Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Different horsemint portraits

with 37 comments

In contrast to last time’s sharp portrait at f/18, the pictures in today’s post represent a limited-focus approach (f/2.8 and f/3.2) to photographing a horsemint, Monarda citriodora. The yellow behind the subject came from a Mexican hat, Ratibida columnifera. To show how much an image depends on the way it gets processed, compare the portrait below, which I took about a minute later than the first one, and which I processed with a darker tonality. Remember that neither view accords with that you’d have seen with your eyes and brain if you’d been there in person.

These pictures date from June 2nd at the Junior League of Austin,
which was looking good but not as fabulously floriferous as in the spring of 2020.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 10, 2021 at 4:36 AM

37 Responses

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  1. I think I like the second image best, having a nice pop of purple that leaves me lingering a bit longer.


    July 10, 2021 at 5:29 AM

  2. I love the hazy look


    July 10, 2021 at 6:16 AM

  3. Stunning. I think it’s time for me to attach the MD Rokkor-X 50mm f/1.7 and experiment a little,

    Khürt Williams

    July 10, 2021 at 7:13 AM

  4. I like the almost watercolour feel of the top image but the deeper colours of the second one are beautifully rich. Seems like I may be a deep-colour kinda person – but not a rich one, sadly! 🙂

    Ann Mackay

    July 10, 2021 at 7:43 AM

    • I hadn’t thought about watercolors but I see what you mean. The second image certainly ups the richness of the purple. Speaking of riches, it’s fortunate there’s a wealth other than money. My familial inheritance was primarily cultural and intellectual.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 10, 2021 at 7:54 AM

      • Wealth is whatever you value – so it can be anything. (So I may not be rich but I am wealthy! 🙂 )

        Ann Mackay

        July 10, 2021 at 9:31 AM

  5. Always nice to think of horses with fresh, minty breath. And these are Junior Mints! Just in time for the re-opening of the movie theaters. I like these soft focus shots, the darker 2nd in particular.

    Robert Parker

    July 10, 2021 at 7:45 AM

    • Leave it to you to gallop over to images of horses with fresh, minty breath and to put yourself in league with Junior Mints.

      I’ve read in old sources that Texans took to calling these flowers horsemints because the scent reminded them of wet horses. I’ve never checked out any wet horses to see if the comparison holds up. If you ever come here in the late spring, we’ll put you to work on that project.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 10, 2021 at 8:00 AM

  6. Ohhh, I love that shallow depth of field and those fuzzy bits on the edges of the petals. Lovely!!


    July 10, 2021 at 10:27 AM

  7. Steve:

    Great compositions! The color palette is excellent with great balance of hue, tone, and saturations. The soft pastels are great! Some of my favorite colors.

    George Dawson

    July 10, 2021 at 12:52 PM

    • Hi, George. Sorry to have missed you the other night. I’m glad you like these limited-focus pastel compositions. From what you say, maybe these pictures belong on HueTube.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 10, 2021 at 1:01 PM

  8. I like both but prefer the second. I like the angle allowing us to see a bit of the center and the balance of form and color a bit better. Each is nicely creative.

    Steve Gingold

    July 10, 2021 at 3:18 PM

    • You’re right about the higher angling of the second, which also has the advantage of getting in focus the tip of that long, slender element near the top.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 10, 2021 at 4:40 PM

  9. This is one that Eliza Griffin Johnston included in her watercolors of native Texas wildflowers. She called it Purple Horsemint, or Lemon-Scented Horsemint, and noted it “Is found in great profusion on rich soil, blooms from May through the summer and part of the fall.”

    I smiled at your comment that neither our eyes nor our brains would have seen the flowers exactly as you’ve portrayed them here. I take your point, but there are some images that bring back the way I was seeing the world before my cataract surgery, and that first photo certainly did. Still, I prefer the somewhat ethereal colors of the first, even though I like the composition of the second more. The stem (or whatever) on the left side of the first photo feels obtrusive to me.


    July 10, 2021 at 5:27 PM

    • Not only wouldn’t our eyes or our brains have seen the flowers exactly as portrayed here, it wouldn’t have been anywhere close to it. Our eyes keep refocusing automatically, so we think all parts of an object are always in focus. On the other hand, as you say, cataracts cast the subject in a different light.

      I also find the stalk on the left side of the first image somewhat intrusive. If I were willing to spend the time I could probably make it disappear in Photoshop. I could’ve avoided that, and maybe should’ve, by showing two versions of the second picture

      I searched online for Eliza Griffin Johnston’s watercolor of a horsemint but didn’t find it. As was true when you recently mentioned her, I found pictures of her book’s cover showing Turk’s cap (which happens to be blooming in our yard now).

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 10, 2021 at 6:51 PM

      • Here you go, fresh from the scanner. I couldn’t resist and bought the book.


        July 10, 2021 at 7:10 PM

        • Thanks for your scan. I had a feeling you might’ve bought the book. That’s a horsemint, all right. I think I’ve seen as many as six tiers on a stalk.

          Steve Schwartzman

          July 10, 2021 at 7:17 PM

          • I remember when you posted this plant some years ago and Jim Ruebush asked how many tiers could form. I think you mentioned six then, and I’ve been looking for six ever since, but the best I’ve done is five.


            July 10, 2021 at 7:22 PM

            • You have a good memory. Six certainly isn’t common. Now you’ve made me wonder whether a stalk has ever had seven tiers.

              Steve Schwartzman

              July 10, 2021 at 7:34 PM

  10. These photos are works of art!


    July 10, 2021 at 5:49 PM

  11. Impressionistic photography par excellence!

    Peter Klopp

    July 10, 2021 at 7:19 PM

  12. I love the shallow DOF!!


    July 12, 2021 at 8:05 PM

  13. Beautiful images Steve .. A favourite of the bees. I used to grow it, but haven’t in years.


    July 17, 2021 at 3:56 PM

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