Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Archive for November 2022

Nambé Pueblo

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On October 18th we happily turned in toward Nambé Pueblo and its intriguing geological formations. As much as I would have liked to get close to them, they were on fenced-off tribal land, so I got as near as I could from the closest roads and zoomed in with my 100–400mm lens.



In the top picture, two cottonwood trees, Populus deltoides subsp. wislizenii, had turned yellow. (Click to enlarge the panorama.) I eventually managed clear shots of the hoodoo in the last picture but I still like the view of it hiding behind trees.




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A November 13th commentary discussed the way people add an unnecessary qualifier to a word. Here’s another example. News is called news because it’s new. In spite of that, news announcers on television now almost always call it breaking news. News flash: if it weren’t breaking it wouldn’t be news, so drop the breaking and just call it news.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 30, 2022 at 4:27 AM

We’ll take the high road

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On October 18th, having spent the morning hours in the mountains above Santa Fe reveling in fall foliage, we drove down into town, freshened up, and set back out again. This time we headed north, up US 84, thinking we’d go to Chimayó and perhaps on to Taos. After 16 miles, in Pojoaque, we turned right on New Mexico Highway 503, which forms a part of the High Road to Taos Scenic Byway, and went east toward Nambé Pueblo. It wasn’t long before we had good views of the snow-covered Sangre de Cristo Mountains. I believe the prominent peak is Santa Fe Baldy, which rises to 12,632 ft (3,850 m). Later we saw a cottonwood tree (Populus deltoides ssp. wislizeni) that had turned bright yellow.



© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 29, 2022 at 4:32 AM

A day of indulgence

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I’ll beg your indulgence for one more post about the colorful aspen trees (Populus tremuloides)
we found in the mountains northeast of Santa Fe on October 18th.



I could keep showing pictures of them for days.



But I won’t. In the next post I’ll move on.



I owe that last picture to construction, which had a stretch of the road’s two lanes down to one. Cars going in opposite directions got alternating use of the open lane every 15 minutes or so. Since I was stuck there anyhow I didn’t have to worry about finding a place to park. I got out and walked around taking pictures, including this one where backlighting lit up the foliage.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 28, 2022 at 4:31 AM

We interrupt fall color to bring you fall color

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The interrupted fall color is from New Mexico; it will resume tomorrow. Interrupting it are two colorful views from Austin. For a couple of months I’d watched the fruit forming on the yaupon tree (Ilex vomitoria) outside my window. First it was green, then yellow, then red. Finally on the sunny afternoon of November 13th I figured I was ripe enough to take some pictures of it, which I did with my telephoto lens. Notice that not all the little fruits ripened at the same rate.

The second view is from yesterday along the Capital of Texas Highway in my hilly part of Austin. The picture shows a seasonally colorful colony of poison ivy, Toxicodendron radicans. As much as we may crave order, nature is often a jumble, and there’s no such thing as personal space when it comes to plants.





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Two generations ago, my father, an immigrant from Mexico, benefitted from programs that gave him access to job opportunities and scholarships that were not available to my mother, whose Ashkenazi ancestry had imbued her with lighter skin. My wife, who immigrated to North America as a refugee from Ukraine when it was part of the former USSR, was similarly excluded from work and educational opportunities due to her ancestry. At what point can we start to hold every person to the same standards, and seek to grant them access to the same opportunities—regardless of skin color, ancestry, gender, sexual orientation, or other immutable characteristics?

Discriminating against a person based on the color of that person’s skin upends this nation’s foundational tenets of equality, while sacrificing our humanity in the process. Hard-earned principles and freedoms formed over centuries through the democratic process should not be abandoned. Treating applicants as representatives of identity groups, rather than as unique individuals with intrinsic value, elevates institutional interests over individual rights. In turn, this promotes division, resentment, and dehumanization.


