Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Winter color

with 31 comments

Throughout the first half of January I’d been noticing that some oaks still sported leaves that looked richly red when backlit. A photographically promising stand of oaks that we passed on January 14th unfortunately lay along a narrow, winding road that didn’t allow parking anywhere nearby. Finally on January 19th at Mills Pond I was able to push my way through stalks and branches in the woods and cautiously ease myself into positions that let me see maximum saturated color in some backlit oak leaves.

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You’d expect an organization called National Public Radio (NPR) to be politically balanced, given that the American public consists of people with differing viewpoints. If NPR ever was politically balanced—and I’m not sure it was—that time has long since passed. For a good while now the stories and commentaries on the network have leaned so heavily toward the political left that I gave up listening to Austin’s NPR station years ago.

The latest confirmation of the radio network’s slant came on January 18th, when long-time NPR correspondent Nina Totenberg reported a story involving Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, whose diabetes puts her at greater-than-average risk if she catches Covid-19. According to the story, Justice Sotomayor, who not coincidentally is on the political left, participated in a judicial session electronically from her chambers rather than in person because Justice Neil Gorsuch, who not coincidentally is on the political right and who sits next to her when the justices convene, has been refusing to wear a mask even after Chief Justice John Roberts “in some form asked the other justices to mask up.” Totenberg based her story on accounts by anonymous sources.

Totenberg’s claim triggered an unusual joint statement by Justices Gorsuch and Sotomayor denying the validity of the story. After that, Chief Justice John Roberts issued his own statement saying that he “did not request Justice Gorsuch or any other justice to wear a mask on the bench.” Despite those statements in which the three justices named by Totenberg publicly denied the claims that she made, she continued to stick to her story based on sources that still remain unidentified.

You’re welcome to read an analysis of this situation by James Freeman in the Wall Street Journal.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 26, 2022 at 4:35 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , , ,

31 Responses

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  1. Lovely post


    January 26, 2022 at 5:51 AM

  2. What a beautiful photo. I like the way the clouds are scattered across the sky in the same way the leaves are scattered through their branches. It’s interesting to see such brilliant leaves still clinging. Around here, the possumhaw and yaupon are berry-rich, and that color can rival this, but leaves have the advantage of translucence.


    January 26, 2022 at 8:30 AM

    • I agree that translucence was the key here. To maximize it I got down low and aimed in the direction of the sun. That in turn sometimes led to flare, and I kept adjusting my position to avoid problems while still getting good color. Even so, the scattered white clouds that you mentioned were much brighter than the leaves. As a result, when I got the image into Adobe Camera Raw, the default setting produced leaves lacking most of the color I’d seen in person. I had to do some heavy-duty pushing of the sliders for Highlights and Whites (way down) and for Shadows (way up), to get an image I was okay with.

      This has been a poor winter for yaupon and possumhaw fruit in Austin. I recently checked out two possumhaws that were very good in other years and found they had barely any fruit on them this winter.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 26, 2022 at 9:10 AM

      • That’s really interesting about your yaupon and possumhaw. I remember grumping about poor production in past years, but this year there are so many berries they even shine from the interior of wooded areas: orange and red both.


        January 26, 2022 at 9:13 AM

        • One hypothesis is that the extended hard freeze last February affected many yaupons and possumhaws. I hope you’ll be able to capitalize (photographically) on the abundance in your area.

          Steve Schwartzman

          January 26, 2022 at 9:16 AM

  3. I believe you know why I love these bright and cheerful colours this time of the year, Steve!

    Peter Klopp

    January 26, 2022 at 9:04 AM

    • I sure do know why someone like you in the frigid country to our north appreciates the bright and cheerful colors. I hope I’ll be able to find some more to show you before spring.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 26, 2022 at 9:13 AM

  4. With the blue sky in the background they look amazing and beautiful. Well worth the effort of going into the bush!


    January 26, 2022 at 9:24 AM

    • It would have been technically easier with a solid blue sky, which wouldn’t have been as bright as the white clouds I had to deal with. Thankfully I managed to tame them in software. As for going into the bush, I had to be careful about bare stalks that could well have been poison ivy.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 26, 2022 at 10:08 AM

  5. Such dedication to your art!

  6. Thank you for colouring my world today!


    January 26, 2022 at 3:20 PM

  7. That is quite a nice collection of winter color. It’d be pretty difficult to duplicate a scene like that here right now.

    Steve Gingold

    January 27, 2022 at 3:48 AM

    • Understood. As recently as yesterday in several places we noticed oak leaves that, if backlit, would show color like the leaves in this post’s picture. None of the newly observed leaves were in positions that tempted me to try for more photographs.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 27, 2022 at 6:26 AM

  8. Very painterly. I gave up long ago expecting “normal” reporting.


    January 27, 2022 at 4:35 AM

  9. I’ve never seen such wonderfully red oak leaves before – they just don’t get to that here. Beautiful!

    Ann Mackay

    January 27, 2022 at 4:42 AM

    • These leaves could well be the aptly named Texas red oak, Quercus buckleyi. The red in the leaves is wonderful when backlighting makes it come alive.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 27, 2022 at 6:52 AM

  10. A lovely composition. The red leaves looks so good.


    January 28, 2022 at 5:32 AM

    • That’s how I felt, and why I pushed myself to get into a position where the camera could record the sight.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 28, 2022 at 6:27 AM

  11. I just love the pops of red … wonderful shot Steve


    February 3, 2022 at 11:26 AM

    • It was a good find. I’m glad I took the time to see if I could get pictures in a difficult situation.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 3, 2022 at 11:59 AM

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