning the composer remains unknown. I’m wondering if Dawson composed an arrangement of a traditional spiritual. Maybe a musicologist can investigate and find out the truth.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 8, 2021 at 5:56 AM

      • Oh, thanks Steve! I was hoping to find the words because I couldn’t catch them either and you’ve saved me having to look. Cheers.

        Ms. Liz

        July 8, 2021 at 6:03 AM

        • You’re welcome. Some posted videos (but not this one) have subtitles so people can follow along with the words.

          Steve Schwartzman

          July 8, 2021 at 6:37 AM

  4. Lovely. And the spider is a pleasant addition, as is the tiny thread at the top of the flower. Your video of the African American spiritual reminded me that it was the Fisk Jubilee Singers’ world tour which led to Wellington having its first African American mayor. You may have seen this story on my Facebook page sometime last year.https://www.wcl.govt.nz/heritage/robertbradfordwilliams.html


    July 8, 2021 at 5:25 AM

    • At the time of taking a photograph I’m sometimes so caught up in working for a good image that I miss small details. So it was with the spider, which I saw only when processing the picture at home later on. At least I’d noticed the spider silk at the top, which is harder to miss.

      I’m not an assiduous Facebooker, so another thing I’d missed was your story last year about the Onslow mayor. What a life Robert Bradford Williams had! It must have a special resonance for you. Thanks for linking to that article about him. (The article mentions Taranaki Street, which I remember we parked on during our first NZ visit.)

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 8, 2021 at 6:25 AM

      • That is a detail well-remembered after so many years. I am impressed.


        July 8, 2021 at 6:44 AM

        • I remember that we parked on the east (southbound) side of the street and walked several blocks north and east to an area with lots of restaurants. I seem to recall we weren’t thrilled with the one we ended up eating in.

          Steve Schwartzman

          July 8, 2021 at 7:05 AM

  5. It’s a fun coincidence that the sepals and ray flowers of the firewheel form a variantion on the ‘wheel within a wheel’ that the Biblical book and the song memorialize. I noticed that in your link you mentioned the Jewish Bible. One of my favorite professors once spent an hour mesmerizing us with a lecture on why the same collection of writings goes by three different names: Old Testament, Hebrew Bible, or Jewish Bible. Why each of those ‘bibles’ contains a different number of books, categorizing them differently, took three hours.

    I enjoyed the ‘behind the music’ post particularly. It reminded me that Peter, Paul, and Mary made use of the “who’s that yonder dressed in red (white, black)” in one of their songs.


    July 8, 2021 at 7:35 AM

    • You know a lot more about things biblical than I ever will. I didn’t know there’s a difference between the Jewish Bible and the Hebrew Bible. And if you go far enough back, there’s variation in what was included.

      How well I remember that Peter, Paul, and Mary song from more than 50 years ago. Hard to believe Mary Travers has been dead almost 12 years already. I see she was 72, which is older than I remembered her age was when she died—maybe because I think of her as she was in ’60s.

      You probably won’t relate to this, but when I hear “a wheel within a wheel” I think of hypocycloids:

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 8, 2021 at 8:17 AM

      • Actually, it took me about three seconds of looking at that animated illustration on the page to think, “Spirograph!” Sure enough, way down at the bottom of the article, there’s a ‘related link’ to Spirograph.


        July 8, 2021 at 8:31 AM

  6. Nice shot of the underside of the Gaillardia, and as often the case, looking up. The reference to the book of Ezekial came up blank on my iPad, but I have read the passages about the firewheel before. There’s also a link to Dawson’s Negro Folk Symphony in Wikipedia. It was premiered in 1932 by Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra and revised in 1952 to include West African rhythms. Not sure which version is on YouTube, yet. Mining traditional folk music for classical music has a long tradition. I’m sure Dawson did more than simply arrange the tunes. And I love the itsy bitsy spider on the bottom of the firewheel. And the blue sky. Well done, maestro!


    July 8, 2021 at 7:37 AM

    • Yes, I noted that reference to Dawson’s Negro Folk Symphony in the Wikipedia article. I’m not sure, but I have a feeling I caught part of it on a classical radio station within the past year (either KMFA locally or the classical music channel on satellite radio in our Subaru).

      This was another picture where I needed to get as low as possible to look up at my subject. Some firewheels, like this one, obligingly grow taller than others. I also sometimes luck out and find a flower growing on an embankment, which makes getting a shot from below easier.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 8, 2021 at 8:25 AM

  7. Our pseudoscientists would see in this fiery appearance a spacecraft from outer space. To make it more believable they would remove the stem. Oh yeah, the spider would be the extraterrestrial attempting to bring peace and harmony to the planet Earth.

    Peter Klopp

    July 8, 2021 at 8:59 AM

    • You’ve got a good imagination this morning. All that’s missing is Bigfoot. I guess the extraterrestrials abducted him.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 8, 2021 at 9:56 AM

  8. My first reaction to the image was how you were positioned (on your back?) to get the shot, and of course I was delighted about the spider! And donchaknow, Sasquatch lives in Southeastern Oklahoma. A lot of Okies in that region have seen him! Ha ha!


    July 8, 2021 at 11:44 AM

    • The parking lot where I pulled over was lower than the roadway. As a result, the right-of-way with the wildflowers on it had its side that faced the parking lot held in place by a low wall that I could walk right up to. I just don’t remember if the firewheel was near that wall; if so, I would’ve had a big advantage in getting below the flower head. Or I may have lain on my mat, as you suggested, and as I often do when there’s no other way to get below a subject.

      I mentioned Bigfoot in my reply to Peter but forgot to include your Sasquatch. When you get tired of raising baby deer you can switch to baby Sasquatches.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 8, 2021 at 12:33 PM

  9. It’s just as lovely from the backside and that sky is wonderful!


    July 8, 2021 at 2:31 PM

    • That’s good to hear. I often shoot flower heads from behind. I think Joni Mitchell wrote a song about both sides now.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 8, 2021 at 4:26 PM

    • It just occurred to me that this is one time you can use lovely and backside in the same sentence and not have people begin to wonder what you were thinking about.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 8, 2021 at 4:30 PM

  10. Very nice, and always fun to have a stray spider in the shot!

    Ellen Jennings

    July 8, 2021 at 2:48 PM

  11. Excellent image, Steve, with its vibrant colors. Now I am humming the song. 🙂

    Jane Lurie

    July 8, 2021 at 5:04 PM

  12. I could be wrong, but it looks as though the itsy-bitsy spider is yellow. An instance of mimicry?


    July 8, 2021 at 6:01 PM

    • It is a sort of tan/yellow, which I believe is its permanent color. Perhaps it does seek out yellow to stay on, and the spider silk at the top connects yellow parts of the flowers.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 8, 2021 at 9:48 PM

  13. Wonderful !


    July 9, 2021 at 1:54 AM

  14. Lovely bold image! I like the way the strong shape of the flower works with the rich colours.

    Ann Mackay

    July 9, 2021 at 6:12 AM

    • And I like your description of this image as bold, and of the firewheel’s shape as strong, and of its colors as rich. Two other vernacular names for this species are Indian blanket and blanketflower, which are references to the colorful weavings of some American Indians in the southwestern United States.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 9, 2021 at 7:19 AM

  15. I like the exuberant feeling this one conveys. Nice angle!


    July 16, 2021 at 11:33 AM

  16. Wonderful image … the colours are delightful!


    July 16, 2021 at 4:00 PM

    • Hi, Julie. These flowers have gone to seed now but a few new ones are popping up past the peak of the season.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 16, 2021 at 4:20 PM

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