Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

A blowing stack of black-eyed susans

with 8 comments


In the ditch along San Gabriel Blvd. in Leander on June 14th that you heard about in the last post, I couldn’t help but notice a lushly flowering black-eyed susan plant, Rudbeckia hirta. Aiming the camera horizontally wouldn’t have kept the sloping sides of the ditch out of any portraits I made, so the only thing was to lie at the base of the plant and aim high enough for the blue sky to isolate and contrast with the bright yellow flowers. Complicating things was the wind, which I’m estimating blew at a pretty steady 15 mph, with gusts even stronger. While lying on the ground I steadied the plant against the wind as best I could with my left hand and manipulated the camera with my right. I also set the shutter speed to a high 1/800 of a second, which turned out to be fast enough to keep the ray florets from blurring while still capturing a sense of their movement. That’s particularly noticeable at the upper left, where you can see how the wind was blowing the florets to the right.

When I returned two days later and found the wildflowers in the ditch had gotten a reprieve from the mowers, I took some more pictures, including the one below showing a basket-flower, Plectocephalus americanus.



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Yesterday was June 19th, and to coincide with the date the Austin PBS television station showed “Juneteenth Jamboree: Soldiers, Cowboys, and Indians.” Not far into that program, I heard the narrator telling how Columbus, after landing on an island in 1492, captured some native people and by so doing introduced slavery into the New World. Do the people writing this stuff not know there are such things as history books? If those people are too lazy to read books, at least they could go to the Internet. It doesn’t take much checking to confirm that slavery was well entrenched among the indigenous peoples of the New World long before Columbus’s time.

Even Wikipedia, as biased as it has been becoming, has a whole article on slavery among the Aztecs. And an article entitled “Maya Social Structure” from the Tarlton Law Library at the University of Texas begins with this sentence: “Maya society was rigidly divided between nobles, commoners, serfs, and slaves.” As the article tells us later on: “There was an active slave trade in the Maya region, and commoners and elites were both permitted to own slaves. Individuals were enslaved as a form of punishment for certain crimes and for failing to pay back their debts. Prisoners of war who were not sacrificed would become slaves, and impoverished individuals sometimes sold themselves or family members into slavery. Slavery status was not passed on to the children of slaves. However, unwanted orphan children became slaves and were sometimes sacrificed during religious rituals. Slaves were usually sacrificed when their owners died so that they could continue in their service after death. If a man married a slave woman, he became a slave of the woman’s owner. This was also the case for women who married male slaves.”

So if anyone in your presence makes the claim that white people invented slavery or introduced slavery into the Americas, please tell them it isn’t so. And if they try to give you an argument, point them to the linked articles or the many others that confirm the existence of slavery in the Americas long before Europeans came here. And if those people still keep giving you a hard time in spite of all the evidence, you’ll know they’re not sincere and don’t care about the truth.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman





Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 20, 2022 at 4:28 AM

8 Responses

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  1. I agree wholeheartedly. Years ago my blindfold was lifted by a friend. Sadly, too many folk will resist all attempts to show the true state of affairs.
    Love your photography always.


    June 20, 2022 at 6:06 AM

    • Similarly, a relative shocked me a decade ago by admitting he would say something he knew isn’t true if it helped him promote a cause. That’s quite common now among people of a certain ideology. At least wildflowers don’t lie.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 20, 2022 at 7:23 AM

  2. Nice post



    June 20, 2022 at 8:03 AM

  3. What a delicious bouquet of Black-eyed Susans. I’ve always thought of them as flowering individually; were these from one plant, or were a number of stems clustered together? It’s a beautiful sight; at first glance I thought they were sunflowers — a testament to the family resemblance, I suppose.

    I thought we weren’t going to have any local basket-flowers this year, but I’ve recently noticed some alongside Highway 146 and in other isolated spots. They’re all still in bud: a reminder that they bloomed here later than your area last year, too. I really like the way the leaves complement the flower and buds in this photo. The colors are nice, too — somehow different from most I see.


    June 20, 2022 at 5:28 PM

    • Delicious indeed. As best I could tell, this was all one plant. As for family membership, I did photograph my first sunflowers for this year at the construction site across the street (the former home of the great bluebell colony). Regarding basket-flowers, I expected they’d have all finished up by now, so it was a pleasant surprise to find some in the ditch. Not only that, they were in varying stages, which multiplied my chances for different sorts of pictures. That comports with what you’re reporting from Highway 146 near you. You’re right that in the picture in this post the leaves play a more prominent role than in most of my basket-flower pictures over the years.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 20, 2022 at 6:23 PM

  4. Had you not mentioned the wind I would have thought the flowers were just having a bad petal day. I’ve seen many black-eyed susans but I don’t recall any in a nice full bunch such as these.

    Steve Gingold

    June 20, 2022 at 5:34 PM

    • The “bad petal day” translated into a difficult photographic day for me. The wind was blowing hard enough that I ended ended up having to throw away a bunch of the pictures I took, especially the ones including milkweed fluff, which even with very little breeze tends to move around a lot. I agree with you that this black-eyed susan plant was unusually profuse.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 20, 2022 at 6:26 PM

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