Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Two takes on silver bluestem

with 14 comments


From June 24th in St. Edward’s Park come these two takes on the grass called silver bluestem, Bothriochloa laguroides. The second view of one of these seed heads looks quite different from the first due to backlighting. Whereas the black backgrounds in many of my recent pictures resulted from the close use of a ring flash, in this case flash would have destroyed the effect of the backlighting. Instead, I had to look for a dark patch in the landscape that I could line up my subject with. In a shaded copse of trees not far away I found a dark area just large enough to surround the backlit seed head.




§        §        §



From 2017 through 2019 the folks at Gapminder posed various questions to people. Here are four you can try your hand (or brain) at. I’ll give the answers in a couple of days.

1)  In 1980, roughly 40% of the world’s population lived in extreme poverty, with less than $2 per day.
What is the share today?       A) 10%       B) 30%       C) 50%

2)  During the past 40 years the amount of oil and natural gas remaining in known reserves has:
A) been reduced to less than half       B) remained more or less the same       C) more than doubled

3)  How much of the world’s total land surface has some physical infrastructure built on it, like houses or roads (excluding farm land)?        A) less than 5%       B) around 15%       C) more than 25%

4)  How many of the world’s one-year-old children were vaccinated against some disease in 2019?        
A) less than 20%       B) around 50%       C) more than 80%


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 3, 2022 at 4:30 AM

14 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Nice takes on this beautiful native grass. Bluestem is disappearing around these parts. Last autumn I saw a construction crew dozing over a vast area of native grasses to make way for a housing development near Lawton, OK. It was a sad sight.


    July 3, 2022 at 7:50 AM

    • Yes, a sad sight. Similarly, you’ve heard me lament the loss, year after year, of properties where I’ve taken nature pictures in Austin and the surrounding towns. I just wish that developers left at least some parts of their properties alone.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 3, 2022 at 8:42 AM

  2. The second one is lovely, Steve.


    July 3, 2022 at 2:12 PM

  3. Love the backlit seedhead. Might try it on the bern, where the silver bluestem have come up after the gaillardia have become little puffy seedheadheads. Last year I took my No Mow Zone signs down in August – and the next the mowing crew came through (on their schedule – I’m not THAT paranoid) and mowed down the silver bluestem. So far this year, they’ve honored the signs (must send them thanks).
    The seed head against the sky seems almost a cliché compared to the backlit one, especially considering you probably were using a handheld camera and natural lighting, (though you might have darkened the background in your photo editing software). Anyway 1 excellent, one great shot. Thanks!


    July 3, 2022 at 2:41 PM

    • You’re welcome. I was walking in the direction of the sun when I came across the colony of silver bluestem, whose seed heads sparkled from the backlighting and enticed me to try to capture that sparkle with my camera. You’re correct that I darkened any residual lighter areas that remained—a standard procedure in photographs of this sort. You’re also right that I took the pictures handheld—as I’ve been doing with all of mine for years and probably will continue doing unless it becomes impractical at some point.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 3, 2022 at 2:59 PM

      • Glad you didn’t take offense to saying that the blue sky background was almost a cliché. 🙂


        July 3, 2022 at 5:06 PM

        • Blue skies shining on me,
          Nothing but blue skies do I see.

          Except I see other backgrounds, too, even while enjoying the occasional blue.

          Steve Schwartzman

          July 3, 2022 at 10:48 PM

  4. I prefer the backlit image for two reasons. Firstly and most important I find it more attractive. Secondly, I appreciate naturally dark backgrounds over flashed and also appreciate the work, sometimes a lot and sometimes not, that goes into creating such an image.

    Steve Gingold

    July 3, 2022 at 3:02 PM

    • You’re the third person in a row to prefer the second picture. I think many of us are suckers for backlighting. As you noted, some photographs of this sort require a fair amount of tweaking during processing. In this case I pulled the Blacks slider way down and pushed the Texture and Clarity sliders way up. Some selective darkening removed any bits of lightness remaining in the background.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 3, 2022 at 3:10 PM

  5. Your photos reminded me of the day I found fields filled with silver bluestem in Kansas. Whether seen individually, as in your photos here, or in a large spread, it’s a beautiful grass: especially when backlit.
    I will say that it’s not only the backlighting that makes the second photo so appealing to me. That vibrant green sheath adds a lot of drama and interest, especially in the way it emphasizes the ‘V’ shape of the grass head.


    July 4, 2022 at 6:09 AM

    • And you’ve reminded me of a colony of silver bluestem up north, though no farther than Cedar Park:

      Silver bluestem seed heads blowing

      I don’t believe you showed pictures of the silver bluestem you found in Kansas.

      V for victory works in grass seed heads as well as wars.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 4, 2022 at 8:21 AM

      • I didn’t post any of those photos, partly because I was so focused on the other prairie grasses, and partly because I wasn’t sure about the quality of the photos. Now that I see them again, I think I’ll post one or two. It’s a beautiful grass.


        July 4, 2022 at 8:28 AM

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: