Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Tawny emperor

with 53 comments

On July 23rd I noticed what I take to be a tawny emperor, Asterocampa clyton, on an aluminum railing near the entrance to Great Hills Park. I’d been doing botanical closeups in the park and still had a ring flash at the end of my macro lens, so I was able to get good depth of field in the pictures I took of the butterfly.

The other day I used the second picture to play around with some of the effects in Topaz Studio 2, which I downloaded a 30-day free trial of. Click the thumbnail below if you’d like to see the result of applying “Brilliant on White.”

◊     ◊

When I got home from taking pictures that morning, Eve was watching a television program in which the host was interviewing two women who had opposite political perspectives. I walked in just at the moment when the woman representing the Democratic Party claimed that a bill that had passed the Texas Senate, S.B. 3, would prevent teachers in Texas public schools from teaching about the Ku Klux Klan. I’d heard that false claim before. The reason I knew it was false, aside from the blatant implausibility that Texas schools would suddenly forbid the teaching of important episodes in American history that they’d already been teaching for decades, was that the first time I heard the claim I did what I normally do: I looked for evidence to support or refute it. In this case, the obvious source to check was S.B. 3. You’re welcome to read it for yourself, and if you see a clause that would forbid teaching about the Ku Klux Klan, please point it out to us.

You may recall that in a post last week I mentioned a television interview program decades ago that made a big impression on me because a guest persisted in repeating a claim about a federal bill even after the moderator had read viewers the relevant section of the bill that proved the activist’s claim false. In the July 23rd interview I wished the host had asked the activist making the claim to cite the provision in S.B. 3 that would prove her assertion.

I intended to include a link to information about the Ku Klux Klan for any readers from outside the United States who might not know about that terrorist organization (which ironically was founded and sustained over the course of a century by members and supporters of the Democratic Party). I thought the article in the Encyclopedia Britannica might serve, and then I noticed a mistake:

The 19th-century Klan was originally organized as a social club by Confederate veterans in Pulaski, Tennessee, in 1866. They apparently derived the name from the Greek word kyklos, from which comes the English “circle”; “Klan” was added for the sake of alliteration and Ku Klux Klan emerged.

Actually Greek kyklos has given English the word cycle. Our similar-sounding word circle comes from a diminutive of Latin circus, which the Romans had borrowed from the etymologically unrelated Greek noun kirkos. Several days ago I sent an e-mail to the Encyclopedia Britannica pointing out the mistake. So far I haven’t gotten a reply and the mistake is still there.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 29, 2021 at 4:34 AM

53 Responses

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  1. What a striking butterfly. I don’t remember seeing one, but apparently they’re quite common across much of Texas. As pretty as butterfly colors and wing patterns can be, I always get a kick out of their antennae, with their stripes and color variations. Your Topaz variation is interesting, but not nearly so pleasing to me.

    I’ve been sitting on a post about the Klan for several years. As you rightly point out, it had close ties to the Democratic party, and many people don’t realize it concerned itself with far more than race. In south-central Iowa in the 1920s, Catholicism was one of the Klan’s target groups, and my own grandmother had an encounter with them: the effects of which indirectly affected my own life. I didn’t know the story until my dad filled in the details when I was an adult, but my still-living aunt was a witness to one of their cross burnings. Once this heat breaks and I get some energy back, I need to write that one up.


    July 29, 2021 at 6:31 AM

    • When I think of the Klan, Iowa doesn’t readily come to mind, though I was aware that the organization had many branches outside the old Confederacy. As I recall, the Klan was anti-Jewish as well as well as anti-Catholic. I agree that you do need to write up your grandmother’s encounter with the Klan.

      As for the tawny emperor, this is only the second time I’ve shown one here. The other, more faded than the present one, appeared in 2015:

      What the mockingbird knew

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 29, 2021 at 11:25 AM

  2. The butterfly came out really well. Some presets from Topaz are nice. If you use Photoshop, try creating a second layer with the same image to apply the preset over, then play with the opacity of that layer to see how you like the results. I find some presets to be too strong and this is a simple way to control the intensity of it.

    Alessandra Chaves

    July 29, 2021 at 8:18 AM

    • I was pleased with these two pictures, which let me show both the dorsal and ventral sides of the wings. When I approached from the direction of the butterfly’s head, it flew away.

      My brief experiment with Topaz Studio 2 was with the standalone version. I didn’t try using it as a Photoshop plug-in. Supposedly the standalone app also allows for multiple layers, though I haven’t yet taken advantage of that to play around with the opacity as you suggested.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 29, 2021 at 11:36 AM

  3. The Emperor in his tawny attire is very handsome. Of the many things that people probably don’t realize about the Klan is that it had an ‘offshoot’ (or admirers) in Fiji in 1872. The linked article is a little difficult to read. It is only one of many articles on the escapades of this KKK society in Fiji. https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-324690885/view?sectionId=nla.obj-334044568&partId=nla.obj-324703511#page/n88/mode/1up


    July 29, 2021 at 9:29 AM

    • I’m glad you provided that link. As you surmised, I (along with presumably almost all other Americans) had no idea that the Ku Klux Klan spread outside the United States, especially to as distant a place as Fiji. I’m relieved that the British authorities quelled the Fijian offshoot.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 29, 2021 at 11:13 AM

    • Now here’s a coincidence. I recently subscribed to BBC History Magazine. The first issue arrived a few days ago and I’ve gradually been working my way through it. Today I got to p. 37 and was surprised to find a seven-page article entitled “The first (and last) king of Fiji,” i.e. Cakobau, whom I’d never heard of till I followed your link two days ago. The article says the name was pronounced Thakombau, which surprised me because I didn’t think any Polynesian languages have a th sound. According to a Wikipedia article, Fijian does, and it’s the voiced th of then, not the voiceless th of thin.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 31, 2021 at 3:29 PM

      • Did the Wiki article explain why th is represented by c? That is a great story in itself. I am impressed that the BBC History Magazine devoted 7 pages to Fiji. I assume the article explained how Fiji nearly came under American ownership/subjugation. Here is another article which you may have seen on my Facebook page. http://commonplace.online/article/one-mans-skull/ These sorts of stories of the past adventures of the great powers perhaps explain why some of us worry about China’s activities in the Pacific, but don’t get hyper-concerned. It’s more a weary ‘been there done that’ or ‘here we go again’. The Pacific has rarely lived up to its name.


        July 31, 2021 at 9:22 PM

        • Unfortunately the Wikipedia article didn’t explain why c got chosen to represent that sound. Can you point me to an explanation? Perhaps because BBC History Magazine is British, the story about Cakobau dealt with British-Fijian relations and didn’t discuss American connections. The Pacific Ocean was named for a place and time when its waters happened to be calm, but you’re right to extend the name’s scope ironically to human relations in that vast realm. The “here we go again” that you mentioned is, I’m afraid, an unavoidable consequence of human nature itself. The BBC History article made clear that long before the British arrived in Fiji, the native tribes had been warring with one another and even eating their slain enemies.

          Steve Schwartzman

          July 31, 2021 at 11:19 PM

  4. Growing up in Brazil I learned about the KKK too. It seemed surreal, the hats, burning of churches. We were required to watch the movie “Mississippi Burning.” I think I was in middle school. I had nightmares for weeks.

    Alessandra Chaves

    July 29, 2021 at 10:54 AM

    • It surprises me to hear that you learned about the KKK in Brazil. I understand how that oppressive group, with its ridiculous attire, could give you nightmares. Sorry.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 29, 2021 at 11:39 AM

      • No need do be sorry. You are not responsible for any of it. The movie I think wasn’t age-appropriate, but our teacher was very passionate about history and maybe the teacher didn’t realize that. We also learned about the civil war… It was part of our world history requirement. Brazilians learn Brazilian history every other year and world history every other year from elementary to high school.

        Alessandra Chaves

        July 29, 2021 at 12:02 PM

        • I have to envy what you say about your Brazilian system (assuming it still holds). Cynical me will say that American students learn little about our own history every other year, and little about the rest of the world in the alternating years.

          Steve Schwartzman

          July 29, 2021 at 12:50 PM

          • Anymore, I don’t know what the kids learn in school there. Brazil follows the European system of education, whereas students learn all they need to learn for their basic education in school and when they go to college they only learn what pertains to their profession. In America, one’s education is supposed to be completed upon completion of college. My son learned very little history in the USA schools, but when he finished his liberal arts degree, he had learned a whole lot more. We don’t have liberal arts degrees in Brazil; there you only go to college to learn a profession.

            Alessandra Chaves

            July 29, 2021 at 1:32 PM

            • I’m afraid the influence of the United States is so great that it may have caused the Brazilian school system to weaken in the decades since you were in school. In any case, I’m glad your son learned enough history in college to compensate for what he didn’t learn in lower grades.

              Steve Schwartzman

              July 29, 2021 at 2:45 PM

        • That sounds like a very sensible approach to teaching and learning history. Decades ago, in New Zealand, I did world history in my third year at high school. In my 4th and 5th years I did English history. Our world history teacher was superb.


          July 29, 2021 at 11:31 PM

          • What a joy to have had a superb world history teacher. Did you ever have any contact later, and do you know if that teacher is still alive?

            Steve Schwartzman

            July 30, 2021 at 6:49 AM

            • Sadly we didn’t have any contact after I left school. I think she passed away some years ago.


              July 30, 2021 at 7:32 AM

              • Ah, too bad. Just yesterday I was thinking that young people should be encouraged to ask old people more questions, before all their stored knowledge and experience disappears.

                Steve Schwartzman

                July 30, 2021 at 7:38 AM

                • Ha! Some young people better start asking me some questions before I get too old to remember!


                  July 30, 2021 at 8:17 AM

                • You can make a sign saying “Young people, ask me questions,” and hold it up as you walk in your neighborhood. I’ll bet some young folks will take you up on it.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  July 30, 2021 at 12:54 PM

                • I could probably also find out a lot of interesting things by asking young people questions.


                  July 31, 2021 at 6:13 AM

                • I’m sure you could, but I’m afraid it wouldn’t all be gratifying. For example, I’ve been troubled by recent polls reporting that young Americans are less and less likely than previous generations to support free speech. From what I can tell, it’s often the young employees at companies who are the most “woke” and the most intolerant of people who don’t think the way they do.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  July 31, 2021 at 6:20 AM

                • I don’t know what would be the case here. I am so out of touch with young ones.


                  July 31, 2021 at 9:24 PM

                • I hope your country can avoid the growing intolerance we’re experiencing here.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  July 31, 2021 at 11:22 PM

                • There is always intolerance but we are doing our best to grow out of it.


                  August 1, 2021 at 1:04 AM

          • I think kids in the USA don’t learn enough world history. From watching my son go to school here I concluded this.

            Alessandra Chaves

            July 31, 2021 at 6:00 PM

            • You’re correct. But kids here on average also don’t learn enough about American history, language, science, geography, civics, mathematics, logic, or any other real subject. The schools spend too much time on frivolous things and not enough on things that matter.

              Steve Schwartzman

              July 31, 2021 at 6:29 PM

          • It is interesting that a great portion of the homeless population in the Sacramento area is composed of older white males. Many are veterans of wars that left them with mental illness. I don’t see the privilege in the situation of many white males. A friend who is in forensics told me that most people who die alone in their homes and it takes weeks for anyone to notice that they are missing and take action, are older white men. Many, according to him, commit suicide, directly or indirectly. He himself is an older white male making these observations.

            Alessandra Chaves

            July 31, 2021 at 6:39 PM

            • Those are interesting observations indeed. Of the people that I see at street corners in Austin asking for money, there’s definitely a share of older men. Some carry signs saying they’re veterans. And of course it’s been true for a long time that men on average die years earlier than women.

              Steve Schwartzman

              July 31, 2021 at 8:51 PM

              • I think men face different challenges than women, and that we should never assume that someone is privileged because he is a man. There are some advantages to being a male, biologically and sociologically speaking, as there are advantages to being a woman. However, I don’t think that it’s necessarily extremely advantageous to be a man in this society. I have a son, and I worry about the challenges he has to face as a man. And I am sorry that some of them are angry men and women who assume that he is privileged without knowing anything about him.

                Alessandra Chaves

                July 31, 2021 at 9:21 PM

                • Note that my reply was to another thread where we were talking about male privilege. I clicked on the wrong thread.

                  Alessandra Chaves

                  July 31, 2021 at 9:22 PM

                • One hope I’ve had is that when sons of far leftist parents get treated unfairly, those parents may come to their senses. I hope far left parents aren’t so fanatic that they’ll sacrifice their own sons for the sake of their own ideology—but I’m afraid some of them will.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  July 31, 2021 at 10:55 PM

  5. Wonderful portraits!


    July 29, 2021 at 11:02 AM

  6. Both Butterfly images are beautiful!


    July 29, 2021 at 2:15 PM

    • It had been a while since I got the chance for good butterfly pictures. This was a welcome encounter.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 29, 2021 at 3:06 PM

  7. I enjoyed the butterfly photos, Steve, thank you.

    Jet Eliot

    July 29, 2021 at 2:34 PM

    • You’re welcome, Jet. It had been a while since I got the chance for good butterfly pictures, so this was a welcome encounter with an obliging subject.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 29, 2021 at 3:07 PM

  8. Beautifully detailed images! I wish butterflies were a bit more inclined to pose for their photograph – my reflexes aren’t fast enough to cope with them. So often they fly past in the garden and I’m not quick enough to identify what they are. (Though sometimes they’ll come and sit on me for a moment, which must be down to the colours of my T-shirts. Nice! 🙂 )

    Ann Mackay

    July 30, 2021 at 5:42 AM

    • One advantage of putting myself out in nature so often is that I increase the chances of getting a cooperative subject like this one. As you noted, many butterflies aren’t inclined to hang around to have their portrait made. Like you, I’ve occasionally had one land on me, and on rare occasions even been able to get a picture of it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 30, 2021 at 7:09 AM

      • I think they like my flower-coloured clothes…I find myself apologising for the lack of nectar!

        Ann Mackay

        July 30, 2021 at 11:25 AM

        • Then maybe you should be a sweetie and douse your flower-colored clothes with nectar.

          Steve Schwartzman

          July 30, 2021 at 3:10 PM

          • And maybe get chased by wasps…? That would be too sweet for me, hehe!

            Ann Mackay

            July 30, 2021 at 6:48 PM

  9. Beautiful butterfly with amazing detail!


    July 30, 2021 at 8:53 PM

  10. Nice captures of the butterfly.

    Steve Gingold

    August 1, 2021 at 1:57 AM

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