Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Lost Maples 2021

with 23 comments

Turns out that 2021 hasn’t been a good year for fall foliage at Lost Maples State Park, which lies about 160 miles west-southwest of our home in Austin. We spent over three hours driving there on November 10th, only to hear from the ranger at the entrance when we arrived that while 2020 had been very good, this year a lot of the leaves were turning brown and falling off. Still, I did what I could. The pleasant scene above caught my attention because it embraces two things: several already bare flameleaf sumacs (Rhus lanceolata) still adorned with prominent fruit clusters, and a few bigtooth maples (Acer grandidentatum) whose leaves were among the more colorful ones we saw of that species there this year. The branches below, festooned with ball moss (Tillandsia recurvata), give you a closer look at some bigtooth maple leaves turning colors

None of the trees we observed there this year came close to the display they put on during our 2014 visit.

⦵     ⦵

Facts Matter

I’ve prefaced a couple of my recent commentaries by saying that I strive for accuracy. I’ve asked anyone who catches an incorrect statement of fact to let me know and to point me to a reliable source of information so I can correct my mistake. Who wouldn’t want to get things right?

Alas, many mainstream news outlets in recent years haven’t been so conscientious, despite (presumably) having an ethical code that requires the checking of facts. The Kyle Rittenhouse trial in Kenosha, Wisconsin, which concluded last week with a jury acquittal on all charges, is a recent example. Those charges were for four shootings by Rittenhouse, two of which were fatal, one of which wounded a man, and one of which missed. Rittenhouse claimed self-defense, and the jury concluded that prosecutors had failed to provide evidence to disprove self-defense. In the more than a year leading up to the trial, many media outlets had been making factually false claims about what occurred.

One much-repeated false claim was that Rittenhouse had carried a rifle across state lines. It turned out that Rittenhouse, who lived in Illinois, actually crossed into Wisconsin without a gun, then retrieved the gun from storage in Wisconsin. Another claim was that Rittenhouse, 17 years old at the time, wasn’t legally allowed to carry the kind of rifle he carried. When people finally checked the relevant statute in Wisconsin, they found the statute did not prevent Rittenhouse from carrying the kind of gun that he did.

Another much-repeated false claim was that Rittenhouse chased after the people he ended up shooting, as if he had been out hunting for innocent people to kill. The evidence presented at trial showed that actually all of those people had chased Rittenhouse, who shot them only after they attacked him first.

Aside from outright false statements, many media outlets slanted their coverage of the case to such an extent that readers and viewers came away with a false understanding of what had happened. The repeated harping about crossing state lines—notice the plural—was intended to give the impression that Rittenhouse had traveled through a bunch of states to carry out some nefarious action far from home in a place where he had no reason to be. Conveniently not mentioned was that only a single state line was involved, the one between Illinois and Wisconsin just a few miles from Rittenhouse’s home. (It’s the same state line I crossed a bunch of times in 2016 when we stayed at two hotels in far northeast Illinois and took day trips into Wisconsin, including Kenosha.) Also rarely mentioned in most media was the fact that Rittenhouse had been spending plenty of time in Kenosha; his father and a close friend live there; he was working as a lifeguard in Kenosha County. It takes just half an hour to drive to Kenosha from Rittenhouse’s home in Antioch, Illinois—about the same time as the average American spends commuting to work.

Many media outlets failed to mention that all of the people Rittenhouse shot were convicted criminals, not the “protestors” or “heroes” that some tried hard to portray them as. Here’s a summary of their backgrounds: “Rosenbaum was a registered sex offender [he’d raped boys] who was out on bond for a domestic abuse battery accusation and was caught on video acting aggressively earlier that night. Huber was a felon convicted in a strangulation case who was recently accused of domestic abuse. Grosskreutz was convicted of a crime for use of a firearm while intoxicated and was armed with a handgun when shot (he testified in court that he carried it concealed despite having an expired permit; Wisconsin law requires a valid permit to carry a weapon concealed).” That’s from a Wisconsin Right Now article, which offers documentation to back up the summary and also goes into much more detail. And the fact remains that all three of the people who got shot had taken part in a riot.

