Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Light and shadow, and light

with 30 comments

Central Texas is home to several species of Sesbania, including the Sesbania vesicaria that botanists have now reclassified as Glottidium vesicarium, known as bladderpod sesbania or bagpod sesbania for the shape of its pods. In Bastrop State Park on September 23rd I played with the light and shadows on some of the many pods in evidence there that morning. I also took advantage of bright sunlight to portray a gray hairstreak butterfly (Strymon melinus) on the flowers of what I take to be tall bush clover (Lespedeza stuevei), a species I’d never photographed before and that is therefore making its debut here today.

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Here’s more from Xi Van Fleet, a woman who escaped from the depredations of Mao’s [Anti-]Cultural Revolution and who sees worrisome parallels in the increasing repression and censorship in the United States. (I have a personal connection to such stories because my father and his parents and brother managed to escape from the terror of the Soviet Union in the 1920s.)

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 19, 2021 at 4:26 AM

30 Responses

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  1. these are so beautifully done


    October 19, 2021 at 4:51 AM

  2. I’m still looking at that Sesbania photo. At first, I thought you’d captured a tiny anole or gecko lurking on it. Then, I decided it was the shadow of a lizard. Then I considered a backlit lizard. Now, I almost can see it as the shadow of the plant’s stem, but in a flash it becomes a lizard again.

    I haven’t photographed a huge number of hairstreaks, but many of my photos show them with their antennae lowered while they’re nectaring. I wonder if it’s coincidence, or if that’s a typical pose. In any event, getting the proboscis almost perfectly centered between the antennae makes for an appealing view. I like the matched black and white striations on the antennae and the legs, too.


    October 19, 2021 at 6:48 AM

    • Now that you’ve brought up alternate explanations for the first picture’s shadow, I see it as a euro symbol (€). The shadow did in fact come from a sesbania stem.

      The gray hairstreak hung around on those flowers for a good while, giving me the chance to take several dozen pictures. Most show the butterfly from the side, but I decided to show a head-on view because it’s less common. The fact that so many of your hairstreak butterfly pictures show lowered antennae is good evidence for the notion that that’s common posture. I’ve wondered about the prominent black-white alternation on the antennae (and also on the legs). I wonder if entomologists have figured out whether that alternation serves a purpose.

      Looks like it may fall to you to show some pictures from Bastrop on October 11. I’m still stuck back on September 23, with pictures from other more-recent places in the posting pipeline.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 19, 2021 at 7:13 AM

  3. Beautiful pictures as always. The moody photo of Glottidium vesicarium goes right with the pre-Halloween season.

    Did your father ever talk about the escape from the Soviet Union? My grandfather didn’t. For one thing he was young (6 years old) when they migrated to Germany. But the little he remembered, he didn’t like to tell.

    Alessandra Chaves

    October 19, 2021 at 8:56 AM

    • “Moody” is a word I’ve been fond of using to describe some of my photographs.
      I heard a little about my family’s escape from the Soviet Union, but not a lot. Looking back, I wish I’d asked more and been told more.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 19, 2021 at 2:37 PM

  4. The fine balance between the dark and light tones in your picture of the bladderpod is very much like a Rembrandt painting.

    Peter Klopp

    October 19, 2021 at 8:58 AM

  5. Great shot of the hairsreak’s cute face! I tend to photograph their sides and, if I’m lucky, wings open. But that one is darling.


    October 19, 2021 at 12:22 PM

    • Most of the pictures I took of this hairstreak were indeed from the side. Because I’ve more often showed butterflies that way or with open wings, I went with this full-front view.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 19, 2021 at 2:39 PM

  6. That bladderpod pic really pops!

    Robert Parker

    October 19, 2021 at 12:25 PM

  7. Love that butterfly pic!! 🙂 A great angle.

    M.B. Henry

    October 19, 2021 at 4:11 PM

  8. The first image is my favourite but seeing the name “bladderpod” makes me want to make a silly joke; I will spare you and others from my silliness today.


    October 20, 2021 at 12:49 AM

  9. Excellent hairstreak portrait! “Here’s looking at you, kid!”

    Steve Gingold

    October 20, 2021 at 4:23 AM

  10. I like that light and shadow exercise. It almost begins to take on an abstract feel.

    Todd Henson

    October 20, 2021 at 8:27 AM

  11. Steve, great shots! Love the light in the first image and the colour and angle in the second is wonderful …


    October 29, 2021 at 2:22 PM

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