Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

What a bright blue sky is good for

with 26 comments

On the gorgeously clear and mild (70°F, 21°C) afternoon of November 28th I lay on the ground at Meadow Lake Park in Round Rock and aimed up at this bald cypress tree (Taxodium distichum) whose foliage had turned the reddish brown we expect at this time of year. Getting low and aiming upward served several photographic purposes: 1) to include as much as possible of the bluest part of the sky and play it off against the warm-colored foliage 2) to exclude nearby houses, poles, wires, and other human elements 3) to create a portrait that was simple in its composition and its colors. I also used the bright sky as a backdrop for the aster (Symphyotrichum sp.) shown below.

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A human interest story:

Mom Forced to Give Up Newborn Son 66 Years Ago Tracks Him and Her Granddaughter With DNA Test

Isn’t it strange that “She even has a cat named Bonnie, as I do”?

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 3, 2021 at 4:35 AM

26 Responses

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  1. I love those colours upset against a (deep) blue. 🙂


    December 3, 2021 at 7:49 AM

    • It’s a combination I never get tired of. I’m grateful for whatever colorful fall foliage we get here.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 3, 2021 at 8:02 AM

  2. I can’t show you a blue sky right now, even though it is in the forecast for the next couple of days. But a temperature of 22 C is a record for BC for this time of the year.

    Peter Klopp

    December 3, 2021 at 8:03 AM

    • You must be thrilled to have that much warmth at this time of year so far north. Down here the predicted high for this afternoon is 26°C, above average for the first week in December.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 3, 2021 at 9:19 AM

  3. I enjoyed both of these creative and vibrant photos, Steve.

    Jet Eliot

    December 3, 2021 at 8:23 AM

  4. The form of that cypress is intriguing. It looks more round than I’d expect, since most of those I see regularly are more conical; I wondered if something might have ‘topped’ this one. But, after looking at my photos from places like the Rio Frio, I decided that age might be the reason. Those I see in our landscaping probably are younger; it seems that the older and larger the trees become, the more their shape softens.

    In any event, blue and brown are one of my favorite color combinations, and this example is especially pleasing.

    The aster profits from that sky, too. I grinned at “Symphyotrichum sp.” I still haven’t identified my mysterious aster from the San Bernard refuge, although lack of effort has played a part.


    December 3, 2021 at 8:39 AM

    • Agreed, this bald cypress and some nearby ones showed more roundness than average. I think they’re planted specimens, and maybe that has something to do with it. In any case, the compactness made it easier for me to fit the whole crown into the photographic frame. Given my druthers, I’d take the more typically spreading or conical shape:

      Bald cypress trees along the Guadalupe River

      From what I’ve read (and experienced), aster species join goldenrod in sometimes resisting easy identification.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 3, 2021 at 9:30 AM

  5. The blue sky certainly works as an excellent backdrop to both photos. Like you mention in the above reply, I like the more natural, conical shape.


    December 3, 2021 at 9:52 AM

    • Agreed. The bald cypresses in the picture from along the Guadalupe River looked to me like they belonged there. In contrast, I couldn’t shake off the impression that the one in today’s picture, while colorful, had gotten planted in a park.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 3, 2021 at 10:11 AM

  6. Using the blue sky as a backdrop worked beautifully – but getting down on the ground here wouldn’t be such a good idea at the moment. It’s too darn cold, wet and muddy, with only a grey sky as reward. (I have lain on the ground for a photo in the past – it was of a lovely old wooden windmill, white with white sails. And the sky was blue and the ground warm, if a little stubbly. 🙂 )

    Ann Mackay

    December 3, 2021 at 12:21 PM

    • When I’m out photographing I carry a padded mat with me to facilitate lying on the ground—at least dry ground. I wouldn’t do so with rain or mud.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 3, 2021 at 12:32 PM

      • Good idea – I think I need one for the garden.

        Ann Mackay

        December 6, 2021 at 6:34 PM

        • And for your garden you wouldn’t even have to lug the mat long distances the way I often have to when I’m out wandering in nature.

          Steve Schwartzman

          December 6, 2021 at 6:37 PM

  7. I’d just remembered you’d written one time, that you travel with a mat, to unroll and lay on for shots like these, and then saw your comment to Ann Mackay. So mat but not matte shots. Nice photos and that blue sky looks pretty great to me, too.

    Robert Parker

    December 3, 2021 at 12:41 PM

    • Where I’ve sat is a flat non-matte mat at that. It measures about 18 x 24 inches and half an inch thick. While I suppose I could roll it up, I carry it under one arm. If only I could carry a blue sky around with me that way too.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 3, 2021 at 1:01 PM

      • Yeah, that would be nice. But it would only be “…a canvas sky / Hanging over a muslin tree.”

        Robert Parker

        December 3, 2021 at 1:28 PM

        • I see that the song is from 1933, with music by Harold Arlen and lyrics by Yip Harburg and Billy Rose. The first two of those guys wrote “Over the Rainbow.” And I just learned that that song is similar to “the theme of the intermezzo (known as Ratcliff’s Dream) of the opera Guglielmo Ratcliff by Pietro Mascagni, composed in 1895.”

          Steve Schwartzman

          December 3, 2021 at 2:09 PM

          • I didn’t know any of that, or an opera called 🐀 Rat Cliff, it was just mentioning a mat and shooting upwards reminded me of Paper Moon for some reason. Or if you were doing this in Milwaukee, I guess “Blue Moon”

            Robert Parker

            December 3, 2021 at 2:52 PM

  8. Your blue skies work very well with these subjects. Traditional landscape photographers prefer some cloud interest but there are times one can make a blue sky work too … like when the rest of the scene is enough and the eye could use some negative space to rest. When confronted with a bald, blue sky I will usually just include a minimal portion.


    December 8, 2021 at 5:19 PM

    • I like your blue-sky analysis. I often go with a panel of blue sky to isolate my subjects, as in these two photos. In Austin we rarely get the dramatic clouds and sky that some other parts of the country do.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 8, 2021 at 5:26 PM

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