There was a huge campaign to racialize the case, despite the fact that Rittenhouse and the three people he shot were all white—an inconvenient truth that many accounts purposely failed to mention. American journalist Glenn Greenwald, who lives in Rio de Janeiro, said last week that the three largest newspapers in Brazil had all been reporting that the men Rittenhouse shot were black, an impression the Brazilian newspapers had incorrectly picked up from the way so many American sources had reported the events.

It’s a sad state of affairs that even after all the evidence presented in the televised trial, some people in the media are still making factually untrue statements about the case. You can read more about that in an Epoch Times article.

Opinions, of course, differ from facts, and people often draw different conclusions even from agreed-upon facts. I think most people, including me, will agree that a 17-year-old with a powerful rifle shouldn’t have gone to a riot thinking that he could offer aid and protect stores. The fact that he felt he needed to help is an indictment of the authorities in Wisconsin, especially the governor, who had done and continued to do little to stop the nights of rioting that ended up causing tens of millions of dollars in damage in Kenosha.

UPDATE. After this commentary appeared, I was made aware of a Newsweek opinion piece entitled “I’m a Black Ex-Felon. I’m Glad Kyle Rittenhouse Is Free.”

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 23, 2021 at 4:31 AM

23 Responses

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  1. I’m sorry you didn’t have the pleasure of a real ‘show’ at Lost Maples, but these photos are as pleasing as the spreads of color from the past. In the first photo, the grayish bare branches in the foreground and the limestone cliffs behind help to hold the image together, and the silver and blue combination in the second makes a lovely setting for the leaves. I couldn’t chose a favorite when it comes to these two.


    November 23, 2021 at 6:46 AM

    • It was a long drive for not all that much scenery. I’m happy with the first photograph even if the colors were more subtle than I’d hoped for. In rereading my post from 2014, I found I’d put the limestone cliffs you mentioned to work blocking the white sky I didn’t want to shoot up into. Thanks to flash, today’s second picture differs from any I’d taken at Lost Maple on previous visits.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 23, 2021 at 7:40 AM

  2. Maybe not as splendid as 2014, but it has its own color and beauty. I do like that top image with all its colors. I love the reds.


    November 23, 2021 at 6:48 AM

    • I agree with you that the color of the flameleaf sumac fruit clusters really made the first picture. Their deep red contrasted with the reddish orange of the maple leaves.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 23, 2021 at 7:43 AM

  3. We had a lot of sumac back east, and I miss the colorful show in autumn. There are sumac around here, but not nearby.

    You have a big tooth maple, Acer grandidentatum. There is a big leaf maple up here, Acer macrophyllum. The trees can grow quite tall.

    Lavinia Ross

    November 23, 2021 at 9:07 AM

    • I even remember sumac from New York City. What we have in Austin with the flameleaf species is much better, and I look forward to the leaves and fruit every fall. The bigtooth maples are the only native ones that grow in central Texas, which is why Lost Maples State Park draws so many people in October-November. I’m not familiar with your bigleaf maple, so I looked up its fall color:

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 23, 2021 at 3:51 PM

  4. Each year is different and we take what we can of what we’re given. My father and I visited a location this past weekend and expected most of the leaves to have fallen by now, which was the case. However, we were surprised to find a few trees here and there that were still nicely festooned, and though not quite what you saw in 2014, very close to it. I love the seasons. 🙂 That top photo is really nice for how the green in the background helps the color up front stand out.

    Todd Henson

    November 23, 2021 at 12:49 PM

    • You’re sure right: an early lesson I learned about nature is how different the same spot can be from one year to the next. I’m happy for you that you were able to find a few festooned trees beyond their expected time. You’re the second person to comment on the way the background supports the foreground in the first picture.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 23, 2021 at 5:04 PM

  5. We just watched the JP video on the Rittenhouse case (https://youtu.be/kSypu3hOzNo), then the Tucker Carlson interview with Rittenhouse and then an interview with Mark Levin. It is shocking how your (and our) media has reported this all year. Even here, the media coverage was completely biased. And not just this story…. I do not believe anything they tell us any more!


