Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

More from along Onion Creek

with 42 comments

Two posts back you saw a couple of the photographs I took with my longest lens in McKinney Falls State Park on December 20, 2021. During the same outing I zoomed that lens to its maximum 400mm to catch three turtles sunning themselves on the unsubmerged part of a log in a wide-open stretch of Onion Creek. Beyond the turtles, on the far shore of Onion Creek, young sycamore trees (Platanus occidentalis) still held on to some leaves in otherwise bare winter woods.

A different sort of dry vegetation lay at my feet
in the form of bald cypress leaves (Taxodium distichum).

✶        ✶        ✶

“The human understanding when it has once adopted an opinion draws all things else to support and agree with it. And though there be greater number and weight of instances to be found on the other side, yet these it either neglects or despises, or else by some distraction sets aside and rejects.” — Francis Bacon, 1620.

R. James Carter partly quotes that early recognition of what we’d now call confirmation bias in his thoughtful Quillette article “We Can’t Keep Going Like This,” which you’re encouraged to read.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 5, 2022 at 4:32 AM

42 Responses

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  1. Those turtles made me smile! 😀


    January 5, 2022 at 6:23 AM

  2. It looks like your turtles came up from the cozy mud to take advantage of the sun’s warmth. I’ve read that they extend their feet and necks to increase the available surface area, like the middle one in your photo. More whimsically, I can imagine this trio singing, “Three little shells from goo are we…”

    That thick carpet of cypress leaves looks a little faded. That makes sense, since your trees probably shed sooner than ours. I don’t know how long the drying and fading process takes, since our lawn crew makes sure to get rid of the leaves on a weekly basis.


    January 5, 2022 at 6:33 AM

  3. Gorgeous turtle photo.

  4. I find the threesome on the log very endearing. An image of peaceful coexistence!

    Peter Klopp

    January 5, 2022 at 8:58 AM

  5. Turtles all in a row–cute! That sycamore is lovely with its colorful leaves amidst the neutral background. Nice shots!


    January 5, 2022 at 2:59 PM

    • McKinney Falls State Park didn’t provide pretty maids all in a row so I had to settle for turtles.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 5, 2022 at 7:51 PM

  6. Great picture, Steve! I love the sharpness and the colours. Reminds me of one I took on our way to Waco last year [https://wp.me/p4uPk8-3DQ].


    January 5, 2022 at 8:02 PM

  7. Those folks on the log need to be scrubbed and then buffed out with Turtle Wax.

    Robert Parker

    January 6, 2022 at 10:23 AM

  8. Whenever I happen upon some well-aligned turtles, I wonder if they have an inherent sense of order. Whenever I learn about humankind’s many flaws, I wonder why we are unable to overcome them. Or are we unwilling?


    January 6, 2022 at 4:30 PM

    • I wonder whether turtles have an inherent sense of order or if it’s just that the log in this case was relatively straight and therefore caused the turtles to line up.

      Philosophers and now psychologists and other scientists have spent millennia pondering human failures. Much seems baked into our DNA. And yet in the past century we’ve managed to lift billions of people out of the abject poverty that was the normal state for most people who ever lived.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 6, 2022 at 6:08 PM

      • That is a good question, Steve. But something I have observed is that they tend to line up in one direction, be it on a a log or a rock. Of course, I’m sure you will find a few photos that show them in a haphazard arrangement. 😊

        And while it’s true that humankind has made significant strides, it’s hard to keep that in mind while ecological collapse is imminent. It’s like reminding ourselves of all our accomplishments while the Titanic is sinking.


        January 8, 2022 at 9:39 AM

        • You’ve reminded me that my father was born a few weeks before the Titanic sank and he died a few months after September 11.

          Steve Schwartzman

          January 8, 2022 at 9:46 AM

          • Then he lived a long life. I hope it was a good life, too.


            January 8, 2022 at 10:30 AM

            • On the whole, I’d say yes.

              Steve Schwartzman

              January 8, 2022 at 10:34 AM

              • I’m glad. Knowing that about our parents’ lives is comforting.


                January 8, 2022 at 10:38 AM

                • The fact that he and his parents lived in the Soviet Union before escaping to the United States in the 1920s made him wary of authoritarianism in governments everywhere. I’ve inherited that wariness.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  January 8, 2022 at 10:44 AM

                • I can understand that, Steve. But reading all your comments about what you consider untrue and anti-democratic, I can’t help but wonder why you didn’t feel compelled to speak up when the former occupant of America’s highest office spewed one lie after the next.
                  You don’t need to answer, of course.


                  January 8, 2022 at 10:58 AM

                • That’s a fair question, Tanja, and you deserve an answer. Let me begin by saying I’ve never belonged to any political party. The one my views most often align with is the Libertarian Party. As the election of 2016 approached, I felt bad for the country that the two main parties couldn’t come up with better nominees than the ones who got chosen, both of whom a majority of citizens disliked. Many people voted for the one they considered the lesser of two evils.