So wrote Bion Bartning in a November 18th article for FAIR,
the Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism.
You can read the full article.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 27, 2022 at 4:30 AM

Vertical takes on aspen trees

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On October 18th we drove up Highway 475 into the Sangre de Cristo Mountains northeast of Santa Fe in a quest for fall foliage, especially from aspen trees (Populus tremuloides), as you saw last time. Stands of bare aspen trunks also constitute a photographic talisman,* with seemingly every nature photographer under the sun taking a crack at them. Lacking long-term access to the subject, I didn’t expect to take pictures like the best of those. Even so, I came away with a view of white trunks that pleased me, one that differs from what I’ve seen; it leads off today’s trio. Most photographers frame aspen groves horizontally to include as many trunks as possible. I took some of my pictures that way, too, but in these three photographs I went for a narrow view to emphasize verticality. In the middle picture, notice (how could you not?) the way one evergreen stood out among the many aspen crowns.



In the third view, the day’s bright blue sky played an important role.



* The Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries defines talisman as ‘an object that is thought to have magic powers and to bring good luck.’ Now compare that with the much more elaborate definition in Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language.

1. A magical figure cut or engraved under certain superstitious observances of the configuration of the heavens, to which wonderful effects are ascribed; or it is the seal, figure, character or image of a heavenly sign, constellation or planet, engraven on a sympathetic stone, or on a metal corresponding to the star, in order to receive its influence. The talismans of the Samothracians were pieces of iron, formed into images and set in rings, etc. They were held to be preservatives against all kinds of evils.

Talismans are of three kinds, astronomical, magical and mixed. Hence,

2. Something that produces extraordinary effects; as a talisman to destroy diseases. 


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 26, 2022 at 4:34 AM

The day after October 17th

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October 17th was the only day in our 12-day trip that I didn’t take any nature pictures. We did cultural things in Santa Fe like visiting the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum and the New Mexico Museum of Art, both of which we walked to from our conveniently located hotel. We visited a former Austin friend now living in Santa Fe whom we hadn’t seen in two decades. We visited our used laundry and made it clean.

As if to compensate for the photographic day off, on October 18th, which happened to be the Lady Eve’s birthday, I had one of the busiest and best photographic days of this trip or any other. Although in the 1970s I’d spent weeks in the Santa Fe area, neither then nor on brief visits in later decades do I recall ever having driven up Hyde Park Rd. (Highway 475) into the Sangre de Cristo Mountains northeast of the city, where people go skiing in the winter. That’s where we spent our morning, and a glorious morning it was.

As the road climbed we began to see isolated aspens (Populus tremuloides) or small groups of them whose leaves had turned their famous yellow. The top picture, taken during a brief stop at Hyde Memorial State Park, is an example of that.

And then we drove higher and eventually got to a place where suddenly a whole mounded hillside of yellow-leaved aspens loomed into view, as the second photograph shows.



For a different sort of “mound,” consider the frozen puddle
I found at my feet during one photo stop in the mountains.



© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 25, 2022 at 4:30 AM

Second encounter with fall foliage

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October 16th in northern New Mexico was overcast and sometimes rainy. Arriving in Santa Fe hours too early for our hotel room to be ready, we drove north of the town on US 84 to see what interesting things we might find. In the vicinity of Tesuque Pueblo colorful fall trees, mostly but not only cottonwoods (Populus deltoides subsp. wislizenii), made their presence known.



© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 24, 2022 at 2:01 AM

Looking back at the Sandia Mountains

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Late in the afternoon on October 15th we drove up to Sandia Crest, which at 10,679 ft. looms large to the northeast of Albuquerque. The previous post showed views from there. The next morning in our hotel’s parking lot I noticed that the view back toward the mountains, now covered with fog and clouds, was dramatic—at least if I could ignore light poles, buildings, billboards, highways, and other trappings of the city. To exclude as much of that as possible, for the top picture I zoomed my telephoto lens to its maximum focal length of 400mm. With a change of scale and locale you might see an ocean wave breaking near the shore. Three-quarters of an hour later and miles further north as we wended our way toward Santa Fe, the land added color to the still-shrouded mountains.








Look at this:


1    3    5    7    9    11    13    15    17    19    21    23    25    27    29  …


If I asked you what it is, you’d say it’s the odd numbers.

(Or if you wanna get fancy, you’d say it’s the positive odd numbers.)

You’ve been seeing these numbers for a long time, ever since you were in elementary school.

Now here’s something you might never have noticed.


The “sum” of the first 1 odd number is 1, which is 1 x 1, or 1 squared.

The sum of the first 2 odd numbers is 1 + 3, or 4, which is 2 x 2, or 2 squared.

The sum of the first 3 odd numbers is 1 + 3 + 5, or 9, which is 3 x 3, or 3 squared.

The sum of the first 4 odd numbers is 1 + 3 + 5 + 7, or 16, which is 4 x 4, or 4 squared.

The sum of the first 5 odd numbers is 1 + 3 + 5 + 7 + 9, or 25, which is 5 x 5, or 5 squared.

The sum of the first 6 odd numbers is 1 + 3 + 5 + 7 + 9 + 11, or 36, which is 6 x 6, or 6 squared.

The sum of the first 7 odd numbers is 1 + 3 + 5 + 7 + 9 + 11 + 13, or 49, which is 7 x 7, or 7 squared.


Now if I skipped ahead 93 lines and asked you what the sum of the first 100 odd numbers is, you wouldn’t have to do any adding at all. You’d chime right in and say with verve and élan that the sum of the first 100 odd numbers is 100 x 100, or 10,000.*


If you’d like a nifty visual explanation for why the sum of
the first however many odd numbers is always a square, here it is:



But if you’d also like an explanation of where the word nifty came from, you’re outta luck: no one knows.


* One day in the early 1970s I was in a supermarket in my home town of Franklin Square, New York. As I walked down an aisle in that large store I passed a woman who was telling her young daughter that ten times ten is a hundred and a hundred times a hundred is a thousand. Why she was saying that, I don’t know; why I didn’t intervene and correct her I also don’t know. Evidence points more to politeness than a lack of boldness. That’s because in the same supermarket minutes later when I heard two women talking about pressure cookers, with each saying they had one but didn’t use it, I approached them and asked if I could have those pressure cookers that they didn’t use. I ended up several days later with two pressure cookers, one of which, a fancy stainless steel model with a copper bottom, had been a wedding present and was essentially brand new. I used it for decades until finally part of the handle came loose and the rubber gasket no longer sealed properly, and replacement parts were no longer available for such an old pressure cooker.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 23, 2022 at 4:26 AM

Finally first fall foliage

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Late in the afternoon on October 15th, hoping for a good sunset, we drove up to Sandia Crest, which at 10,679 ft. looms over Albuquerque to its southwest. As we climbed into high altitudes we began to see quaking aspen trees (Populus tremuloides) with their leaves turned yellow. Unfortunately those trees were in full shade, but even if they’d been better illuminated, the road didn’t offer safe places to pull over near them. Up we went to the top, and finally I found one aspen with sunlight on it. Whether the trees with yellow leaves that I could see lower down from that sunlit perch were also aspens, I don’t know.



We didn’t have to wait long for the sun to set:



Of the 27 posts so far showing scenes from our New Mexico trip, this is the first one dealing with a place we’d previously visited. The goal was to see new spots, and new spots aplenty did we see.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 22, 2022 at 4:29 AM

Dramatic goldenrod

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On a prairie remnant along The Lakes Blvd. in northeast Austin on October 29th I lay on the ground and photographed some goldenrod against the sky. Use of full flash brightened my subject and by contrast made the morning’s clouds seem darker and more ominous than they actually appeared to me. Call it interpretation, call it transformation; though not true to life, the visual drama pleases me.


(Pictures from our New Mexico/west Texas trip will resume next time.)





So I caught the end of the 1946 movie rendition of Great Expectations on television the other day. As the main character, Pip, approaches and walks into a decaying mansion that has played a big part in the story, we hear lines by various characters that were spoken much earlier in the movie at the corresponding spots. If we had been re-shown those early scenes we would call them flashbacks. It occurred to me that the sound-only versions should be called soundbacks. I don’t find the word in any dictionary but I give you leave to use it.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 21, 2022 at 4:28 AM

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