    November 23, 2021 at 1:25 PM

    • I’d only watched some J.P. Sears episodes once before and found them pretty funny. The one you linked to is mostly serious, and it includes a great line in which he likened the claim that someone is the black face of white supremacy to the claim that fire is the wet face of water. Yes, so much of the media coverage of this case was blatantly biased. As you say, it’s enough to make anyone who respects facts a non-believer in much of the media.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 23, 2021 at 5:13 PM

  6. It’s still a beautiful place! I think that area has to have just the right stuff for the the color to happen: an early, decisive cold snap and probably more rain than Central Texas has seen this fall. Even without the maple colors, I enjoyed my hikes there.


    November 23, 2021 at 5:10 PM

    • I remember from your post that you enjoyed your earlier visit this fall, even without the bright leaf colors the place is famous for in good years. After our good fortune in 2014 we tried again in 2019 and were disappointed. We hoped 2021 would make up for that, but we had to settle for less than we wished for. We had better luck this morning at Palmetto State Park, which we squeezed in before the expected rain on Thanksgiving.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 23, 2021 at 5:17 PM

  7. The photos are still interesting. It’s not uncommon to have bad fall leaves on certain years. Too much humidity, too little, too much wind, who knows. I am not acquainted with the details of the Rittenhouse case, but biased news is unfortunately not news anymore 😉.

    Alessandra Chaves

    November 23, 2021 at 11:17 PM

    • An early lesson I learned when I got interested in native plants about 22 years ago was that a place could look fabulous on a certain date in one year and look blah on the same date a year later. As you say, many variables are involved. Sometimes a cause of the difference is obvious, as when there’s been a drought or a prolonged freeze. Other times things seem different just because they’re different, and we have no idea why.

      Your statement that biased news is unfortunately not news anymore earns points for truth and also for cleverness, given that people can read the statement in two ways: 1) biased news no longer deserves to be considered news 2) it’s common now to encounter news reported with a bias.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 24, 2021 at 5:51 AM

      • That’s correct. This creates more societal divide, and more suspicion with regards to the news. Then a portion of the population refuses to believe in a virus or to take a vaccine and government agencies are surprised. Well, the feeling of being manipulated by the news is real, and some people simply give it up and stop believing anything vehiculated by the news outlets, even in the face of evidence. A sad outcome.

        Alessandra Chaves

        November 24, 2021 at 7:46 AM

        • When I was young, I think most Americans felt that, other than in clearly separate editorial sections, news outlets really reported the news. Walter Cronkite, who reported the news for CBS decades ago, was once called the most trusted man in America. After his retirement he expressed sympathy with the political left, but during his decades of reporting he never let his own feelings slant his reporting of the news. Alas, so much bias has now crept (or brazenly stridden) into “news” organizations that many people no longer trust them.

          Steve Schwartzman

          November 24, 2021 at 8:30 AM

  8. […] heard that on November 10th we spent a couple of hours at Lost Maples, disappointed that the fall foliage this year fell far short of what we’d seen there in 2014. […]

  9. I think that I’ll just tune out of the other news options and go here for fact-based information! Thank you for sorting and untangling truth from artful rearranging of the facts.

    Playamart - Zeebra Designs

    November 25, 2021 at 2:53 AM

    • Little did I think that in a nature photography blog I’d end up serving as an analyst of news and culture. I wish I could stick to the kind of “artful” that describes your work and not feel the need to comment on the “artful” distortion of facts.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 25, 2021 at 7:08 AM

  10. Yes, a big difference between the years. We see that here as well. Some years the color is muted and quick to disappear, others it is fantastic and lasting.

    Steve Gingold

    November 25, 2021 at 6:12 AM

    • I was hoping I’d come back from this jaunt with pictures of fall foliage to rival some of yours. Alas, not this year.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 25, 2021 at 7:10 AM

  11. I like the way the delicate grey moss combines with the brighter yellow leaves in the second photograph – a pleasing combination! (And I have given up on expecting accuracy from most of the newspapers here – there’s too much bias and clickbait!)

    Ann Mackay

    November 25, 2021 at 3:36 PM

    • As you noted, that second picture has an unusual combination of colors and shades. Some of the novelty comes from the fact that I used flash to light up what would otherwise have been darker than the sky.

      Also as you noted, it’s a shame that we can’t trust so many in the media to report events accurately.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 25, 2021 at 4:00 PM

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