                  I’ll grant you that there are many things to dislike about Trump: he’s brash, thin-skinned, boastful, overly eager for praise and attention, seemingly incapable of not stirring things up every few days, and likewise unable to restrain himself from silly tweets. At the same time, he’s what people call transactional, meaning he’s willing to make deals. Early in his presidency he let it be known that he would support legalizing the “Dreamers,” children whose parents or other relatives brought them into the United States illegally. Many of those kids now remember their birth country little or not at all. They grew up as Americans, just like the kids who were born here. I supported their proposed legalization, which seemed the right thing to do. The leaders of the Democratic Party, who’d vigorously advocated for legalizing the Dreamers before Trump’s election, now refused to do that deal with Trump because he’d get some of the credit.

                  I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the movie “The Caine Mutiny.” The Caine was a (fictional) ship in the Navy, commanded by a somewhat paranoid Captain Queeg. After several mishaps caused by Queeg, he calls a meeting of his officers and asks them for their help in figuring out how to make things function better on the ship. None of the officers offer to help. I think most viewers of the movie feel sorry for the formerly unlikable Captain Queeg at that point, who was swallowing his pride and trying to do the right thing. It occurred to me that Trump was in a similar situation vis-à-vis the Democrats. What Democrats gave Trump was not help but years of phony investigation into non-existent “collusion” with Russia. A lot of good that did for the country.

                  During almost all of Trump’s presidency, like Obama’s before him, I posted nothing political on my blog, which from the outset I devoted to nature and photography (along with tidbits of language and occasionally math). Then came 2020 and the Coronavirus and George Floyd. A segment of the country went berserk. Rioting went on month after month after month. It caused billions of dollars in damages, destroyed hundreds of businesses (many owned by minorities), injured thousands of people, and even killed some. As we approached the 2020 election, large corporations and social media began censoring people and publications that cast candidate Biden in a negative light, along with those who hypothesized that the Coronavirus might have originated in a lab in Wuhan. In my entire life I’ve never seen such widespread suppression of free speech, and it greatly troubled me.

                  As we moved into 2021, the new administration began aggressively acting on its promise to “fundamentally change America.” I’m all for fixing what’s broken and making things better, but I don’t want to fundamentally change America, the only country in the history of the world founded on the principle that citizens have innate rights (even if it then took a long time for everyone to get those rights). The new administration made “critical race theory,” which is a view of life that treats everything in terms of race and power, an operational principle throughout the government, including the military. I felt I could no longer keep silent about the threats to my country, and that’s why I slowly began adding an occasional quotation that I thought appropriate, like something from John Stuart Mill about free speech. Later I began speaking out more directly. It’s important to me to get facts right, and I’ve spent as much as several hours doing research for a single commentary. Because errare humanum est, I’ve invited readers to point out any factual mistakes I’ve made and point me to a reliable source with correct information. So far no one has pointed me to anything that would contradict the facts I’ve cited.

                  If my commentaries seem one-sided, it’s because power in America has become one-sided. People with leftist ideologies took control of almost all colleges and universities years ago. Those ideologies have now also taken over many public schools. Leftists run the main social media platforms—Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram. Likewise for Silicon Valley, including Apple, Google, Amazon, Microsoft. Likewise for many other kinds of large corporations. Likewise for much of the media—ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, MSNBC, NPR, PBS, and most newspapers. Likewise for Hollywood. Likewise for the arts. Likewise increasingly for professional sports. Likewise for non-governmental organizations. Likewise for money-granting institutions like the Ford Foundation. I can’t think of any kind of organization other than some religious institutions that people with a conservative or traditional mindset control. Can you?

                  You may not agree with all the points in my analysis, but at least you’ll understand where I’m coming from and why people who want to preserve this country’s heritage of free thought and expression feel so besieged.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  January 8, 2022 at 9:31 PM

                • Thank you for your thorough response, Steve. You don’t owe anybody an explanation for your convictions, but I appreciate you taking the time to explain them to me. I will have to think about some of what you said before I might try to respond.
                  Take care,


                  January 9, 2022 at 5:37 PM

  9. Seeing a row of turtles on a log is a scene I look forward to seeing again when spring comes around. There’s always something pleasant about that sight.

    Todd Henson

    January 7, 2022 at 6:01 AM

    • You’ve led me to fantasize seeing a log with a bunch of people lined up on it in positions like those of the turtles. I’m not sure how pleasant-looking that would be, but it would garner lots of attention from passers-by.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 7, 2022 at 7:24 AM

  10. Great turtle lineup!

    Steve Gingold

    January 8, 2022 at 3:57 AM

  11. I love turtles! I rarely see any these days.

    Lavinia Ross

    January 8, 2022 at 8:30 AM

  12. Super shot of those turtles Steve …


    January 14, 2022 at 1:33 PM

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