Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Aotearoa comes to Padre Island

with 28 comments

June 2nd was the first night we spent away from home in the two-and-a-quarter years since the pandemic hit. We drove 200 miles south from Austin to see the sea, or more properly the Gulf of Mexico, which is a branch of the Atlantic Ocean. Our first nature stop on the coast was the Padre Island National Seashore, where both of these dune scenes reminded me of Aotearoa, the Māori name for New Zealand that supposedly means ‘the land of the long white cloud.’ I took these pictures two minutes apart, and although a long white cloud inhabits each one, I went for different photographic treatments.



✳︎         ✳︎         ✳︎



Speaking of places with beaches, in a feature that aired on September 27, 2021, Sharyl Attkisson looked at the potential Puerto Rico has to supply pharmaceuticals domestically and thereby lessen the heavy dependence of the United States on foreign countries, most notably China, for our medicines. The nine-minute video focuses on two immigrants, one from Viet Nam and the other from the Dominican Republic, who are opening a pharmaceutical plant in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico. Credit also goes to the mayor of that town, who shortened the process of getting all the required approvals down to a single day from what would typically take a year (why?!). Have a look.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 7, 2022 at 4:33 AM

28 Responses

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  1. I have such fond memories of Padre Island and that general area, although I arrived by sea rather than by land. In fact, I still have a lightning whelk, the Texas state shell, that I picked up at Boca Chica. The grasses in the second photo are appealing, but the cloud in the first is beautifully dynamic.


    June 7, 2022 at 6:25 AM

    • Arriving by sea gives you an advantage over people who arrive by car and would have trouble reaching many of the places on Padre Island and South Padre Island. At Mustang Island State Park the next day we saw a car being towed out of the sand.

      When I became aware of the cloud in the first picture a large tower stood between me and it. No amount of walking around in the place where we were could get the tower out of the picture, so I quickly drove to a convenient spot a mile or so away. Fortunately the cloud maintained approximately the same shape.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 7, 2022 at 7:05 AM

  2. The two photos show clouds of entirely different characters, the first being dramatic and almost threatening, the second soft and lovely.

    Peter Klopp

    June 7, 2022 at 7:56 AM

    • The dramatic nature and interesting shape of the first cloud commanded my attention, and I did various takes. Only after I turned around did I notice the softer cloud above the grasses that covered a dune.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 7, 2022 at 8:07 AM

  3. It looks like you had a nice day. Was it breezy? I had to look up how to pronounce the name of this place.


    June 7, 2022 at 8:34 AM

    • There’s almost always at least some breeze on the coast but we’ve had much stronger winds at times in Austin recently than we did by the Gulf of Mexico while we were in Corpus Christi.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 7, 2022 at 10:57 AM

    • And yes, we had a pleasant stay. More pictures will appear over the next couple of weeks (after I clear some of the backlog from before the trip).

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 7, 2022 at 10:58 AM

  4. I really like the shape of the cloud in the first photo!


    June 7, 2022 at 10:31 AM

  5. Excellent captures of both clouds (Judy Collins on the mind?)! Brought back memories of growing up on an island with one side facing the Gulf of Mexico, the other the Atlantic Ocean. During the day, clouds would form over the island, (sometimes) resulting in afternoon or early evening showers as the air cooled.
    Which is why we need more plants (especially native plants) to complete the water cycle that they used to teach in 4th grade science classes. And of course, to allow photographers with technical skills to record the science and aesthetics of native plants for all to enjoy.


    June 7, 2022 at 10:47 AM

    • I first heard that Joni Mitchell song via the Judy Collins version, too (assuming that’s how you originally became acquainted with it). I didn’t know you grew up on an island between the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. It must have been akin to the way Eve grew up in the Philippines (where I remember the almost daily afternoon rain when I visited for the first time in 1987). As for fourth grade, cynical me gets the impression kids aren’t taught much of anything there anymore beyond sociobabble and the fripperies of the moment. Give me real science any time.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 7, 2022 at 12:59 PM

      • Yeah, for many years I was under the impression Judy Collins had written the song, much like the Beatles thought that the Isley Brothers had written Twist and Shout (as did I until a few weeks ago when I looked it up). But then, of things botanical, I am the very model of a modern ignoranimal.


        June 11, 2022 at 9:13 PM

        • Judy Collins did write some songs, several of which appeared on her albums. For example:

          For all of us, the things we don’t know vastly outnumber the things we do.

          Steve Schwartzman

          June 12, 2022 at 8:24 AM

  6. In my small part of Aotearoa the whole sky is cloudy in typical autumnal fashion. Your long white clouds are much more appealing than the cloud cover here.


    June 7, 2022 at 8:07 PM

  7. Compared to landscapes and seascapes, cloudscapes are often neglected, but as your photos show, they hold much fascination and beauty. I think the ability to read the clouds is something most of us have forgotten (or never learned).


    June 7, 2022 at 9:33 PM

    • Let’s hear it for cloudscapes! I remember watching clouds while listening to a Brahms symphony on a short-wave radio outdoors in a little town in the Honduran mountains in 1968.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 7, 2022 at 10:29 PM

      • That experience sounds lovely.
        As it happened, after I wrote my comment last night, I started reading a chapter in “Lost Woods,” a collection of Rachel Carson’s lesser known writing. The following lines are from a script she wrote for a TV show on clouds:
        “In those of us who live in cities, awareness of the clouds has perhaps grown dim; and even those who live in open country may think of them only as a beautiful backdrop for a rural scene, or an ominous reminder to carry an umbrella today.
        The clouds are as old as the earth itself–as much a part of our world as land or sea.
        They are the writing of the wind on the sky,
        They carry the signature of the masses of air advancing toward us, across sea or land.
        They are the aviator’s promise of good flying weather, or an omen of turbulent air.
        Most of all they are the cosmic symbols of a process without which life itself could not exist on earth.”


        June 8, 2022 at 6:57 PM

  8. I had never heard the word Aotearoa prior to this post but I don’t speak Maori either so that would be a good excuse. I spelled the word looking at your title and spell check kept telling me to drop the second ‘o’ which I see that you did in your opening paragraph.

    Steve Gingold

    June 10, 2022 at 10:54 AM

    • Thanks for catching that typo in the title, which I’ve fixed. I get the impression that most people in New Zealand know the name Aotearoa even if they don’t speak Maori (which only a small percent of the overall population does).

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 10, 2022 at 12:27 PM

  9. Now that’s a cloud shot! Beautiful … Yes, land of the long white cloud


    June 15, 2022 at 3:25 PM

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